In normal times, it’s a challenge to manage
brewery operations, and stay on top of the finances. There’s a lot to juggle,
and never enough time to get it all done. In these abnormal times, these tasks become
even more difficult.
However, one way to manage your brewery business differently, and more
effectively, is with open book management. Open book management (OBM) is a
system in which employees are provided with financial information so that they can
make better business decisions.
idea is that employees are more motivated, engaged, and productive when they
are treated as business partners (who commonly have access to financial data)
instead of employees. In these uncertain times, more information can provide
employees with more certainty to make better decisions.
Open Book Management has four basic elements:
employees in financial literacy so they can read and understand financial
employees to use financial information when making business decisions.
employees as business partners with proprietary company information
employees fairly for the brewery’s success
employees in Financial Literacy
Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand the numbers of
your brewery business so that you can improve financial results. Improving
financial results may include growing sales, strengthening gross margins, or
increasing cash flow. In today’s uncertain times, financial literacy is more
important than ever.
numbers of your brewery business are reported on the financial statements – the
income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Each of these
reports provides vital financial information to understand what’s going on in
financial statements are the scoreboard for your brewery and the numbers show
whether you are winning or losing. The financials show you where you are in
relation to your goals and how much harder you must push to hit the targets.
Open book management requires that you train
employees in financial literacy so that they can know the score, and help the
brewery win the financial game.
Employees to Make Decisions
organizations there is a decision-making hierarchy. Owners or managers make the
decisions, and employees carry out the directives. With open book management,
everyone is responsible for making decisions and has the authority to do so.
problem needs to be fixed, employees are empowered to fix it. If an opportunity
needs to be seized upon, employees are obliged to act. There is no waiting
around for a manager to make these decisions. The move lies squarely on the
shoulders of employees.
open book management, employees use their understanding of the numbers –
financial literacy – to inform their decisions. For example, suppose a brewery
uses a mobile canning company to package beer. The packaging manager
understands the costs associated with this service and can make an informed
decision about whether the purchase of canning line would benefit the company
financially. The packaging manager understands how to build a return on
investment calculation and is empowered to make a purchase recommendation based
on the numbers.
Trust Employees with Proprietary Financial Information
book management centers around trust. Do you trust your employees with
sensitive financial information? What if confidential information is shared
with competitors? What if it’s leaked out on social media? Sharing information
requires that we trust employees to handle sensitive information with
professionalism and confidentiality. The best way to earn the trust of
employees is to be trustworthy yourself. Be transparent, share the information
that will help them do their job better, or have a better understanding of the
business. When you call upon the highest level of thinking from your employees,
you get the highest level of results.
Employees for Brewery Success
open book management system, employees are asked to learn new things in
addition to their core job. Brewers are asked to understand the costs that go
into making the beer. Brewery salespeople are asked to understand product
margins for each brand in the portfolio. Taproom staff are asked to learn the
average order per customer, for example. Everyone in the organization needs to
learn something new to make the open book management system work properly.
goal of open book management is to create a culture of business owners. OBM
teaches employees to think of themselves as businesspeople instead of workers.
To make this real, businesspeople need a stake in the outcome – a reward for
brewery success. As such, part of what they earn should be tied to company
in the outcome gives employees a vested interest in improving financial
results. The brewer learns about the costs that go into making the beer so that
she can find ways to be more efficient. The salesperson learns about product
margins so that he understands the importance of proper pricing. The taproom
server learns about the average order per customer to find ways to increase
Learning about the financial aspects of the business that are within the
employee’s area of control moves the brewery towards the goal of improving
overall financial results. And towards the reward of having employee
businesspeople share in the success.
Wrap Up and
book management is a system where financial information is shared with
employees so that they can make better decisions. Better decisions lead to
better financial outcomes, and better financial outcomes lead to a stronger
brewery business for everyone.
requires that you train, empower, trust and reward employees. Train employees
in financial literacy so they understand the finances of the business. Empower
employees to make decisions and encourage them to do so. Trust employees with
sensitive information and reward them when brewery financial success is
these uncertain times, open book management provides a way to manage your
business more effectively and to reward your employees for a job well done.
I’d like to offer your readers a $50 discount off of the Craft Brewery Financial Training annual subscription. Visithttp://www.craftbreweryfinance.com – Use the discount code beveragemaster at checkout to claim savings.
Crafting with spirits is an art that provides endless possibilities for the maker and mixologist alike. But the growing demand for spirit alternatives also demonstrates there are even greater opportunities to present flavor complexity and style.
Whether through herbal tonics such as those found at Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchens throughout the U.S.; spirits “for those partaking” and non-spirits “for the whole family” at Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine; special juice and botanical potions at Shine Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado; or booze-free craft cocktails at the Modernist in San Antonio, Texas; producers of zero-proof options seek to expand the marketplace to allow consumers a bounty of choice.
“There’s a knee-jerk reaction in some people when they hear about spirit alternatives. I get it — I love spirits too! I promise we’re not here for your guns,” Marcus Sakey, founding partner of Ritual Zero Proof in Chicago, told Beverage Master Magazine. “Our products aren’t meant to replace liquor. It’s a complement, a way to enjoy when you’re driving, dieting, training, making a baby, looking for balance or just have [stuff] to do tomorrow. The need goes way beyond the sober-curious. It’s like almond milk or the Impossible Burger — 90% of purchasers aren’t vegetarian or vegan. People want options, ways to mark a moment without the alcohol or calories.” Ritual produces high-rated gin, tequila and whiskey alternatives.
Tapping Into What Consumers Want
As Sakey points out, there
are numerous reasons why someone might choose not to have alcohol on a
particular day, but frequently don’t have alternatives when going out with
friends or wanting something to accompany dinner. So while movements such as
Dry January or Sober October might have planted the initial seeds for
alcohol-free selections, abstinence isn’t the only reason for their popularity.
“We’ve received great support and encouragement from the sober-curious movement since day one, but we’re seeing the trends becoming habits amongst the 75% of drinkers who switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks,” said Mark Livings, co-founder and CEO of Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits, a London-based company with production facilities there as well as Melbourne, Australia and Montreal, Canada.
“Over time, people are
reducing consumption, so for a venue to retain patronage, it’s important to
have a quality range available when a drinker inevitably looks for a
non-alcoholic option.” Lyre’s extensive award-winning non-alcoholic spirit line
includes American Malt, Dry London Spirit, Italian Orange, Dark Cane, Apéritif
Rosso, Coffee Originale, White Cane, Amaretti, Italian Spritz, Orange Sec,
Spiced Cane and Absinthe.
Formerly the bar director of chef David Chang’s famous Momofuku Restaurant Group and mixologist for the speakeasy PDT in New York City, John deBary, creator and CEO of Proteau, wanted to solve another problem for customers. “Drinks that didn’t rely on alcohol were always a challenge. Drinkers tended to think of overly sweet and simple ‘mocktails,’ and finding zero-proof drinks that paired well with food was almost impossible.” Also the author of the cocktail book Drink What You Want, deBary crafted Ludlow Red and Rivington Spritz as ready-to-drink, zero-proof botanical options.
“From a technical
standpoint, zero-proof drinks are a fun challenge to a bartender because
alcohol, since it’s a solvent, is a great base for flavors. Plus, we have
access to thousands of uniquely-flavored products: gin, whiskey, liqueurs,
fortified wines – to name a few,” he said. “These challenges are what led me to
create Proteau as a way to test my abilities as a bartender/mixologist, and to
find a way to create delicious beverages that everyone — not just alcohol
drinkers — could enjoy.”
Intent Focuses on Taste and
“A well-made cocktail is
about taste and mood as much as it’s about alcohol, maybe more so. I wanted to
introduce some balance to my bar cart; to be able to enjoy evening cocktails
and a morning workout,” Sakey said. “Echoing the taste, smell and mouthfeel of
spirits was incredibly difficult. Distillation turned out to be a rabbit hole —
the cost was impractical, but more than that, it wasn’t possible to get the
flavors right while still keeping it truly non-alcoholic.”
Sakey said Ritual’s
solution was to treat the process like cooking, building upward and layering
tastes with quality ingredients such as all-natural botanicals. “The trickiest
part was trying to replicate the kick of spirits. Over 500 iterations, we
crafted a complex blend of ‘mouth-punch’ botanical elements — some spice, some
cooling, some tingle, a few exciting additions I’ll keep under my hat — that
work together to trick your taste buds,” he said.
