Yankee Brew News December 2014/January 2015 : Page 1
CANNING on the go ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM THEY OWN IT! Just a couple of the new owners: Harpoon’s new leadership duo, Dan Kenary and Charlie Storey, pose in front of a celebratory aluminum bottle cap given to Harpoon by Hypertherm, a fellow ESOP company. P HOTO COURTESY OF H ARPOON . By Niko Krommydas iddlehead Brewing’s Mastermind Double IPA and Carton Brewing’s Boat Beer, though brewed 328 miles apart, are both packaged on-site by the rt same company: Iron Heart Canning. r Iron Heart, launched by Tyler Wille in August 2013, is a mobile canner, one of 25-30 companies offering the new and burgeoning service in the United States. These operations haul their equip-ment to breweries, fill cans with beer and then move to the next customer. This enables smaller breweries without the funds un nds to Harpoon Employees Celebrate ESOP with Ceremonial EHOP Brew By Jamie Magee F purchase their own canning lines to enter the industry’s most popular packaging realm. Iron Heart operates warehouses in Monroe, Conn., and Londonderry, N.H. Wille is rarely pre esent at either; he travels con-present st tantly sometimes to brewer-stantly, ies in six different states in a i week week. He’s answered emails from Rising Tide Brewing in Po Portland, Maine, and Blue H Hills Brewing in Canton, M Mass., and texted after a j job at Half Full Brewery in Stamford, Conn. Iron Heart services brewer-On a hot July day, Harpoon employees gathered for what was billed as an important monthly staff meeting. Buses brought Vermont personnel to the brewery’s Boston Beer Hall, The Day That Changed Everything and a video conference was established for those who had to stay up north. The sense that something big was going to happen was palpable. When Al Marzi, a 23-year veteran of Harpoon and Brewery Operations Manager, returned early from his vacation, some of his people started sweating bullets. See Harpoon p. 6 INSIDE Events Calendar....... 3 Beer Cooks .............. 8 Alehouse .................. 9 Tasting Panel ......... 10 Homebrew .............. 12 Maps/Directory .. 18-23 State by State News See Canning p. 4 E. Massachusetts ..........14 Boston ............................16 W. Massachusetts .........24 Maine ..............................26 New Hampshire .............28 Connecticut ....................30 Vermont ..........................32 Rhode Island ..................34 NYC/Long Island ............36 Upstate NY .....................38
Canning On The Go
Fiddle head Brewing’s Mastermind Double IPA and Carton Brewing’s Boat Beer, though brewed 328 miles apart, are both packaged on-site by the same company: Iron Heart Canning.
Iron Heart, launched by Tyler Wille in August 2013, is a mobile canner, one of 25-30 companies offering the new and burgeoning service in the United States. These operations haul their equipment to breweries, fill cans with beer and then move to the next customer. This enables smaller breweries without the funds to purchase their own canning lines to enter the industry’s most popular packaging realm.
Iron Heart operates warehouses in Monroe, Conn., and Londonderry, N.H. Wille is rarely present at either; he travels constantly, sometimes to breweries six different states in a week. He’s answered emails Rising Tide Brewing in Portland, Maine, and Blue Hills Brewing in Canton, Mass., and texted after a job at Half Full Brewery in Stamford, Conn.
Iron Heart services breweries of all sizes and desired outputs. Wille once packaged 24,000 cans of Long Trail Brewing’s Ale and IPA, then, two days later, only 7,200 cans of Worm town Brewing’s Be Hoppy. At each brewery, he wheels a bulky MC-250 — a model described by Wild Goose Engineering as a “quad-fill, two tower automated canning line ... with the ability to comfortably can at 36-40 cans per minute” — and fills 12-ounce or 16-ounce cans with another employee.
The transient process is surprisingly intimate: cans are fed to the 900-pound apparatus and filled with a quick discharge of beer (and two separate blasts of carbon dioxide) through a plastic tube. Each can is sanitized, filled, sealed, rinsed and packaged. Wille is always nearby monitoring fill levels and volumes, seam specifications, carbonation, temperature and pressure (“Ideally, we like 31-32 degree beer while canning,” Wille said). After canning is complete, typically eight hours later, the MC-250 is returned to one of Iron Heart’s two 26-foot-long box trucks and driven to the nearest warehouse — or the next customer.
An avid home brewer in Norwalk, Conn., Wille shared a common aspiration within the amateur community.
