Posted on February 12, 2014 by Marina

Guest Post by Tory (Retail & Events).
A lot goes on behind the scenes of our production facility to get our delicious Pilsner from the tanks to your lips.  We talked to our Lead-hand of Bottling, Lawrence Rench to see what happens on a daily basis to make that happen.

Krones Steam Whistle

Bottling:
 
How many staff members will work on a bottling day?
It takes 18 staff members to rotate through the bottling stations.

How many days a week do you run the bottling line?
Between three-four in the summer and two in the winter.

On an average day how many 24’s will you fill?
Summer- over 4,000 cases and winter- 3,000 cases
 
-The bottles will start by being taken out of the cases returned to us from The Beer Store or off skids of new bottles from the glass manufacturer.  Staff members will load the bottles onto a conveyor belt which heads into the Bottle Washer.-

Bottle Washer Steam Whistle

What are the most common things that get put in beer bottles?
Bottle caps, limes, cigarette butts, straws and coffee stir sticks.

Anything that can’t come out?
A bottle cap.  The metal expands in the heat of the washer (we sterilize the bottles at 80 degrees Celsius) and then the bottle caps can’t fit out the neck of the bottle.

How come the label doesn’t come off the bottle?
The label is painted in enamel and fired in a furnace when the bottle is made, and will withstand all the washes with the bottles.

How many bottles can the bottle washer hold?
5,980 bottles at a time.
 
-The bottles then travel through a bottle inspector called the Omni Vision I.-
 
How does the Omni Vision work?
It will take a picture from the neck of each bottle, looking through to the bottom of the bottle and will detect any imperfection in or on the bottle.  If any imperfections are detected (less than 1% of the day’s bottles) the bottles will be rejected and crushed.

What is the average amount that a bottle can be re-used?
Because our signature bottles are heavier, made with 33% more glass, they can be washed and refilled at least 45 times, which is three times more than the industry brown beer bottle.

-The bottles will then get filled 48 at a time and put through a process called Fobbing.-

bottle filler steam whistle

How do you fob beer?
Fobbing is the expulsion of oxygen from the headspace of the beer bottle through foam creation.  We do so by shooting a tiny stream of hot water onto the surface of the beer to disturb it, which won’t water down the beer, but will create the reaction to fob the beer.  The foam pushes up and over the edge of the bottle, forcing any oxygen out of the bottle seconds before we cap it. This is the same reaction as when someone hits the top of your beer bottle with the bottom of theirs.

-Once fobbed, the caps will get put on the bottles creating that vacuum sealed ‘pop’ you hear when you open a beer.-

Why use a crown cap?
It seals in the freshness of the beer and it has a lower rate of bottle neck damage than a twist-off.

-The bottles then pass through the human Inspection Light.  As part of the rotation, someone will sit behind a backlit piece of Plexiglas and inspect every bottle before packaging.-
 
What do they check for?
High fills, low fills, checking the logo painted on the outside of the bottle.

Are more bottles pulled off for bottle or beer flaws over the day?
About 90% of the time it’s the fill level (we are only allowed to fill +/-3ml more than the 341ml indicated on the label). We get a lot more foaming of beer during the summer’s warm temperatures which gives high and low fills.

What happens to the bottles that get pulled off?
That depends on the reason it got pulled off:
                                          i.    If it’s the bottle- they get crushed and recycled.
                                        ii.    If it’s the beer fill height- the bottle goes back to the line and the beer gets dumped.
 
-Bottles then get individually date coded.  A stamp is placed on the bottle with time of bottling, down to the second.  After coding, the beer will be packaged in 6, 12 or 24 cases.-

The retractable handle on our suitcase 12-pack was ranked in Canada’s top 50 inventions of all time.  Have we used that style since day one?
a.  Yes- it gives the beer a unique look and also balances out the weight of the case a lot better when you carry it.  Our cases also use B-Flute stock corrugated cardboard instead of paperboard so our cases are very durable, and have tabs so the cases can be re-sealed.

How often do you run in-case beer promotions?
Every summer we run our annual retro bottle opener promotion. We’ve done that now for 10 years and many of our customers have collected a whole set. If you folks have any further production questions leave them in the comment box below and thanks for reading!

For those who didn’t know, Lawrence is also Mr. September in our Men of Steam Whistle calendar… Come by the brewery and say hi to Mr. September himself.

lawrence