“Throughout the process,
we worked closely with some of Chicago’s best mixologists and chefs. After more
than a year of development, one of them said, ‘You know, in a cocktail, I’m not
sure most people would be able to tell the difference.’ That was when I knew we
had it,” Sakey said. In 2020, the industry-standard Beverage Testing Institute
gave all of Ritual’s products three top honors and ranked its Tequila
Alternative as the highest-rated non-alcoholic spirit in the world. It also has
plans to roll out another spirit alternative in early 2021.
Livings’ interest in
zero-proof options evolved from his personal wellness journey, combined with an
awareness of how friends’ and colleagues’ deliberate drinking choices. “They
all expressed a common problem: they missed the drinks they knew and loved, and
they weren’t impressed with the available alternatives.”
With a long career in the
beverage industry, he had the resources to pull together a team of bar staff,
liquor marketers and liquor salespeople. “We figured that if anyone was going
to change the way the world drinks, it should be a group of people who have
plenty of drinking experience and would never compromise on taste. The big
breakthrough was the ‘ah-ha’ that you didn’t have to take the alcohol out of a
spirit product to produce a non-alcoholic spirit.”
The single most important
challenge, Livings said, was to provide true non-alcoholic versions of each
classic spirit. “The flavor, aroma and appearance of each Lyre’s variant had to
meet our high standards and basic test of, ‘Does it feel like I’m having a
drink with booze in it?’” he said. “Over two years were invested in breaking
apart flavors of the classics. It was very important that each was as close as
physically possible to the classic spirits we are paying homage to. We don’t
distill our products, as it’s not required when you craft the flavors using
essences, extracts and distillates on a non-alcoholic base.”
Proteau isn’t distilled
either, as deBary chooses instead to blend a proprietary mix of botanical
extractions with clarified fruit and artisanal vinegar for a low-sugar
beverage. “For me, the eureka moment was when I sampled test batches with
friends and colleagues, and they didn’t believe there wasn’t alcohol in the
recipes. This is when it really dawned on me that the sensation of drinking a
complex, intellectually-engaging drink wasn’t reliant on alcohol, and if we
could disentangle that, we could open up a whole new world for people.”
Crafting a Solid Future
Data points to a
consistent rise for hand-crafted or small-batch zero-proof spirits, even if
on-premises sales are skewed by 2020 pandemic repercussions. Future Market
Insights in London indicate key demographics for spirit alternatives —
considered part of the functional beverage market — includes 18 to 24 and 25 to
39, with product growth projections of nearly 3% each year for the next five as
individuals seek “a multi-sensory drinking experience.” So innovation in the
bottle must extend into well-positioned partnerships for marketing and
promotion, and our makers know this all too well.
“Again, people want
options. This isn’t just me saying it — sales data bears it out,” Sakey said.
“Across 90 days, we have a reorder rate of greater than 40% from major players
like Binny’s Beverage Depot, Total Wine & More and ABC Fine Wines. If you
extend the period to 120 days, it jumps to 70%. Better still, because Ritual
Zero Proof is an ‘and’ product, it leads to higher sales, while serving a set
of customers that liquor retailers often couldn’t otherwise capture.”
Sakey and his team rely on
integrated efforts to attract attention. “We’re cocktail aficionados, both
leaded and unleaded, and so we love to work closely with mixologists. Some of
our favorite Ritual recipes, like The Green Go-Go, have been created by artists
like Carley Gaskin [of Hospitality 201 in Chicago], who was selected as The
World’s Most Imaginative Bartender in 2018,” Sakey said. “But one challenge we
often find is that retailers aren’t sure how to place spirit alternatives. We
work closely with them, sharing best practices and providing POS materials. By
showcasing a set, including components and mixers to create no- and low-ABV
beverages, our partners see notably higher cart rings. It’s a win all around.”
Livings said the company
produces much faster now due to experience and “what the ‘rules’ are of
non-alcoholic flavor architecture.” This enables the brand to span the world,
broadcasting “an unparalleled range of drinks that you can make with Lyre’s. We
have over 20 brand ambassadors, all classically-trained bartenders, so their
expertise is the perfect base to help educate and collaborate with other bar
staff and mixologists,” he said. “We’ve also worked closely with influencers,
bloggers and passionate supporters.”
In keeping with virtual
outreach as venues’ occupancy ebbs and flows, Livings said the company offers
one-on-one mixology classes through video chat programs. “When you purchase
Lyre’s via our e-commerce site, we set up a private, 15-minute class with one
of our brand ambassadors to demonstrate how to make delicious non-alcoholic
cocktails at home,” he said. “It’s a unique offering, and we love the
opportunity it gives us to meet our Lyre’s drinkers.”
The primary message deBary
reinforces with customers is “they don’t need to lift a finger to enjoy Proteau
as intended.” But he trusts what his colleagues can do to provide a unique
drinking experience. “Bartenders are naturally creative and experimental
people, and we’ve been really happy with how they’ve used Proteau in their
recipes and will continue to support that.”
He also understands the
unique value of providing people with a range of selections to fit their
desires. “When I was bar director for Momofuku, and we would expand the
non-alcoholic drink options at one of our restaurants, we noticed an overall
increase in beverage sales,” he said. “The expanded options didn’t cannibalize
from any other category and showed us, in real numbers, that we were reaching
people who had previously been left out of the conversation. Accessibility is
the core of hospitality, and it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also
great for business.”
Since its founding in 2013, Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling
Company developed an award-winning portfolio of spirits with accolades such as
the 2018 Best Distillery of the Year award from the American Distillery
Institute. Yet, according to Jason Parker, Co-Founder and Presi-dent, they
found themselves at a crossroads in growing their distillery last year. Even
though they had more than 260 barrels of whiskey aging in inventory, the
current demand for their American Single Malt whiskey exceeded their supply of
“The only way to win sales
in the whiskey market is to have whiskey to sell,” Parker told Beverage Master Magazine. “If we are only growing through cash flow generated by vodka,
gin and a little bit of whiskey sales, we won’t have the whiskey to compete in
the market against those businesses who received capital investments to produce
whiskey. In essence, we must produce whiskey faster than our current cash flow
Rather than resort to
traditional ways of generating capital, they wanted to explore a way to ex-pand
their business that would get their friends, family, customers and other
supporters involved as brand ambassadors. “We wanted to give them an
opportunity to own a little piece of the work and be with us as we grow,” said
Choosing Equity Crowdfunding
Copperworks decided to
raise money via equity crowdfunding through the WeFunder website. In
Copperworks’ estimation, this approach enables individuals to become
part-owners of a privately held company by trading capital for equity shares.
This method of generating capital became available in 2016 with the passage of
a new law called “Regulation Crowdfunding.” This shift made it legal for anyone
to invest small amounts of money in startups.
Copperworks chose equity
crowdfunding over more established crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter,
Indigogo or GoFundMe because, with equity crowdfunding, a company issues
equi-ty, such as shares of company stock, to participating investors. A company
like Copperworks may also choose to offer perks, but the major incentive is the
opportunity to become shareholders in the company.
In comparison, traditional
crowdfunding is more rewardsbased, whereby those who contribute to the campaign
receive a perk, such as a discount or an advance copy of the product, but they
have no equity in the company. Furthermore, a traditional crowdfunding campaign
often offers their products at a discount to generate interest. Should the
campaign take off, companies can find themselves unable to meet market demand
at this low price point.
According to Parker, a key
advantage of equity crowdfunding is the company’s opportunity to utilize its
investors as brand ambassadors. While this component of Copperworks’ strategy
has been put on hold due to COVID-19, they are currently in the process of
building a brand ambas-sador kit for their investors. In this kit, investors
will be given the details of how to approach a restaurant, bar, grocery store
or liquor store on behalf of Copperworks.
Challenges of Using Equity
Parker acknowledges the
need for a distillery to ascertain if equity crowdfunding is the right
ap-proach. For example, this approach to raising funds may not work for a
business that has only been around for a year or less and has yet to build up a
loyal following. “Equity fundraising is a good thing when you’re mature enough
for the company to attract the appropriate investors for the valuation,” he
From a company’s point of
view, equity crowdfunding requires more upfront costs and financial discipline.
