Piney River Brewing Company

A Show Me Guide: How Craft Beer Was First Canned in Missouri

In Start up on November 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

Last November we were a newly licensed brewery trying to figure out if people would really drink craft beer brewed in barn in Bucyrus, MO.  By March, we were at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco talking with canning machine companies.

Why cans?

Lots of reasons.

Easier to recycle.  Less shipping weight and cost.  Better for the environment.  The best way to preserve the flavor of beer.  And most importantly, the only way to take craft beer on float trips on the Big Piney River or any other river out here in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  Plus, canned craft beer is much more portable for many Ozark adventures like hiking, bike riding, trail riding, boating, hunting, camping, etc.  Canned craft beer and the outdoors are made for each other.

That’s where we get to write the story of being the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can beer on site.  Other Missouri breweries have canned their craft creations, but they were outsourced to breweries that can outside of our great state.  Piney River Brewing Company can claim the title of being the first microbrewery in the state to can their beer on site.

Our two-head, automatic “Micro Can” canning system arrived from Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder, CO on Monday.  Tristan Shaffer and Roger Walz delivered the machine, helped us install it and do our first run of canned beer.  McKinney Eddy Amber Ale got the nod, since it was the first beer we made on the 7-barrel system and it was sitting there in the brite beer tank.

Tristan, Roger and Brian pull the machine out of the trailer.

Brian and I do the ceremonial unwrapping.

Tristan & Brian--the canning machine was the final piece needed to make our packaging brewery complete.

Roger readies the machine.

Tristan applies labels in the control panel.

As you have already read…we have cans, we have lids, we have beer.  Let’s get this machine started!

Here’s where the extremely fast and cool canning takes place–the seamer, where the lids are attached to the cans.

A can is fed to the seamer.

The can and lid are picked up and spun between the wheels to seam them.

Ta-da! One Piney pint!

The cans slide off the pallet on to the machine's conveyor belt.

CO2 is blown into each can to evacuate it, then it immediately slides to the filler where ice cold beer (to prevent excessive foaming) is put into each can, filling it to the top.

A lid falls down on each can.

The cans, with lids, are conveyed to the seamer.

An arm pushes each can under the seamer where it is picked up for seaming.

Sometime about 4:30 p.m. on November 8th, the first can of beer came off the line at Piney River Brewing Company.  It wasn’t too much later, we had our first case of McKinney Eddy Amber Ale.

This case goes to our friend, Katrina McKinney, Charlie McKinney’s oldest daughter.  We donated a case of McKinney Eddy to the Metals Museum in Memphis where Charlie once worked for their annual fundraiser.  Katrina made the winning bid.

The Micro Can machine is on casters, so we can wheel it around as needed, a very important aspect for our small brewery.  While it was a little tight getting around on the wet side of the brewery during canning, the machine fit the space really well and things moved really smoothly.  It was easy to catch yourself, mouth agape, watching the beer cans conveyed down the line…CO2, beer, lid, seam…CO2, beer, lid, seam…CO2, beer, lid, seam.  At its peak, we were filling 23 cans a minute.

There was a little beer carnage as we calibrated the machine for optimal running, and for filling and pushing our pints.

Roger, Tristan, Brian and our friends, Jamie Smith and John McCarty (which were helping with the packaging) did their best to make sure no damaged beer was left behind.

It's what you have to do when you work in the beer industry.

Tristan also did a little filming for the folks back home in Boulder.

Once filled, the filled beers would fall into a container of water where they would receive a rinse before heading to the packaging table.

The beer was literally flying....

But these are really happy brewery dudes….

And one happy walk-in cooler.

To add to the craziness of the first craft beer can run in the state of Missouri, we had agreed months before to host a local women’s organization from Houston, the Sorosis Club.  Ten ladies came out for a tour and tasting, which I did while the guys handled the canning.  We made those ladies happy, too, by sending them all home with a four-pack of McKinney Eddy Amber Ale as thanks for their understanding of our night of chaos.

Maybe around 10 p.m. that evening Tristan and Roger headed back toward Boulder.  We plan to see them again at the next Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, if not the next time they are driving through Bucyrus on their way to deliver a Micro Can machine to some other lucky brewery.


There you have it, a little Missouri Show and tell–the first time craft beer was canned in the great state of Missouri!  And yes, they are coming very, very soon to a store near you.

  1. This is so exciting! I love the blog and the pic’s are awesome! I cannot wait to visit…….AND taste!

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