“I really wanted to open my own brewery,” he recalled. “I was working for a hedge fund and commuting daily (to New York City), and I just wasn’t happy.”
As he shared his dream with more and more professional brewers, however, most noted the financial and spatial constraints with packaging their beer, alongside the growing desire to offer them in cans, rather than bottles. His focus shifted to mobile canning, a new trend bubbling in the Pacific Northwest and on the West Coast. There was Craft Canning in Oregon and The Can Van in California, but no companies based in the Northeast. Wille realized an opportunity.
“It was like an epiphany,” he said. “I had the chance to launch the first mobile cannery in New England. It was a business opportunity too good to pass up. This type of equipment would easily cost $200,000 and that’s a big burden for most craft breweries.”
Rob Burns, co-owner of Night Shift Brewing, agrees. Iron Heart currently packages three beers for the Everett, Mass.-based operation: Marble head, Morph and Whirlpool. After pricing different canning lines, Burns realized utilizing Iron Heart, instead, was better for his brewery’s long-term growth.
“When you could purchase a new fermenter to increase production or put that money toward buying a canning line,” Burns said, “with a guy like Tyler, we don’t have to make that decision now. Now we can buy the fermenter to make more beer and he cans it.”
Wille visits Night Shift every three weeks, usually canning between 20 and 40 barrels. Burns is pleased with the sales since partnering with Iron Heart last February.
“They’re usually all sold out in a week,” Burns added. “And Tyler shrink-wraps the labels at his warehouse, so there isn’t any excess room taken up at the brewery. The cans are brought here all ready to go.” Wille doesn’t require a deposit or set number of visits. He also assists breweries source smaller minimums of required packaging materials: shrink sleeve-labeled cans, tops and cardboard trays.
“If they went to do it alone, a minimum order of cans may cost a brewery close to $10,000, and that’s only the cans,” Wille said.
Iron Heart even offers off-site storage.
“It’d be impossible for us to store pallets and pallets of empty cans. It’s space we really don’t have,” said Michael Phil brick, owner and brew master of Port Jeff Brewing. The brewery, which operates in a converted retail space on Long Island, launched Party Boat IPA in 12-ounce cans using Iron Heart. Phil brick also had another motive for partnering with Wille.
“I wanted to bring Party Boat on my boat,” he laughed. “Bottles can’t go on boats, ball parks or beaches. The can gets in more hands this way.”
According to Market Watch: “As of 2012, cans constituted 53.2% of the beer market While bottles had a 36.5% share — a fairly significant gap. By contrast, in 2006, the two packagings were much closer in popularity — cans accounted for 48.3% of the market and bottles 41.9%.”
Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association, believes this shift is likely to continue: “Overall in beer more volume is in cans than in bottles, draft and plastic combined. I think it’s a reasonable expectation that as craft evolves and gains share of overall beer sales, that the package mix for craft would show increases in craft can sales for many years.”
Can We Can? Yes.
In 2002, Oskar Blues Brewery released Dale’s Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans. According to Dale Katechis, owner of the Longmont, Colo.- based brewery, the decision wasn’t initially well received.
“Everyone involved — from the retailer, consumer, distributor — everyone involved could never really conceive of a quality beer in a can.
Our original fear was that people would think (craft beer in a can) was a gimmick. We knew it wasn’t, but how do we convince them?”
Katechis was determined to sway opinions. “We needed to put the beer in front of them and educate them. So we knew we had to be the ones to deliver the beer to retail and literally drove it one by one to the stores so we could stand there in front of them, get them to try it and look them in the eye when we said, ‘Hey, would you buy my beer?’”
Katechis’ approach worked, and soon other industry beasts followed Oskar Blues into the caniverse. New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., for example, installed a canning line in 2008. According to Craft Cans.com, 423 craft breweries in the U.S. now sell beer in cans. There were fewer than 50 in 2008.
As more breweries can their beer, the public’s opposition — and presumption that everything packaged in this format is yucky swill — has lessened. Andrew McLean is co-owner of Michigan Mobile Canning.
“Craft beer drinkers are a pretty wellin formed group, and they understand all the benefits of cans,” McLean said. “It’s better for the beer, with no light or oxygen hitting the beer. It’s better for the environment. It travels better. It gets cold faster. The benefits go on and on, and craft beer drinkers know it.”
Iron Heart’s website has a section devoted to the benefits of canning. This is one example: “Cans are air tight, impenetrable to UV light and coated inside with a polymer liner, which prevents the aluminum from tainting the beer’s delicate flavors. The perception that canned beer has a metallic flavor is a carryover from the days when cans weren’t lined.”