The company’s records need to be reviewed professionally, an expensive process
that took Copperworks three months to complete. In addition, WeFunder takes 7%
of the funds raised, unlike a bank loan where one receives the entire amount
upfront and then pays interest over time. Depending on the terms of a loan, a
company may pay more in interest through a traditional loan. However, for those
companies needing the full amount upfront, a bank loan may be their best
Also, with equity
crowdfunding, Copperworks had to be totally transparent with their financials,
a process that included having this information readily available for public
viewing. For Parker, this transparency fits in with their business model. “We
believe transparency is one of the things missing in businesses today, so we
want to model that behavior.” In the issue of transparency, they chose to share
with their investors why they needed to raise money and how they intended to
use these funds.
Promoting and Implementing the Equity Fundraising Campaign
Copperworks promoted their
campaign through their mailing list of 12,000 individuals. In addi-tion, they
reached out to the 3,600 folks who liked their Facebook page because they had a
high rate of customer engagement on this platform. They were also featured for
five weeks in the American Distilling Institute newsletter. Their campaign,
which ran from the end of February to April 2020, netted a total of 409
investors and $776,480 in funds.
Parker admits to the
challenges of raising funds right as COVID-19 began impacting the econo-my
starting in mid-February. “It’s not very easy to ask people to spend money on a
company when they may not have a job, their life savings may be losing 30% of
its value, and they don’t know who around them is even going to be alive in a
However, he said that
since Copperworks had been around for a long time, many people emerged who
really liked the company and their products and were looking to support
something they cared about.
Regardless of the amount
of their investment, each investor receives an annual report along with an
invitation to every quarterly meeting. For those who invested $1,000, they get
10% off all Copperworks goods for life. Other perks were offered to those
investing at higher increments, such as an offer to pick a single cask whiskey,
a free event rental or an invitation to be on the board of directors.
As per the SEC
regulations, Copperworks disclosed to their investors the risks associated with
capital works. While some of the risks noted are associated with investing in
any company, others are specific to the distilled spirits market or Copperworks
in particular. For example, the cur-rent distilled spirits market growth could
slow or stop in the future. Along those lines, due to the threetier
distribution system in the alcohol industry mandated by U.S. law, Copperworks
is reli-ant on distribution companies. The distribution system has experienced
consolidation in recent years, and should this consolidation continue,
distilleries may face difficulty in expanding the distribution of their
Outcome of Equity Fundraising
raised enough money to continue production during the COVID-19 shutdown and
produce whiskey at their all-time maximum rate. All employees kept full-time
hours, even though the tasting room was (and remains) closed. Therefore, the
distillery could de-vote some of its resources to producing hand sanitizer, a
product badly needed at the start of the pandemic.
Even better than simply
raising money, which a bank loan could have accomplished, Copper-works was able
to fully engage the support of their loyal fans. Customer engagement through
social media, email and quarterly calls increased the opportunity for
Copperworks to share their story and their customers to become brand
ambassadors. New customer acquisition, which is much more difficult while the
Copperworks tasting room is closed, increased through word-of-mouth, and online
sales increased due to these outreach efforts.
As Copperworks looks to expand their
production area and event space, they have solicited their new investors’
network to help them find even more opportunities to grow their business.
Copperworks is truly building an army of brand ambassadors and getting new
talent and ideas through the use of regulation crowdfunding.
The Boelter Wire is an episodic podcast that focuses on
conversations with industry experts and established partners, and is designed
to help listeners evolve their business, stay competitive and pursue their
passions. Recorded earlier in 2020, Lance Taylor, field sales manager with
Boelter’s Beverage Division, speaks with Nick Reistad, co-owner of Raised Grain
Brewing Company in Waukesha, Wisconsin to discuss some of the brewery’s more
infamous beer naming conventions and their new taproom.
An Origin Story
Taylor (LT): This is a great opportunity to dive into the
brewing industry, which is one of the major industries that we serve, and what
better brewery to work with than the one just down the road from us. So, thank
you. How did you guys start? If you don’t mind sharing the origin story?
Nick Reistad (NR): Raised Grain started
probably in the back of my mind when I was a professional cyclist in a past
life. I got to travel around the world racing bicycles, doing races over in
Europe. I was on the national team for three years. That was based out of a
tiny house in a small village in Belgium, and the only thing to do at the end
of the day was to head down to the square and have a nice Belgium beer.
That was in 2005 or 2006.
Then I raced stateside for a year as well. And that was right when the craft
scene was just starting to take off. I started to notice that there were other
really delicious, very different beers that were all over the U.S. I would
travel out to California or somewhere in the Northeast and try all of these
different beers from breweries that, in some cases, had been around for a long
time and other cases were just starting up and getting things figured out.
Then, in 2009, I ended up
having a career change when I was 27. I got into advertising and I guess the
excitement that I had become accustomed to wasn’t really there, even though I
really like advertising and marketing. So, I started thinking, what am I going
to do with my life, and wrote a business plan for a brewery because it seemed
like it would be fun to do and it entertained me. And what I really liked about
beer is that it’s something that brings people together. I started working on a
business plan and connected with a neighbor of mine from when I was growing up
and he knew two guys that are still doctors to this day, but they’re also
brewers. So, he brought us together on September 19th, 2014.
(LT): That’s definitely a unique story. Do any
breweries in particular inspire you?
(NR): It’s hard to say. I think
they each have their own little impact. I mean, you’re drinking west coast IPAs
when you’re out in California. And I spent the better portion of the beginning
of the year out in California. That’s where the races were. That’s where the
(LT): And that lends itself to a lot of the styles
that you guys brew now. I’m curious, when you first sat down with the doctors
and you guys were having some of those beers, are any of those the flagships of
today still, like the Naked Threesome or Paradocs Red?
(NR): Naked Threesome didn’t
come around until later and I don’t think that style had even been invented yet
in 2014, the hazy IPA, maybe it had. But, Paradocs Red was one that we were
drinking that night and they named it after themselves, a pair of doctors.
Scott and Jimmy started brewing, I think it was about five years before I came
along. They started brewing together and Paradocs was the, I think it was the
third beer that they brewed together, and it was the first all-grain recipe
that they brewed on the system that was in Scott’s basement.
And then fast forward a
couple of years, that won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. And
we’ve just been in growth mode ever since we opened our doors in 2015. I think
it was 2016 we won that, and we were building out a food truck. I was heading
off to an Octoberfest then. So, we had about five minutes to high five each
other and celebrate and then it was back to work.
(LT): People take pride in their city’s brewery
quite a bit, especially when people come into town.
(NR): Yeah, when we first opened up, just this tiny
little brewery out in the burbs outside of Milwaukee, we had so many people
come in and say, thank you for choosing Waukesha. We want to have something
like this out here and your beer is awesome and you guys are nice people, so
thank you so much.
The Intricacies of Naming Your
I go to a bar, it’s fun ordering a Naked Threesome and it always raises an
eyebrow, that’s for sure. I’m talking about some of the naming conventions, how
did you come up with some of them? What’s that like with your team? When
somebody comes up with it, do you let the brewer come up with the name? Is it
more on your end with the marketing side?
(NR): Throwing a lot out there that have either
been taken already, which is most likely the case, and then something that
conveys the experience that you want the customer to have when they’re drinking
Naked Threesome is a
little bit of a unique story because that one came out of a series we were
doing when we wanted to play around with a single hops. We started a series off
that we brewed three single hop beers and then we wanted to combine those three
hops at the end into the culmination of the series. We started calling it the
Naked Hop series, a really clean malt beer, showcasing the hops that we were
And then, we’re kind of a
ready, fire, aim type group, or at least we were in the beginning, when we
rolled out the series. We didn’t really think what the final beer was going to
be. I wasn’t really coming up with any good ideas. And our bar manager at the
time came up with a name and said, what if we called it the Naked Threesome?
We both looked at each
other and said, well, we’ll need to check with our wives on that one. And they
laughed and said, sure, do whatever you want to.
We ran that series for a couple of years and then we brewed the
series or the beer that it is now. It was a huge hit. People loved it. They
couldn’t get enough of it and we couldn’t brew it fast enough. So, we ended up
killing the series that it evolved out of and just kept the Naked Threesome as
it is today.
