The new (and totally awesome) can line is all fired up and the cans are blasting out! The new (and totally awesome) can line cans are getting ready to hit shelves all over our distribution area come April 1. To give you a quick recap of where the new can line is I present to you this run-on sentence: The old can line was in the old bottling hall in the main Mothership-HQ-type building here at NBB, and since the new bottling line got its own building in 2007, called the Thunderdome, the new can line building got attached to the east side of the Thunderdome when it needed an upgrade (it is following the bottling line around), and from this moment on, the new (and totally awesome) can line, and its building, will forever be known as– BEYOND THUNDERDOME (I just thought of that, it's great, no?)! Here is a panoramic shot/map of the new Beyond Thunderdome addition and the relatively new Thunderdome. Take a look, you should be able to figure what's what.––>
Now that you are panoramically oriented, let's go to the new (and totally awesome) can line!
Walking up the steps and into the building you are first greeted by the CAN-delier:
This wonderful piece, and a couple smaller, adjacent CAN-deliers, were made by our friends down at Boulder Business Products. They did some serious precision riveting here, and the cans are perfect, no dents, no dings, no nothing, just perfect lay up and execution. My hat's off to Troy and Karen and everybody else down in Boulder for creating this wonderful piece of art. They have made some beautiful things for us over the years, but this one hits a major home-run.
After walking past the CAN-deliers, and through the second, interior door, you get to the production floor. It's here you can see, hear and smell the magic happening. Cans are whipping around and there are people hovering over the machines and beer is flowing. On this particular morning the machines (and the people working them) were filling 16oz cans of our brand new pale lager, Shift (Shift is due out in just a couple weeks, so be looking for a detailed Shift blog post upon its release).
But back to the machines and today's duties. Here is what a palate of Shift cans look like before it heads into the de-palletizer:
Then the cans head into said de-palletizer:
The de-palletizer sweeps the cans off the pallet, layer by layer, and sends them down the conveyor belt. At this point the can is empty, and in fact, topless. The topless cans (heehee) come together to make a big long river of topless cans (heehee) as they gather steam and head into the filler:
Sorry for the blurriness, but this machine is whizzing. In fact the filler is filling at a rate of 270 16oz cans of Shift per minute. And when 12oz-ers are in the chute the can-per-minute count is closer to 360. Blazing... After the can is filled, the top is seamed on (no longer topless), and the pressure is checked. The filler/seamer does make a mess of the can, so it has to be washed off, in fact, it's given a shower:
Then, the cans have to be flipped up-side-down to get their best-by-date tattoo on their bottoms. Then they get flipped back right-side-up for cardboarding in this fun looking twisty slide:
After the flipper-over-er, the single stream of cans regroups into a river of cans, and they head towards they cardboarder (This machine has a more engineering-type name, but I call it like I see it). Here is an eddy in the river of full beers about to get cardboarded:
The 16oz cans will be distributed in 4 packs and the 12oz cans will be in 12 packs. Since Shift is 16oz only that means 4 packs were being made today. Here is a 4 pack making a run for it:
Don't worry, that little bugger won't get away. It will head over to its mother carton just like all the others. Six 4 packs per carton and then further on down the line:
Then, all the mother cartons head into the re-palletizer to get, you guessed it, re-palletized. The finished pallets are about 8 cases per layer and 8 layers high. Here is Mark putting the finishing touches on a pallet before it gets shrink-wrapped and put into a truck:
Makes you thirsty doesn't it?
Anywho, the new (and totally awesome) can line has been running close to non-stop for weeks now, filling up thousands of cans for our spring and summer time enjoyment (not to mention fall and winter). As the trucks fill up they head to our warehouse and then into over-the-road trucks to bring them to liquor stores near you (via another distributor). I am talking about 16oz-ers of Shift, Fat Tire and Ranger, and 12oz-ers of Fat Tire and Ranger, the whole she-bang. Look for these cans the first week of April.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of the new (and totally awesome) can line and stay tuned for lots more about Shift Beer in the weeks to come!