I’ve wanted to spend a day at a brewery learning about mobile canning for some time now. But I was lazy and didn’t want to wake up and drive to a brewery to do this. Luckily, FigLeaf is only a few minutes from home and they had Iron Heart Canning (formerly Buckeye Canning) in today to can their Basmati Cream Ale. I reached out to the owners who foolishly allowed me to come help out for the day, here’s my experience.
TL;DR, I need a nap.
Mobile Canning, Why?
There is no shortage of reasons why canning is the way to go with local craft beer these days. Canning is popular among craft beer fans, it’s better for the beer, it’s better for the environment, and it’s preferred by stores. But a canning machine is a hefty investment for a brewery that’s still new to the game.
Luckily, Iron Heart offers a mobile canning solution used by a few local breweries. They show up with a truck containing everything you need to can your beer, except beer and cans. They bring cases (that you assemble), six-pack holders, the canning machine, a depalletizer, the machine to print on the bottom of cans, and coming soon a labeler.
FigLeaf fully intends on getting their own canning machine soon. But they wanted to get you cans of their beer now, instead of making you wait until they had all the capital needed for that investment. FigLeaf isn’t the only local brewery taking advantage of Iron Heart’s services. Seeing a popular local hippo printed on some cans from their last canning run was exciting. Learning those cans were full of sanitizer and not NEIPA was disappointing.
The Mobile Canning Process
Right around 8 am the Iron Heart guys arrived and started to de-Tetris their truck. While there was some spare room I was still impressed with everything they managed to squeeze in there.
First off the truck were cases of cases for us to fold together. While this happened, they hooked up all the parts of the canning machine. It was a pretty clever setup with everything on wheels and stands that would flip down to hold the equipment in place. After two short and slow runs to dial in the carbonation and dissolved oxygen levels we were off and running at 34 cans per minute.
Once we were at speed it was really the same as many other canning machines.
The next step is to rotate the cans to print the date, or any text, on the bottom.
After this, they get a quick squirt of sanitizer to clean off the can and sanitize the inside.
Now the magic happens.
The four blue lines shoot CO² into the can to purge out any oxygen, helping the beer stay fresh longer. The four white lines fill the cans with the beer. Hooray beer!
The lids slide down and spin, technically called seaming, into place.
Then we had a multi-generational team drying off the cans
And a well-practiced hand snapping the six-pack holders into place.
Finally, my role came in, pretty simple, just hefting a case of beer a few feet from the canning line onto the pallet, 237 times.
How Do I Get Basmati?
Basmati cans will be available at FigLeaf this Saturday, June 17th along with a couple special variants on tap. After that the cans will head out into the local market, the only confirmed stores so far are Dorothy Lane Market up in Dayton but you will very likely see it in some Northern Cincy stores. But, as with any new release, the best bet is to come visit the brewery on release day.