A Social Experience
are some of the ways that you bring people into the tap room? What kind of
activities or events do you host?
designed the space so that we can host any number of events, whether it’s just
a Friday night and we’re busy and we want to make a comfortable environment for
the people. We specifically sized our beer hall so you can set up bags, sets of
cornhole, whatever you want to call it, so that you have enough length to have
an official court. When we got the plans back from our architect, we had her
elongate the room a little bit so we could fit in bags.
It’s everything from
corporate events to birthday parties, all sorts of events that are coming in to
use the space we have. But, then we wanted to create different experiences
within the tap room. So, if you come in and you want more of a traditional
dining opportunity, we have that. If you want super casual at the bar, we’ve
got that. And then we’re sitting in the brewer’s lounge right now.
(LT): It’s like a speakeasy.
very casual. You can sit back and have some private conversations with your
friends or coworkers and just feel really comfortable. So, whatever you want.
You could come in on different nights and have different experiences all within
the same tap room. And that was something that we wanted to create because it
isn’t a relatively new building. And when we first walked in, it was just wide
open. So, we didn’t want to have people walk into a warehouse and feel like
there’s just gusting wind. That was something we wanted to avoid. And I think
we’ve done a pretty good job of breaking up the space and making a cool spot
for people to come and hang out.
thing that Boelter talks about is the concept of premiumization. What steps do
you take to make sure your customers have a premium experience and is that
something that crosses your mind?
(NR): I would say it’s the only
thing that crosses our mind. We have expensive-to-produce beers, so you have to
charge what you need to charge to make it work on the backend, on the
production side. But, then outside of the beer, you’ve got to have a premium
experience when you come in.
We have an awesome staff
behind the bar. A lot of our bartenders are just really well educated on beer and
they work here because they want to work here and they have fun working here.
So, that really shines through when a customer walks in, they have an awesome
experience because the person on the other side of the bar wants to tell them
about the beer that they’re drinking and wants to make sure that they’re just
having an awesome time.
I think that really helps
beyond the physical side of things because we just have awesome people shining
through and every time you come in you’re going to have that interaction that
elevates what you’re doing, and it provides a fun time.
knowing from my experience and being able to label some of the glassware that
we’ve been able to do for you guys, obviously you have very specific glassware
chosen, which on my end, being a glass geek, it makes a huge difference. If
you’re drinking out of a stemmed glass and it’s a higher ABV, then you’re
sitting in this brewers’ lounge, you can swirl it around and really enjoy it. I
would say that absolutely adds to it as well.
just excited to be in craft beer when it’s growing and it’s fun and exciting
for not only us but for our customers as well. It’s a cool time and it’s been a
cool project to work on and we’re looking forward to five more years, and five
Nichole Gunn, Vice President of Marketing
& Creative Services, Incentive Solutions
The first years after launching an incentive program are an
exciting time for craft beer producers: supply chain trading partners, drawn by
the excitement of new promotions and an improved channel partner experience,
are more responsive, more motivated and more likely to recommend the brand’s
products to restaurants and retailers. During this time, craft beer producers
often experience a period of rapid sales growth or improvement in other KPIs
the program was designed to target, such as improved partner data profiles or
increased referral business. The incentive program’s ROI grows exponentially.
However, often after 12-30
months, growth begins to stagnate and the ROI curve starts to flatten. If left
unaddressed once an incentive program’s novelty starts wearing off and supply
chain trading partners become habituated to the program’s value proposition,
the incentive program’s ROI may start to decline, leaving craft beer producers
scrambling to find ways to replicate the program’s success.
The good news is that by
planning ahead, craft beer producers can anticipate this drop off in interest
level and continuously improve their incentive program in order to sustain a
competitive advantage in their channel.
Keeping Incentive Programs Fresh
In order to stay relevant,
a channel incentive program has to be able to evolve with the interests of its
participants, scale its value proposition over time and respond rapidly to the
tactics of the competition. Below are several factors that craft beer producers
can focus on in order to continue to drive ROI once program growth begins to
• Personalizing brand
interactions to build loyalty.
• Re-launching the program
with updated features and branding.
Ideally¬, these are all
elements that craft beer producers will consider from the inception of the
program, with plans for program expansion at certain intervals. However, these
factors can also be incorporated to bring new life to existing programs.
Evolving Incentive Program
Today, incentive programs
are a technology platform, and craft beer producers should be as mindful in
selecting incentive program technology as they are in selecting any B2B
software platform. From an administrative standpoint, this means choosing an
incentive platform that integrates with existing CRMs and other business
software and provides streamlined admin tools and generates detailed reports on
engagement and ROI.
However, perhaps more
importantly, craft beer producers should focus on selecting incentive software
that is fully supported and will be continuously updated to improve the user
experience for their supply chain trading partners. More and more, B2B
customers expect a seamless B2C-style user experience. Partners will be less
likely to engage with a rewards program that uses stale, outdated software, no
matter how exciting the reward offering.
Additionally, agility is
key. Craft beer producers should look for incentive software that allows them
to quickly go to market, adapt to the tactics of the competition and launch new
promotions. These factors will offer an edge when it comes to maintaining
engagement throughout the lifetime of their program.
Incorporating Elements of
Gamification is the use of
game-like elements – such as points-scoring, interactive leaderboards and other
competitive components – to increase engagement with a web-based application,
such as an incentive program. Gamification is a powerful tool that supply chain
trading partners already seek out in their day-to-day lives, from collecting
likes on their Facebook page to scoring achievements on Peloton bikes.
When interest in the
program begins to stagnate several years after launch, adding gamification
features can give the program new life. Interactive trivia, spin-to-wins,
badges and achievements, personalized leaderboards and limited-time point
bonuses make the program more compelling and can give a sustainable boost to
the program’s effectiveness over time. Additionally, by not relying strictly on
reward value to drive engagement, craft beer producers can help lower program
costs to increase their ROI.
Adding New, Richer
As mentioned earlier, one
of the reasons an incentive program can lose its effectiveness overtime is that
participants become habituated to the program’s value proposition. Top
performing supply chain trading partners may have already redeemed for their
most coveted rewards and find themselves with more points than they know what
to do with. The competition may have launched their own reward program with
comparable, or even more compelling, rewards.
It’s up to craft beer
producers to constantly up the ante with their program’s value proposition. For
instance, launching a points-based merchandise reward program alongside an
existing debit or gift card program will offer new value for participants.
Elevate a points-based program by offering top performers a concierge service
to redeem for custom rewards – using their points to buy a new truck, renovate
their home or pay for their child’s college tuition will personalize the reward
experience and boost the program’s value proposition in a way the competition
will struggle to match.
travel promotions can be added onto any program type, giving craft beer
producers an opportunity to connect with their supply chain trading partners on
a deeply personal level. Given recent restrictions, the demand for incentive
travel is projected to be particularly high once it is deemed safer.
If minimizing rewards cost
is a concern, try setting higher qualification thresholds for these more
exclusive reward opportunities. Doing so can also help tap into supply chain
trading partners’ competitive drive, keeping them more engaged as they compete
for a limited number of higher tier rewards.
Personalizing Brand Interactions
to Build Loyalty
In their early stages,
incentive programs are typically geared toward growth. However, if well
designed, the program will be able to convert that initial interest and
motivation into brand loyalty over time. Loyalty is about more than rewards;
rewards appeal to self-interest while loyalty is rooted in creating mutual
interest. Craft beer producers can create this loyalty by using their incentive
program to provide a highly personalized experience and to help their channel
partners become more effective salespeople.
should extend through every phase of the incentive program, from designing
program communication to be relevant to each segment of their channel partners
to basing reward selection on participant lifestyle and interests. Craft beer
producer can use engagement metrics from their incentive program to identify
which of their supply chain trading partners have a high level of buy-in and
which of their partners might need a little more help. They can provide
enablement to their partners by providing online courses and certifications and
using their incentive program as a platform to educate partners on their brand
and product lines, equipping them to more effectively sell their products.
By using personalization
and focusing on partner experience, craft beer producers can build loyalty with
their supply chain trading partners in ways that make extrinsic rewards less
important. This makes trading partners drastically less likely to lose interest
in the program.
Re-Launching the Program with Updated Features and Branding
Finally, when the growth
of an incentive program begins to stagnate, it might be a sign that it’s time
to re-launch the program. A program re-launch gives craft beer producers the
opportunity to step back and figure out what their prior program did
effectively, as well as what they can do better. During this time, craft beer
producers should also explore other pain points they would like their new
program to target.
