Breckenridge Brewing is supposed to get its new canning today or tomorrow.
The automatic system should enable Breckenridge, which merged its finances and operations with Wynkoop Brewing earlier this year, to package both company's beers at a rate of at least 36 cans per minute -- a significant upgrade from its current machine.
But the micro-canning line is also the first large system delivered by Wild Goose Engineering, a small Boulder manufacturer that has invested its future in craft breweries. "This has very quickly become the core of our business and focus of our company," says Wild Goose vice president Alexis Foreman, adding that company has hired ten people just to make beer canning lines. "Where we were just four guys, now we are fourteen."
The idea to make the lines came two years ago when Wild Goose was neighbors with the fledgling Upslope Brewing in a Boulder business park. Upslope was the second Colorado brewer after Oskar Blues to use canning as its exclusive means of packaging beer.
"They came to us with a design problem," Foreman says. Since their business model relied on canning, Upslope's brewers wanted to can their beers much faster and in a small amount of space, but they couldn't do it with the system they had in place.
"We were using their tasting room as our conference room and they were using us as their toolbox," he says. Now, the companies were in business together.
The experiment worked, and Wild Goose installed a new, automated system for Upslope last September. Then it began taking orders from other interested breweries who, until then, had relied almost exclusively on Cask Brewing Systems, the Canadian company that provided Oskar Blues with its first canning line in 2002 and has since become the market leader, selling canning systems to craft brewers nationwide.
"We feel like Cask has left some room in the market, and some room for improvement," Foreman says. Wild Goose automatic canning lines start at about $65,000.
Whether that is true depends on how the Breckenridge/Wynkoop system -- which is already a little behind schedule -- works out. "No one has seen a production system yet, but they are all about us getting this right," Foreman says.
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But several other breweries are already waiting in line. Wild Goose plans to deliver new systems to Aspen Brewing in Aspen and the Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista this month. The company also has orders from nearly ten other beer makers, including some in Texas, Lousiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan.
Eddyline, a pizzeria and brewpub, is currently in the midst of expanding into a larger brewery, where it will add a tap room and another pizza oven. Its canning line, which will fill thirty cans per minute, should be delivered later this month, and head brewer Scott Kimball hopes to be distributing six-packs shortly thereafter.
"We are psyched to have a local Colorado company making it," Kimball says. "It makes customer service a lot easier when you can talk to them and see them."