Most brewers don’t have the resources or warehouse space for a full industrial canning operation, but the benefits of canning your own creations are undeniable. As the pandemic forced the closure of brewpubs and taprooms across the country, brewers were forced to rapidly pivot to canning and distributing their products for delivery and pickup.
But being an excellent brewer doesn’t prepare you for the intricacies of the canning and distribution process, and many brewers found themselves struggling to sort out their canning needs. If you’re ready to develop or expand your canning capacity, here’s how to get started.
Assess Your Canning Needs
The first step in the process is determining how much equipment is actually necessary for your brewery and your customers. The main two questions you should be asking yourself are what you’re packaging and how you’re going to do it.
If you’re only canning one batch at a time in standard 12-oz cans, your equipment needs are very different than if you’re trying to package multiple SKUs simultaneously or use a variety of can sizes. Canning equipment needs for carbonated or nitrogenated beverages are also different from the equipment you’ll need for still beverages like cold-brew coffee.
You’ll also need to consider the auxiliary equipment you might need. If you’re simply serving cans on-site or offering them for pickup, you don’t need any additional packaging equipment. If you’re shipping them or distributing them through stores, you might need labeling and palletizing tools as well.
What to Look for in Canning Equipment
When you’re assessing canning equipment, there are a few factors you should consider:
- Throughput: how many cans per minute or barrels per hour can the machine produce? Will that be enough for not just your current production levels, but your anticipated production in a few years? Keep in mind that you won’t be running the machines 24/7, so plan for downtime and maintenance.
- Compatibility: does the canning equipment accommodate multiple sizes of cans? If not, can it be adapted or would you need entirely new equipment? What kind of beverages can the machine package effectively? Does it only work with carbonated beverages or does it include a nitrogen doser for still products?
- Costs: consider both upfront and ongoing costs. How much will the equipment cost to purchase? How much will it cost per month or per year to operate, maintain, and repair?
- Labor: how much hands-on operation will be required to run the machinery? Any time spent on canning by your staff is time they can’t spend brewing or interacting with customers, so you’ll have to consider whether you need additional hires to start a canning operation.
- Layout: how much space does the canning equipment need to operate? Do you have space to expand? Do you have nearby hookups for water, electricity, air, and CO2? Can your building handle the power requirements of your canning line?
Understand the Supply Chain
If you anticipate a fall rush on your Oktoberfest beer, the time to order cans is not early September. The U.S. is currently in the midst of a shortage of aluminum cans, so it’s more important than ever to anticipate delays and ensure that you have the equipment on hand to start canning as soon as the beer is ready.
This also means ensuring that your supplies are compatible. Can blanks are shipped separate from lids, and not all lids will fit all blanks. You need the right lid and blank to fit together, and the supply chain for each component might be notably different.
Establishing or growing a canning operation doesn’t have to be complicated. Determining the present need, planning for future growth, and understanding basic supply chain logistics are foundational to selecting and implementing the right system. With the right system in place, you’re ready to grow smartly and realize all the benefits of an in-house canning operation.
Questions? At Twin Monkeys, we’ve developed a number of different canning solutions to accommodate unique situations. If you’re still unsure where to start, we’ll gladly recommend a canning line for your operation and provide all the details necessary to install a complete tank-to-pallet canning process.