A pause between programs
can help build anticipation, as supply chain trading partners realize the value
proposition of the previous program that they had begun to take for granted.
Once the new program launches, with updated branding and new features, supply
chain trading partners will enthusiastically re-enroll and craft beer producers
will experience a renewed period of growth. Better yet, by using the knowledge
gained from the previous program, craft beer producers can make their
re-launched program even more effective than the first.
Planning Ahead for Program
Additionally, craft beer
producers can enlist the help of incentive companies to design and manage their
programs. Just like crafting an excellent brew requires years of experience, so
too does managing an effective incentive program. Working alongside an
incentive company with a proven track record can help craft beer producers
avoid potential pitfalls and take advantage of decades of experience in
managing successful programs.
Whether a craft beer
producer is looking to launch their first program or improve a program that is
currently underperforming, the initial investment of partnering with an
incentive company can pay dividends down the road.
Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing and Creative Services at Incentive Solutions (www.incentivesolutions.com), an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B companies improve their channel sales, build customer loyalty, and motivate their employees. Nichole Gunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hard cider start-ups are not for the faint of heart. Those in the
business have as much appreciation for determination and due diligence as they
do for the fruit and fermentation that give a “bite” to this popular beverage.
Just ask Jared Fackrell,
whose Capitol Cider House in the Petworth area of Washington, D.C., offers more
than 150 different craft hard ciders, created both in-house and from other
Mid-Atlantic producers. The wide selection emphasizes gluten-free products with
modern flavors, excluding any chemicals or preservatives.
Fackrell’s advice to hard
cider start-ups is to do your homework, starting with selecting the best
property for the business model you are shaping. “Visit as many properties as
you can! That said, you really need to understand your business model. Are you
more retail or manufacturing focused? Who’s your target customer? Where do they
live or congregate?”
As for equipment needs and
space requirements, Fackrell said that it all depends on the kind of hard cider
being crafted and how it will be packaged. He also recommends looking at
similar concepts and getting advice from already established businesses that
may offer insight on immediate equipment needs versus those that are not as
“Broadly speaking, the
cider industry has done an excellent job ascribing to the ‘a rising tide lifts
all boats’ mantra, so definitely reach out to other cideries if you need some
help,” he said.
When it comes to acquiring
space, Fackrell told Beverage Master Magazine bigger can sometimes be
better. “Space requirements really depend on the use, but non-load-restricted
floors, high ceilings, a loading dock, etc., are always helpful. And, if your
budget allows, try to secure more space than you need as growth can come
quickly and unexpectedly.”
However, for some hard
cider start-ups, the greater challenge is getting the proper zoning permits to
operate, sometimes in the most unlikely spots. InCider, Inc., located in West
Bend, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee, makes Hass & Stock Cider inside
a 420-square foot home garage. Owner
Daniel Hass sought permits earlier this year to begin the hard cider start-up
in his available space. With help from his mother and step-father, a carpenter
by trade, he transformed the garage space into a mini-production house.
InCider already had its
federal operations permit and was on track to receive its state permit,
contingent upon West Bend city officials approving a conditional use permit for
Hass to operate out of his garage. The arrangement ruled out a storefront
because that would have been disruptive to the neighborhood.
“We are lucky that we are
in West Bend. The zoning department was extremely helpful and very informed, so
we did things correctly through them,” said Hass. “We also have a very open and
thoughtful zoning board willing to give us a shot. I have heard stories of
other areas not being so open to new ideas.”
In his proposal, Hass told
West Bend city planners that InCider would use three small-scale fermenters to
make its cider, with each of those fermenters producing a 14-gallon batch of
hard cider. The turnaround time for each batch is roughly two to three weeks.
To gain further support from both the city and his neighbors, Hass promised a
virtually no-noise operation as well as no distracting outdoor signage.
Equipment choices, he
explained, had to be affordable, long-lasting and functional. “We are still a
small scale operation, as we operate in a 20- by 21-foot space. So we needed
equipment that works well in our available space,” said Hass. “We use a lot of
techniques and equipment we used when just making cider for ourselves. The
[FastFerment] fermenters are an upgrade from the five-gallon buckets popular in
homemade cider, but we still use Cornelius kegs to create flavors and
carbonate. We had to purchase Sanke kegs to transfer the finished product into,
as that is what is used in the industry. Most of our equipment is used from
other industries – mostly beer makers.”
Hass said he was
introduced to the idea of cider making through his friend and now business
partner, Trevor Stock. After taking some classes and entering some contests,
the latter of which produced some medal-winning results, Hass, Stock and Hass’s
sister, Tiffany Downey, became the three-person team to launch the company. The
InCider business plan calls for it to operate as a wholesale business with no
sales directly to consumers. Accordingly, its customer base includes bars,
restaurants and other outlets serving its different varieties of hard cider on
tap and in bottles.
When it comes to selecting fruit for hard cider, relationships are key. Hass’ company relies upon nearby orchards and is working to build long-term partnerships. For Fackrell and Capitol Cider House, having a wide variety of nearby fruit is an advantage.
“We work with more than a
dozen orchards within 200 miles of the Capitol Building,” said Fackrell. “The
best thing to do is visit orchards, talk to the growers about your needs and
repeatedly order to develop grower-making partnerships. All cider is made like
wine, but the approach can vary quite drastically, so whether you make cider
exclusively with apples or with apples and adjuncts (non-apple components such
as other fruits, spices, etc.) will determine who is on your supplier list.”
Whether it is a small
batch, tap room-focused operation or a large scale package cidery, the
unexpected can happen. The year 2020 has presented its own set of challenges,
none more debilitating to this niche industry than COVID-19.
A case in point is the planned
grand opening of Pomona Cider Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, headquartered in
a former 2,100 square-foot film production house on the city’s east side.
Co-owner Tom Gabert said that the cidery, slated to feature a tasting room with
on-tap hard cider produced in-house, decided to put things on hold rather than
compromise their customer service options.
“COVID affected our
original opening date because when we open, we don’t want to limit ourselves to
what we can provide to our customers. We have discussed the pick-up window
sales and whatnot, but part of what is going to make this place so great is the
experience and the atmosphere of it,” Gabert said.
For Capitol Cider House,
which also has a tasting room, operating during COVID-19 became a matter of
quickly re-thinking where and how to get its hard cider into the marketplace.
Options included farmers’ markets along with pick-up and delivery. Partnering
with some 100 retailers also helped.
“We pivoted toward retail
channels less impacted by on-premise restrictions and invested heavily in
wholesale by putting our cider in 12-ounce cans,” Fackrell told Beverage Master Magazine.
For Daniel Hass and
InCider, Inc., starting in his home garage may have shielded his business from
COVID-19 restrictions. “We got that conditional use permit on March 3rd of this
year, then on March 17th, all the coronavirus shutdowns started. Had we been
anywhere else but the garage, we would have been out of business before we
Many hard cider start-ups
turn to organizations to help them navigate the unknown. The American Cider
Association is one channel at the national level whose membership ranges from
newcomers to more established cider makers. The non-profit organization
promotes education, advocacy and membership designed to strengthen the cider
industry. One of its current marketing tools is a campaign known as “Pick
Cider,” intending to capture more market shares for cider and promote it as the
go-to beverage for food-focused holiday events.
The ACA also offers
individuals the chance to become credentialed experts through a Certified Cider
Professional program, the first-of-its-kind accreditation service for food and
alcohol professionals. CiderCon, an annual conference about to enter its 11th year,
will be a virtual online event held during the week of February 3-5, 2021.
Local and regional
organizations sharing common interests can be just as helpful. For example,
Hass and his partners turned to the Badger State Winery Co-op, which also distributes
Hass & Stock Cider products. Hass said that speaking directly with state
and local administrations with oversight authority is a good idea, as is
communicating directly with vendors and others with the ability to get hard
cider products directly to consumers.
“The more people you know
in this industry, the better. The first vendor to give us a try was Three
Cellars in Menomonee Falls, run by Gino Gaglianello. He led us to other cider
makers and our graphic artist, Branden Bakken,” said Hass.
Most experts in the hard cider industry agree
that experience is the best teacher. Fackrell, who opened his doors in 2018,
wants to pass on what he has learned that nothing short of being in the thick
of things could have taught him.
“Be prepared for your business environment to
not only change rapidly but also to stand ready and adapt these constant
changes that normally lie outside of your orbit/control.”