Another benefit, according to Iron Heart: the “cool factor.”
The Cool Factor
If a brewery wants to exude coolness with cans, there are three options. The first follows the route of Oskar Blues, which purchased a canning line and packages entirely in-house (and continues to push the vessel’s boundaries, launching the first 19. 2-ounce can in North America and introducing the “Crowler” with Ball Corporation).
A second option is the outsourcing of both production and packaging. Wachusett Brewing of Westminster, Mass., invested heavily to offer this combination to other companies in 2011, securing a canning line originally used in a Coca-Cola facility in Bermuda.
“We’ve spent years and a lot of money investing in the quality control of our cans,” said co-owner Ned La For tune. “Since the canning line was previously used for soda, we built a custom filler in-house and hired a quality manager to test the beer. This exceeds industry standards, and I can confidently say that includes Anheuser-Busch’s standards, too. It’s been the proudest thing I’ve done in my 20 years in the business.”
Wachusett currently brews and packages for Montauk Brewing, Cambridge Brewing and McNeill’s Pub and Brewery.
“We won’t contract for anyone wanting bottles,” La For tune said.
If a brewery wants to can without purchasing a canning line or outsourcing production, only one option exists: mobile canning, a fairly new service. The first company to offer mobile canning, the aptly named Mobile Canning, launched in 2011 (also in Long mont, Colo., near Oskar Blues). Pat Hartman, one of the company’s two owners, was enrolled in the Intensive Brewing Science for Practical Brewing class at the University of California, Davis. During the week long course, mobile bottling services for small wine makers were discussed. It sparked a brainwave.
“I started thinking that cans were actually the better package for craft beer, and now breweries are migrating there at a staggering rate — so why not mobile canning?” Hartman asked.
The idea was introduced to long-time friend and home brewer, Ron Pompa. Both forged a partnership with Wild Goose Engineering of Boulder, Colo., to “create the first mobile Canning system. When we first approached Wild Goose, they were not keen on the idea of building a canning line that would be moved around on a regular basis. We quickly convinced them this was the way to go,” Hartman said.
Mobile’s first client was Crab tree Brewing of Greeley, Colo., in November 2011. The second, Boulder Beer, followed at the beginning of 2012, and by that summer, Mobile was servicing nine regular clients. Its growth continued. Mobile Canning launched Mobile Canning Systems, also in 2012. According to Hartman, “(Mobile Canning Systems) is an affiliate program that helps mobile canning startups by providing the training and resources to operate in their own territory. We tell them what and what not to buy and help them source the equipment. They also go through a full training program and can our clients’ beer. Having them join us also adds to the collective benefit of all involved, as the larger group can buy bulk quantities and lower costs overall.” Mobile’s program has proved successful: There are currently 16 affiliates, including Iron Heart. Wille flew to Colorado and visited the company’s 10,000-square-foot facility for five days.
“I went just to check it out and learn more about the concept. The next thing I knew, I was picking out my equipment,” he said.
“They let me can their own clients for the whole week with my new machine. That gave me the groundwork, the confidence to do this.”
Wille’s confidence is deserved. After opening in August 2013, Iron Heart has packaged over 4,000,000 cans. The company now services 21 full-time clients — even a cidery, Citizen Cider in Burlington, Vt. — with five full-time employees, including Wille’s wife and sister. They’re already searching for a third warehouse and plan on purchasing a third MC-250.
“Getting additional equipment is essentially the only way to expand our business,” Wille said.
The praise of his existing clients doesn’t hurt, either.
“Because of people like Tyler, mobile canning will continue to become more and more popular,” Phil brick said. “Most of his customers are in the same boat with regards to having no previous experience with canning, and he’s created a ‘guide’ to navigate the process of preparing your brewery and packaging for cans. He makes it incredibly easy to get it off the ground.”
When Phil brick’s quote is texted to Wille, around 8:30 a.m. one morning, he doesn’t respond until 11:35 p.m.
“Sorry. Was on a long job. 12,000 cans,” he said. There was a long pause. “My main priority is maintaining the one-on-one customer service, no matter how big I get. I don’t want to can for a brewery once or twice and be on my way. I want to build long-term relationships.”
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Canning+On+The+Go/1885290/238800/article.html.
