Cold, hoppy beer sprays out from the conveyor belt, as a lid is spun and sealed onto Sudwerk Brewing Company’s first line of cans.
With the help of the Can Van, a mobile canning outfit out of the Bay Area, Sudwerk’s flagship Dry Hop Lager will reach stores in a snappy new aluminum package next week.
With no summer seasonal this year, Davis’ local brewery decided to join the dozens of craft brewers around the country who have begun canning some of their beers.
“Hopefully, it gets new people to try the brand,” said Caleb Weeks, Sudwerk’s office manager. “It’s all about quality and making the product more accessible.”
Though aluminum has long been associated with cheaper, mass-produced beer, smaller brewers are turning to cans because they keep out any light that could turn a drink skunky. Plus, cans are easier to pack, cheaper to ship and more likely than bottles to be allowed on beaches or in parks.
Canned beer sales have increased 7 percent since 2006, while bottled beer fell by the same amount, according to the Beer Institute.
So inside the cool, dark warehouse, which smells faintly of fresh hops, pallets of bright green cans are stacked from floor to ceiling, a 28-foot-tall leaning tower of aluminum.
Jenn Coyle and Lindsey Herrema, CEO and COO of the Can Van, set up their mobile canning line as close to one of the 3,700-gallon holding tanks as possible, to ensure that the beer remains cold during packaging.
Coyle and Herrema load the cans onto the table by hand and push them onto a conveyor belt. Long metal tubes inject carbon dioxide into four cans to displace air, which helps keep the beer fresh and carbonated. Fat white nozzles fill the cans with lager chilled to minus-1 degree Celsius, and lids land softly onto a quarter-inch of foam. Then, two metal rollers spin along the top of the can, folding its lip over the lid to seal in the beer. The cans are dried and boxed by six of Sudwerk’s staff.
The cans are also part of the brewery’s efforts to expand production. While Sudwerk has almost doubled beer sales in the past year, the brewing facility can accommodate almost 8,000 more barrels — that’s 248,000 more gallons. Sudwerk is producing some specialty beers, barrel-aged, but cans could attract a newer, broader audience.
If this trial run goes well, the brewery might consider adding a canning line of its own, Weeks said.
To commemorate the release, Sudwerk will host a free canning party at its Dock Store, 2001 Second St., on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. Six-packs will be available for $6 and customers will have a chance to dunk a brewer to win a free tank top.
— Reach Elizabeth Case at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabeth_case