Breweries have been around for thousands of years, and while some
aspects of the brewing process remain the same, a lot is changing in the modern
brewing industry. Craft beer producers have been asking for more from the
machinery they use, and innovative companies have answered that demand with
some exciting new technology.
Whether your brewery is
brand-new or has been around for many years, it’s worth learning about the new
mechanisms, tools, technology and improvements that are being made to brewing
equipment right now.
Brewer Demand Driving Innovation
From automated bottling to
bourbon-barrel aging methods and distilled hop oil, there have been many
brewing industry innovations over the years. Yet modern brewers are still
asking for more changes in the equipment and technology they use to suit their
brewing styles and customer preferences better.
Bob Haggerty, head brewer
for Steel Bender Brewyard in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico, told Beverage Master Magazine, “While loads of improvements have been, and continue to be, made
to increase the convenience and connectivity of today’s equipment, I think that
the focus on fewer bells and whistles and more quality is what I look for.
“I’m not interested that
my mash tun can send me email updates and would rather have mash screens that
effectively filter wort,” Haggerty said. “I am not saying that I think we
should move backward and eschew technology in all forms, only that shiny
gadgets don’t impress me on their own.”
Concerning brewery equipment that holds great potential for the future, Haggerty said that he has been intrigued by the idea of real-time, continuous monitoring of product in fermenters and brite tanks for data, such as gravity, pH and dissolved oxygen.
“Though I have been approached with a gadget that does this
already, it came with a hefty price tag and was coupled with a pricy
subscription service,” Haggerty said. “I’d be more interested in something that
was lower in cost and could be installed on every tank without the obligatory
online aspect or subscription model.”
Basically, when it comes
to equipment, the Steel Bender brewing team prefers the focus to be on
function, not Facebook.
Torrey Lattin, the
co-owner and head brewer for Hopping Gnome Brewing Company in Wichita, Kansas,
has found that the most crucial brewing equipment is basic supplies that are in
high demand, such as access to aluminum cans right now.
“There have been several
shortages during the pandemic, and it has been difficult to find enough cans
with most breweries increasing their to-go options,” Lattin said. “We know of a
few companies that we regularly purchase from, but we’re wondering if there are
more options out there and if we can discuss this more with others in the
In terms of machinery, the
most in-demand pieces of equipment are generally the ones that save brewers
time during the brewing process.
“We recently purchased a
keg washer, and it is probably my favorite piece of equipment for the time and
work it saves,” said Lattin. “I highly recommend it for anyone utilizing a lot
Recent Advancements in Brewery Equipment
In general, there has been
a lot more automation in the various steps of the brewing process to replace
manual oversight and guidance. Brewery-focused companies have created cryogenic
products for hop preservation and used advanced laboratory science to
effectively can beer and measure dissolved oxygen.
help improve quality control for canning and require just one operator on the
line. Some breweries use a mash filter press that is a specialized plate and
frame filter to recover extract, improve wort production and be more efficient.
A recent development
involves two holes on cans’ standard ends to improve airflow and let consumers
get a smoother pour with less foam. There’s also technology for cans that
transform them into their own cup to eliminate the need for glassware and
reduce waste. Brewery equipment is also enabling breweries to create packaging
with an airtight seal that re-closes the tab after opening so you can save part
of a beer for later.
Another trend worth noting
is investing in machines that can produce both beer and spirits so that
beverage companies can have crossover brewery and distillery operations. A
barrel-aging system makes it easy to combine these two methods of beverage
Cavitation involves a
rotating impeller that generates low pressures at its fast-moving tips. This
process increases the rate that starch passes from pulverized malted barley
into the wart and eliminates the need for milling malted barley in advance.
Other equipment upgrades
and innovations that breweries may be interested to learn about include
multi-purpose aseptic container brewing vessels, kink-resistant brewery hoses,
beer-serving tanks to use in taprooms as an alternative to kegs and scalable
With regard to significant brewery equipment updates in recent years, Jef Lewis, the president of BrewBilt Manufacturing, told Beverage Master Magazine that the drop dosing tank has become very popular among breweries lately. Based in Grass Valley, California, BrewBilt is a handcrafted brewery equipment company that has been working on several exciting new pieces of equipment.
“Hopping techniques have changed since the old days, and there’s a
lot of dry hopping going on in the fermentation process,” Lewis said. “The hop
dosing tank allows brewers to fill it with whatever they want to add to the
fermentation. You would then purge the tank of any air and begin recirculating with
Lewis said that, lately,
his company also includes whirlpool recirculation heat exchanges.
“These are specially
designed heat exchangers that cool the wort down from boil temperature to 167
to 170 degrees in about 10 minutes,” he said. “This allows the brewer to do hop
aroma additions without getting any bitterness from the hop.”
Rusty Riley, founder and president of Oronoko Iron Works in Baroda, Michigan, told Beverage Master Magazine the most significant shift he has seen in the last 10 years has been toward a greater degree of automation in every corner of the brewery, better-equipped laboratories, and better data collection and utilization. Oronoko Iron Works is a custom-fabrication, CNC plasma cutting and machining company with a foundation in the brewing and distilling industry.
“From grain handling to
the brewhouse and on to fermentation, people have begun to utilize automation
and data analysis to develop more consistent processes, which, in turn, leads
to a more consistent product,” Riley said. “As consumers become more
health-conscious, more breweries will move into producing non-alcoholic
products that still satisfy a beer drinker’s palate. I anticipate some
innovation in that sector in the coming years.”
New Brewery Equipment to
One example of a new piece
of equipment from BrewBilt is this company’s Wort Oxygenator that allows
breweries to eliminate the need for an oxygen tank to oxygenate their wort on
the way from the heat exchanger to the fermenter. This is an important piece of
equipment because sanitary oxygen is the most expensive and dangerous type of
gas used by breweries.
“What we offer is a safe
alternative that eliminates the recurring cost of getting a tank filled,” said
Lewis. “All that is needed is a small air compressor to deliver air to a
specialized filter, and what comes out is sanitary oxygen. Then it goes through
a flowmeter that allows the brewer to select and monitor how much oxygen is
added to the wort through a venturi.”
Another popular piece of
BrewBilt equipment is its Mobil Flow Meter. It is a magnetic, digital sanitary
flow meter that can be connected to anything in the brewery through a
“Plug any 120-volt
extension cord to the unit, and you’re on your way,” Lewis said. “It includes a
reset button to set it back to zero when you’re done, and it’s packaged in a
small, sturdy stainless-steel frame with a handle to keep it safe from the
rigors of the brewery environment.”
Other BrewBilt equipment
currently on-trend with breweries are the CIP Cart that uses electric or steam
heat for cleaning brewery tanks and the three- and six-head manual and
automated keg washers.
Oronoko Iron Works
launched in 2014 with a mission to build a better roll mill for brewers. It is
still the company’s top product.
“The biggest factor in
consistency is repeatability, and our mills are easy to adjust and get the same
setting over and over again,” Riley said. “Since day one, we’ve strived to make
our mills more user-friendly and bomb-proof. We’ve created additional particle
reduction solutions like hammer mills, comminutors and other types of crushers
and grinders, as well as ancillary products, like bulk bag stands, bins and
“Along the way, we discovered
that our customers also have a need for automated knife gates and other
automation, so we’ve begun focusing on those areas too,” Riley said. “We’ve
tried to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our customers so we can grow as they
Conclusions and Advice About New Brewery Equipment
Although not all equipment
innovations add significant value to the brewing process, certain strategic
pieces can make life much easier. For both new breweries and well-established
ones, it is a smart idea to stay up-to-date on recent equipment trends and
learn about forward-thinking companies that are helping brewing processes
become more efficient.
Lewis of Brewbilt
recommends that breweries don’t underestimate themselves and buy too small of a
brewhouse. “There are golden ratios for brewhouse tanks, like boil kettles,
mash tuns and lauter tuns that greatly increase your brewhouse efficiency,” he
said. “Don’t buy the wrong shape tanks!”
Lewis also said breweries
should make sure the dead space under their lauter tun’s false bottom is
minimal, to get a larger hot liquor tank than you think you need and to invest
in lab equipment.
“New technology is
important and exciting, but don’t overlook ROI of the technology you’re
investing in and examine how it might impact the growth trajectory of your
business,” said Riley of Oronoko Iron Works.