Harpoon Employees Celebrate ESOP With Ceremonial EHOP Brew
The Day That Changed Everything
On a hot July day, Harpoon employees gathered for what was billed as an important monthly staff meeting. Buses brought Vermont personnel to the brewery’s Boston Beer Hall, and a video conference was established for those who had to stay up north. The sense that something big was going to happen was palpable. When Al Marzi, a 23-year veteran of Harpoon and Brewery Operations Manager, returned early from his vacation, some of his people started sweating bullets
“They thought we were going to be fired,” recalled Marzi.
Unfamiliar men in suits had arrived. Jaime Schier, Harpoon Quality Control Lead and a 15-year veteran of Harpoon, recalled that as the meeting started: “You could hear a pin drop.”
Dan Kenary, who founded Harpoon with Rich Doyle in 1986, stood up to address the crowd.
“We’ve invited you here to meet the new owners of the Harpoon Brewery.”
Uh-oh. In this day and age of investment firms acquiring the controlling rights to breweries, or even the outright acquisition of a brewery by a larger brewery, people were justifiably nervous. Kenary then asked a few employees to stand, and as they did, he said that each was the new owner. As confusion mounted, Kenary finally made the big announcement.
“In fact, shake the hand of the person next to you, you’re all the new owners of Harpoon.”
What Kenary was announcing was the end of a long process and a tremendous decision. Rich Doyle, the face of the company for 30 years, would step down as CEO and sell his shares of the company to create an Employee Stock Ownership Program. The company’s future was on a new path. The suits had been consultants and representatives from other ESOP companies (like King Arthur Flour, a Vermont neighbor), who were there to help explain the process and welcome Harpoon into the community of companies that had taken the leap.
“Dan kept his cards close to his vest,” said Schier. “After a few seconds of shock, the mood changed to surprise and elation.”
A Good Fit
It’s hard to believe that Harpoon Brewery started nearly a generation ago. When the Massachusetts Bay Brewing Company acquired Brewing Permit #001 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1986, it kicked off the new age of the beer movement in Boston, bringing locally brewed beers back to the city for the first time in 25 years. Now, the Harpoon time line has extended beyond the dormant era that preceded its founding. And in that grand gesture in July, Harpoon’s founders extended their hands to the people who helped them build the company into the largest craft beer employer in New England: their employees.
Between its Boston and Vermont brewery, Harpoon has over 180 full-time employees. Aside from the standard brewery divisions one might expect — such as brewing production, packaging and sales and marketing — Harpoon also has people running its festivals, distribution, the Boston Beer Hall and the Vermont brewpub, The River bend Taps & Beer Garden. The company credo — “Love Beer. Love Life. Harpoon.” — is so enmeshed with the company identity that practically all of Harpoon’s ads feature employees of the brewery.
Liz Melby, a 16-year veteran of Harpoon and Director of Communications, credited founders Rich and Dan for creating a sense of togetherness at Harpoon that made the move possible.
“The thought of the losing that to outside investors, it would ruin the company culture,” Melby said.
Harpoon fans need not worry about that possibility. The lively company culture should continue. Marzi remembered something Kenary had said: “Everything has changed and nothing has changed. “Harpoon employees are always trying to improve things to the benefit of themselves and their fellow workers.”
“We were essentially employee-owned before the ESOP,” said Charlie Storey, recently elevated to the position of the President of Harpoon, “just by senior management. The group decision making will still be managed the same way, and any culture change will be positive.”
The beer industry has seen a few breweries convert to employee ownership (and another just fall to corporate ownership), but Harpoon is the first in the Yankee Brew News region to start the process of conversion.
Charlie Storey said that this is the first step of an absorbing process: “No matter how much education you get in beer hall conversations, it’s still abstract. According to other ESOP companies we’ve talked to, it’s a three year process. The tangible nature of ownership gets deeper and more profound.”
To assist in that process, Harpoon employees from every strata of the company have formed an ESOP Communications Committee (see inset).
Aaron Moberger, chairman of the committee, explained that the committee’s role is to prepare to get people comfortable with the ESOP information. Employees will vest into the program after three years. If they leave, the company buys back their allotted shares. While the vesting schedules are easy to understand, the first stock issue will not happen until mid-2015.
Into the Sunset?
According to Marzi and Schier, Rich Doyle’s departure speech was emotional but not too sentimental. Doyle will remain at the brewery part-time to “focus on key marketing and sales initiatives as well as new business development.”
And maybe just to hang with all of his new partners.