Brewery crafts its canning process
A look at the Rochester Mills Production brewery’s canning line.
The Rochester Mills brewery is located in a historic building in downtown Rochester, MI and is the first and only brewery to open in the downtown. Opened in 1998 by founder Mike Plesz, the brewery is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.
In 2012 Plesz opened the Rochester Mills Production brewery some 5 and a half miles west of the brew pub and began selling the brewery’s popular beer in cans. The company currently sells five varieties; Rochester Red Ale, Milkshake Stout, Pine Knob Pilsner, Cornerstone IPA and Lazy Daze Amber Lager. The 48,000 sq. ft. facility handles the brewing and canning for the five beer varieties year round with the occasional seasonal selection.
At the beginning of this year, I packed up our resident photographer and video specialist to check out the production facility and take a look at the canning line inside.
At the facility, we connected with David Youngman, director of marketing for the production brewery for a tour of the site. Youngman gave us a tour of the whole site, from the brewing to the canning and even a stop into the tasting room.
The canning line: up close and personal
Inside the facility is the filling and canning line, which is run by three employees. Youngman says they are brewing and canning on demand, which allows them to be highly flexible and efficient. They are capable of filling 5 days a week but commonly run 2-4 times per week.
The line starts with manual depalletizing of the empty cans and they are sent along to then be coded with a Domino (domino-printing.com) printer. Each can is coded with valuable information referring to the batch number and date of packaging. The cans then make their way toward a UV light, which kills off anything foreign inside or outside of the can. After that, the cans move to a 5-head filler from Cask Brewing Systems (cask.com), which can fill five cans in eight seconds. They are then sealed with a lid and sent along to be grouped together in a 4-pack ring using a ringer from Mumm Craft Products (mummcraftproducts.com). The cans are oriented by hand so that each can’s design is pointed outwards for better display on retail shelves. Lastly, the cans are then palletized for shipping.
Cans pack a punch
Cans are gaining in popularity in the craft beer segment as more packagers share the benefits of aluminum. Cans keep beer protected from light and oxygen, the two most harmful factors. Cans also allow consumers to bring the beer into places that prohibit the use of glass, such as outdoor festivals and pools. The Rochester Mills beer is sold in 4-packs of 16-ounce pint cans from Crown Holdings (crowncork.com) and is sold throughout the state. The beer is sold in every county in MI (that’s 83 of them in case you weren’t aware), plus in parts of Northwest Ohio with plans to distribute in southern Ohio, Indiana and eventually Florida. The move to Florida may sound like a stretch but the company states that many residents there are very familiar with the brand and are eager to be able to purchase the beer in the sunshine state.
I asked Dave Youngman why the pint can, instead of the more recognized 12-ounce can. “We serve pints at the brew pub and we feel that (16-ounces) is the right size for craft beer.”
In addition to the 16-ounce can, the company has released its beer with a specialty closure. The brewery has used Crown’s 360 end technology to bring their beers to Ford Field. The end allows for the entire removal of the lid, turning the can into a drinking vessel. These cans are a great option for venues such as these, as the can allows the consumer to drink the beer in the same way as drinking out of a pint glass. The cans available in stores do not feature the 360 end but do offer the bigger size (in comparison to the traditional 12-ounce can) and high impact graphics.
Youngman created the designs for each of the can varieties. The Milkshake Stout is the brewery’s most popular variety and the can depicts the historic brew pub building front and center. Look for the pint-sized cans all throughout Michigan and parts of Ohio and even on your next vacation to Florida.