Riley also encourages
breweries to ask themselves whether investing a few more dollars now will see
them through to the next phase of growth. “Look out one, two, five or 10 years
and try to envision what will improve your bottom line and help you achieve
those goals over that time frame.”
The canned and ready-to-drink beverage markets have shown to be
the current lifeblood for many craft producers. More mobile canners are
adapting to their needs, helping them get their product to market without the
expense of purchasing a canning line. But what is mobile canning all about?
What should you look for in a mobile canning service? What should you expect
when a mobile canning service comes through your door? And how do you choose?
Invest In Your Product
“Mobile canning is an investment, and like any investment, when you decide to jump into it, it’s best to go with experience and expertise,” said John Culp, owner of Beer Dudes Mobile Canning. “Canning lines are costly. They can run you $150,000, and if a brewer or distiller is only using their canning line on a minimal basis, they are wasting way too much of both their product and their overall resources. We believe that the cutoff, or magic production number, for actually benefitting from owning a canning line is right around the 2,000 cases a month mark. If you’re seeing this kind of production on a year-round basis, then you might look into taking ownership of a canning line. Otherwise, it’s better to put your resources and capital into buying more tanks and increasing capacity. Do more of what you do best, and we’ll get it canned for you.”
Beer Dudes Mobile Canning
is a full-service mobile canning company offering expertise and experience in
on-site canning of carbonated and non-carbonated products, including beer,
wine, spirits, sports drinks, energy drinks and seltzers. They currently offer
two complete Wild Goose canning lines with SKA Fab depalletizers and a third
line in the works. The canning lines are contained and transported in box
trucks or trailers equipped with ramps or rail gates that eliminate the need
for a brewery or distillery to have a loading dock.
“As a mobile canner, we’ve
got a history of filling over 10 million cans, so we have the experience and
expertise. We do it daily, consistently metering key elements like dissolved
oxygen and carbon dioxide while monitoring and performing can seaming
inspections and adhering to regular maintenance of our quality machinery with
parts on hand to repair them if needed,” said Culp. “There really is no
difference in our service when canning different types of beverages. We use the
same canning lines but with different parts. Part of the benefit of partnering
with Beer Dudes Mobile Canning service is that we have a lot of money and
expertise tied up in the unique parts, changeover equipment and specialized
tools necessary for different canning services and needed changeovers. Our
employees can react quickly and confidently to any situation that arises while
the average craft brewer or distiller likely wouldn’t have the resources to do so.
We have everything at hand ready to use, including premium printers.”
Culp told Beverage Master Magazine that the canning systems are assembled on-site, usually taking
about an hour. The client should provide two 110v GFCI power sources for the
depalletizing, canning and seaming equipment, and possibly an air source if
needed with at least 90psi and 15cfm. They do have helper compressors available
or can bring a complete system when necessary, and that would require a 230v
15- or 20-amp service.
“Give us a 10- by 26-foot
space to operate in, and we’re in business,” said Culp. “Our employees
depalletize and feed the cans while the client company supplies the necessary
personnel (usually 2 or 3 workers) to handle the product post-filling. They can
expect an average rate of 40 to 44 cases per minute stacked on 80 to 100 case
Beer Dudes charges a daily
rate based on an eight-hour workday and consists of a one-hour setup and
sanitization, six-hours of run time, and then another final hour of cleanup and
breakdown. Pricing is a tier-based cost system, with lower rates as the amount
of product to can rises.
“As part of our service,
we can provide anything that relates to the distributor, vendor or marketing
function,” said Culp. “Our resources run the gamut and feature anything related
that the producer would need, including the cans and ends, sleeves, the ability
to do white labeling, etc. We have the expertise and ability to can from brite
tank or keg and offer nitro dosing for nitro brews or wine filling.”
Culp said that Beer Dudes
always tries to help out the brewers that call in with an emergency, but it can
be challenging because of many factors, including the can shortages that have
affected the industry. While they have the necessary cans for their recurring
customers, it can sometimes take six to eight weeks to source cans for a new
“The best way to combat
that situation is for beverage producers to consistently plan ahead,” said
Culp. “We generally look for lead times of four weeks, but those lead times are
inherently dependent on the specific customer’s needs. We always recommend that
a brewer or distiller adhere to a canning schedule and then regularly get on
our calendar so that they always have a set appointment.
Another issue is getting the client’s artwork
ahead of time. We can offer guidance and consult, but the initial artwork
requires Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade approval. It’s also helpful if the
brewer adheres to our recommendations regarding temperature and carbonation
levels for their products. By following these recommendations, we can
immediately limit the amount of waste and product loss and get to canning
“The bottom line is we’re
in the business of supporting craft beverage producers,” said Culp. “We help
them remain effective and competitive while getting their product out to
market. A trend under current market conditions is for some craft brewers and distillers
to operate within a smaller footprint, so we will soon offer a smaller canning
unit that will be able to roll right through their standard front door. Other
producers may have the resources and capability to produce a great product, but
they don’t have the equipment or knowledge as to how to get those products
packaged and ready for market. Beer Dudes is, like most mobile canning
businesses, a regionally based operation, but will soon be adding the title of
regional co-packer to their business as well.”
Beer Dudes already holds
all the licensing needed to be considered a manufacturing winery, distillery
and brewery. Customers will soon be able to manufacture their beverage and then
can it right at their co-packing facility in Denton, Texas. With the exception
of transporting craft beer because of Texas law, they can transport a client’s
beverages to their facility to be canned, or buy larger quantities of product,
like wine, from a larger producer for the purpose of packaging and selling it
in smaller quantities or lots under different labels.
Choose Knowledge And Experience
Before Sean Kingston
started WilCraft Can, a provider of mobile canning solutions for the brewing
and distilling industries, he amassed 13 years of chemical and aerosol engineering
experience at SC Johnson. He fully understands the process of maintaining
quality regarding the liquid filling of pressurized products. He and his
like-minded team bring that critical engineering mentality and knowledge to
“Look, canning lines
aren’t cheap, so a craft brewer needs to ask themselves a few questions and
then answer honestly,” said Kingston, owner and Chief Operating Officer of
WilCraft Can. “Are you consistently canning at least 1000 cases a week? Can you
afford the valuable floor space you’ll be giving up to a permanent canning
line? Can you afford the training and retraining of employees to stay up to
date and remain efficient with the canning line and potential maintenance
issues? What tasks aren’t getting done because your employees are busy canning
“As a brewer or distiller,
your first and foremost task is to produce the best product you can,” said
Kingston. “If you’re ready to expand, then use any available extra resources to
expand production rather than jump into the packaging business. Do more of what
you do best, and we’ll use our expertise to complement that with our seamless
process to can and package your product to your specifications, even down to
specific carbonations levels. We can suggest temperature levels, but your beer
is your beer, and we’ll adjust our equipment to keep it that way.”
WilCraft Can willingly
works with any contact and supplier you prefer. Still, their experienced team
comes prepared with all of the quality contacts needed for filling and
packaging your product, including the availability of quality aluminum cans.
“All we really need to
know is the size of can you need and two to three weeks advance notice of the
artwork you want on your cans, and we can do the rest,” said Kingston. “The
producer supplies one or two people along with a three-phase power supply,
compressed air and a CO2 supply and space for us to set up. We use premier Codi
Counter Pressure Fillers, SKA Fab depalletizers and pressure-sensitive labelers
to produce a fresh, consistent and customer appreciated canned product, all
essential qualities for a craft beverage producer.”
Kingston believes that by
using a mobile canning business, beverage producers can see how their business
is doing regarding base profitability and best-selling products. They can then
make adjustments and decisions to grow their business better.
“Packaging and canning
expertise is even more critical in today’s market conditions,” said Kingston.
“Craft producers should always look for credentialed quality and exceptional
customer service in a mobile canner. It can be easy for mobile canners to get
grouped into the inexperienced market category, but we at WilCraft Can have
years of packaging and canning experience behind us. That experience allows us
to fill a critical need in the craft beverage market by offering a
well-informed and knowledgeable mobile canning business. We understand the
entire process, start to finish. If a canner doesn’t ask you what the final
gravity of your product is or make accommodations for variances in cans and can
manufacturers that affect target fill weight, you may want to look elsewhere.”
customer service is always crucial,” said Kingston. “Delivering on a promise is
critical, and we do what we say we’re going to do. We respond to emergencies as
best as we can, and our record of nearly 400 runs without a miss is something
we are extremely proud of. On that same note, brewers can help themselves out
by thinking ahead and planning at least four weeks in advance. They know that
they’re going to have to can their product, so plan ahead and guarantee the
time and necessary resources.”
