When Oskar Blues Brewery bought the first-ever craft-beer canning system from Cask Global Canning Solutions back in 2002, the brewery’s staff had to learn the hard way how use it — through a long process of trial and error. But the two companies grew together and are now credited with creating the micro-canning industry. Today, Oskar Blues’s parent company, Canarchy, is the ninth-largest craft brewery in the country, while Calgary, Canada-based Cask has placed more than 1,000 of its canning systems in 52 different countries.
Last month, Cask Systems made those lessons in canning a little easier to learn for the next generation of brewery operators by donating a $72,000 Micro-Automated Canning System (or mACS) to Metropolitan State University of Denver’s three-year-old Beer Industry Program, which offers bachelors degrees in Brewery Operations and Craft Brewing and Pub Operations.
“When we toured the school’s beer lab, we were blown away by the caliber of the testing equipment and the sophistication of the staff,” says Cask Systems founder Peter Love. The students there have access to chemistry labs, technology and brewing experts from around Colorado who are lecturers, guest speakers and advisers to the programs. The setting will give the students “quality control and testing experience way beyond what they could get in a typical craft brewery," Love adds.
The canning line will be housed at Tivoli Brewing, which is located inside the Auraria student union and has a close association with the MSU program. There the mACS will serve not just as an educational tool, but as Tivoli’s primary packaging line; the company, which only just began canning beers, will pay rent on the machinery to MSU, which will help provide funding to the school.
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“While the canning line could have gone in a classroom or lab, instead it will be in a fully operational craft brewery, so it’ll provide revenue to the beer program and real-world brewery experience to students,” adds Tivoli president Ken Hehir.
Cask Systems, Tivoli and MSU came together thanks to longtime Colorado craft-beer industry advocate and publicist Marty Jones, who does public-relations work for Cask.
Jones was there when Oskar Blues began its "Canned Beer Apocalypse" — in fact, Jones coined that term — and later helped Wynkoop Brewing get into canning as well. He first approached MSU two years ago about the possibility of a donation. At the time, the school's brewing program wasn’t ready, but it has since expanded greatly, taking over more space.
“As a product of commuter colleges similar to MSU, this is very exciting to me,” he says.