Opening a craft or microbrewery may seem easy enough that everyone and their dog appears to have a brew on the market. But think about this: you’ve created the recipes, found the perfect space, got your brewing equipment squeezed into it and now you’re ready to bring your beer into the world. Kegs are tapped and you’ve got people sitting in your tasting room.
Maybe even a few restaurants are serving your suds. It’s time to get the drink into stores. But, there’s a problem: turns out the equipment needed to can everything takes up as much space as the fermenting tanks, and that isn’t a luxury you have. Enter Northern Canning. I recently had the chance to speak with Pete Chasapis about what his company does and why they do it.
“Some breweries do not have the capital to invest in a canning line while some do not have the space. Others simply do not want to purchase such an expensive piece of equipment that may only get used a couple times a month. Others do not want to have to battle with training, staffing and manning the packaging lines. Sometimes, larger breweries with their own canning lines may call us in due to equipment issues or needing an extra hand to make production deadlines. No matter the reason, by bringing in Northern Canning, they have contracted a trusted packaging crew that does this for a living. All we do is can beverages, mostly beer. For that reason, we have tried and trusted practices, cleaning procedures and quality control measures that make us the best option.”
“Having spoken with many colleagues in the craft beer industry, we came to the realization that there was a need for this service in our booming Ontario craft beer industry. Many craft beer meccas in the USA already had multiple established mobile canning companies that were so well received, breweries were building mobile packaging into their business plan rather than buying their own canning lines. It was time for Ontario breweries and other craft beverage producers to have that same option.”
The owners of Northern Canning are three folks who are all heavily involved in the day to day and operations of the company. “Just like many of our clients, we are owner-operated and completely independent; a true small business. Along with our canning line operators and administrative staff, we are a tight knit group that have the same goals in mind.” Chasapis goes on to talk about the rest of the staff: “Our onsite crew has a strong foundation of brewery experience along with being mechanically inclined and strong problem solvers, which are key attributes mobile canners need.”
One of the things that interested me the most was how Northern Canning handled the unique challenges working with different breweries brings. “Although that can be a challenging aspect of the job, it’s also a big part of what makes it so much fun. I think as mobile canners, we’d get pretty tired of packaging the same beer, at the same temperature and carbonation, every day. We get to package (and sample!) everyone’s take on every style of beer you can think of. We work alongside our clients to make sure the specs are best for packaging as well as for quality!”
I also wanted to know how Chasapis and his team make sure the beer that’s produced remains the same beer once it gets packaged.
”The biggest factors in this regard are keeping our canning line clean and sanitized and minimizing the oxygen pickup in packaging. We have a rigorous cleaning regimen, which is always followed by a swab test that can detect any present organic material to ensure we’re good to go. When it comes to oxygen, there are many factors that can contribute to small pickups of oxygen throughout packaging, and we make an effort to mitigate every single one. Our standards for what we deem an acceptable amount of oxygen pickup is much lower than what is considered “the standard” and we proudly track and share these numbers with every customer!”
Something became very clear to me during my conversation with Chasapis: respect for the client and their product is priority number one. He clearly understands and believes that the success of Northern Canning is directly related to the success of their clients. “We know that if we continue to do a great job and give our clients the help they need to grow, the industry will do well, and as a result so will we. When one of our clients reaches a new milestone like getting their product into a new store, or upgrading their tanks, that is always an exciting moment for us and we love that we get to share in that with many of the province’s most respected brewers. We look forward to just being a small part of it all!”