Kingston told Beverage Master Magazine that he believes that the specific guidelines and benchmarks for
manufacturing set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology will
eventually be coming to mobile canning.
“WilCraft Can is already
prepared for that move. We have them implemented and adhere to them daily,
including critical documentation practices. The saying goes that if it’s not
documented, it didn’t happen, so continuous documenting of specific practices
WilCraft Can stays focused
on the canning process with an eye on supply and keeping adequate inventory.
They pride themselves on reacting to the marketplace with confidence in having
an adequate supply of materials to meet their customer’s needs. They also have a
growth plan of supplying cans at minimums far below current market demands that
they will directly print on, eliminating the need to use sleeves or labels.
Over the past decade, the cider industry in Canada has taken off,
with over 150 cideries across the country and 55 in the province of Ontario.
The cidery that continues to stand out amongst the crowd is West Avenue Cider
House. Since establishing in 2012, West Avenue has drawn massive attention from
cider lovers and connoisseurs alike, winning awards nationally and
internationally for their line of ciders. The Ontario cidery not only uses
traditional, slow fermentation methods and an array of Heritage apples to
create their unique brand of apple cider, but owner and head cidermaker, Chris
Haworth, also experiments with alternative techniques and approaches to
cidermaking, creating never before seen products that are changing the way
people think about apple cider.
Haworth started his career
as a chef in the U.K., working in some of London’s best restaurants, including
Quo Vadis, owned by three Michelin star chef, Marco Pierre White. Haworth made
the move to Canada in 2005 with his wife, Amy Robson, and that is when he
started to take an interest in fermentation, brewing beer at home as a part-time
hobby. As the couple got settled in Canada, Haworth noticed there were a lot of
apples in Ontario, but not a lot of apple cider. It was in 2008 that he decided
to leave the kitchen and make the shift into full-time cidermaking.
Haworth takes a very
traditional approach to cidermaking. All of his cider is made by traditional
methods using slow fermentation. He only ferments when there are apples on the
trees because he is focused on quality ingredients and authentic flavors. While
many cideries can take only three weeks to get from ferment to shelf, West
Avenue cider takes six months to go through the same process. Haworth believes
this is what sets his cider apart. The cool ferments lend his ciders more
complex aromatics and distinct flavors that are native to Ontario and cannot be
reproduced anywhere else. He adds yeast from previous batches of cider to his
new ferments to encourage this unique West Avenue flavor.
Haworth’s first release,
the West Avenue Heritage Dry, is a 6.5% alcohol by volume, traditional cider
made from 100% Heritage apples. The cider took home “Best Cider in Ontario” at
the 2014 Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention Hard Cider Competition and a
silver at the 2014 Great Lakes and International Cider and Perry Competition. It
continues to win awards each year, as does the cidery itself. West Avenue has
taken home “Best Cidery in Ontario” four years in a row at the Golden Tap
After mastering the art of
the dry apple cider, Haworth started to experiment with blends, releasing West
Avenue Cherriosity Cider in 2015 – a mix of Heritage apples and Montmorency
cherries from Niagara. Cherriosity took home a silver at the Ontario Fruit and
Vegetable Convention that year and won Best in Show at the 2015 Royal Winter
Fair. The two ciders – Heritage Dry and Cherriosity – are mainstays at West
Avenue Cider House and can be found in liquor stores across Ontario.
After experiencing such
success with his first two releases, in 2015, Haworth decided to move his
growing business to Freelton, Ontario, just north of Hamilton, purchasing a
75-acre piece of land and starting his own organic apple orchard. Since then,
Haworth has become what he calls an “apple collector,” planting over 6,000 apple trees and over 110
different varietals of Heritage apples on his property, with more on the way.
Some of these species of apples are 200 to 300 years old and are extremely
Right now, Haworth’s trees
are still young, but he says the quality of the fruit is increasing from
year-to-year and the true characteristics of the apples are starting to come
through. He ultimately wants to capture the unique terroir of his orchard and
figure out which varietals thrive in Ontario and where, in the orchard, they
produce the highest quality fruit. He is also learning about the different
flavor profiles of his extensive varietals of apples. Some of the apples are so
high in natural sugars that they can reach 35% ABV when fermented on their own.
Others are extremely high in acidity.
In the long run, Haworth
wants to determine the perfect blend of apples to make the ultimate apple
cider. He has started planting several other native Ontario fruits, herbs,
edible flowers and shrubs on his property to use in his ciders. He currently
has 10 varieties of pears and other unexpected additions like sea buckthorn,
black locust, elderberry and sumac, just to name a few. He says it’s like he’s
trying to create his own cookbook of sorts with a multitude of cider recipes
and concoctions that he has developed over the years.
He is able to focus more
on his experimental ciders since opening a tasting room on the property in
2017. The tasting room has a growler program that Haworth says has really taken
off. Guests can come and fill their growlers with the latest on-tap offerings,
and Haworth doesn’t have to worry about the cost of bottling. Currently, West
Avenue is producing half a million pints a year. Haworth estimates the
production is 50/50 experimental versus traditional flagship ciders he sells to
restaurants and retailers. He has taken full advantage of this opportunity to
experiment and has an extensive number of offerings in the tasting room in
various styles and flavor profiles.
Haworth is continuously
searching for new approaches to create a remarkable cider. Just as a chef
continues to learn different kitchen techniques, Haworth continues his
education in cidermaking. Once he masters one method, he moves on to learn
another. He has also begun to study winemaking and is now experimenting with
using traditional winemaking techniques on his cider. As a chef, he says it
started with the idea of not leaving any waste and using all of his raw
materials. When he saw wineries throwing out their pressed grape skins, he
decided to take them and add them to a vat of fermenting apple juice. The
result was a beautiful rosé-colored cider, with bright fruit and mild tannins
that won a silver medal that year in an American competition. A lightbulb went
off in his head.
From there, Haworth
started buying grape juice from local producers and creating wine-cider
hybrids. Rhineapple, one of the tasting room’s current offerings, is a blend of
35% Niagara Riesling grapes and 65% Northern Spry and Snow apples. This 9.2%
ABV traditional method sparkling wine-cider hybrid is bright and floral with
pear and honey notes. The apples and grapes are fermented together in bottle
using an in-house strain of yeast. Haworth also experiments with wild yeast
that is naturally occurring on the skins of the apples. He uses it to produce ancestral
style ciders. One of his latest ciders, Pommerage, uses a Meritage blend of
grapes fermented in oak before being combined with apple cider. At 11% ABV,
this unique hybrid is a perfect substitute for wine and pairs excellently with
Haworth is also
experimenting with the use of a variety of barrels – from wine to tequila to
rum. Genevieve is an apple cider aged in gin barrels and blended with ginger,
peach, lavender and lactose. The barrels add depth and complexity to ciders
rarely found in the industry. It is obvious when visiting the West Avenue
tasting room that there is a chef at hand.
Haworth is even making
“ice cider,” made in the same way as ice wine – by pressing frozen apples, so
the sugars are incredibly concentrated. Northern Lights is an ice cider aged
for five years in cognac barrels, producing a syrupy sweet cider with an
incredible body and notes of caramel, pecan and orange zest.
Firecracker is a
dessert-style cider made using a totally different technique – a maple syrup
evaporator. Instead of freezing the apples to concentrate the sugars, Haworth
wanted to try using the same method as maple syrup, essentially cooking the
apples over a Maplewood fire to evaporate the water. The result is a thick and
viscous 8.5% ABV cider with maple, nut and smoke notes. It’s perfect for
sipping around a campfire.
It’s hard to fathom what
is next for Chef Haworth. Each year, he continues to hone his cidermaking
skills and try new and innovative methods. He says, ultimately, for him, the
obsession is to be able to create the “perfect cider.” Just as a winemaker
seeks the perfect blend of grapes, he believes there is the perfect blend of
apples. He says that in five years, he should be at the point where he has
figured out that perfect blend, whether it be a blend of three different apples
or ten. That is something cider lovers should look forward to.