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One small step for cans

Since we launched over two and half years ago, we’ve frequently been asked when our beers will be available in cans. Having always contract brewed our beers, we’ve only ever been able to offer products within the capabilities of our suppliers and unfortunately these didn’t include cans. 

Now we’re building a brewery, we have the freedom to tread our own path. In the early stages of the project it quickly became apparent that to deliver products at a level in line with our ambitions, the canning machine would occupy a sizeable chunk of the space and the budget.

We’ve drawn heavily on the experiences, both good and bad, of our Head Brewer Matt, to ensure we selected a machine best suited to our needs. We’ve commissioned a CFT Master Can which is the same line Matt was using at Modern Times. The CFT is capable of canning up to 6,000 cans per hour whilst achieving single digit dissolved oxygen pick-up. She’s an absolute beast! Here are some insights into canning and our choice of canning machine, from Matt:

It wasn’t that long ago that cans were strictly a format for large breweries and vessels for bland macro lager. The equipment was too large and expensive for most smaller breweries. Consumer perception was that beer in a can was cheap, which is not in line with craft or the idea of putting quality ahead of price point. 

I started canning four and a half years ago, using the least expensive canning line we could find. It filled three cans at a time, which had to be put on and removed by hand. On a good day we’d package four pallets of beer, on a bad day we’d only manage half a pallet. The beer was well received in cans which led us to invest in a more expensive, automated machine. We quickly outgrew that machine, and spent everything we had on a state of the art canning line. That sizeable sum was money well spent, but to put it into perspective, it was the same amount we had to initially found the brewery.  

Based partly on lessons I’ve learned, we are starting off at Gweilo with the best can filler we can afford, skipping the awkward and sometimes painful situations that would occur with less expensive and less automated filling lines. The consistency of the fills, low O2 pick-up and shelf stability of our cans will be among the best in Asia-Pacific. I have worked with CFT fillers (cans and bottles) for over seven years and can attest to the fact they are world class.

As for the benefits, for me it’s simple. Cans are a better package from a recycling standpoint, as well as being resistant to light and oxygen, the two biggest enemies of beer. Plus, they get cold faster :)

Looking ahead, we can’t wait to fill the first Gweilo cans. When CFT’s testing videos of our Master Filler hit our inboxes a few weeks back, the excitement levels were off the charts. We were like kids at Christmas. Our new machine is currently on the water, making its way to Hong Kong from Italy. We figured this would be a good time to share our anticipation with you and do our bit to chip in to the age old discussion: Bottles or cans?

We haven’t completely abandoned bottles, recognising that for some customers in our relatively new market, cans simply aren’t an option yet. The bottling machine we’re installing at Fo Tan, is a very impressive bit of kit. However it's dwarfed by our canning line and we see this as the future for craft here in Asia.

You’ll hear a lot more in the coming months on our adventure into canning but for now, I’ll leave you with the headlines on why we’ve put our all into these little aluminium guys and why we’ll be doing everything to get them out there in 2018. 

Cans weigh half as much as bottles and they occupy half the space. Whether they’re in a shipping container, on a shelf, in your bag or in a refrigerator, that space is valuable. A benefit magnified in Hong Kong. Another very relevant advantage is their recyclability. In a city where glass recycling is virtually non-existent, it’ll be refreshing for us to package into a sought after material which is readily collected and processed instead of hitting landfill. For the beer, cans are clearly the better option. They keep UV and oxygen at bay and don’t require head space. Another convenient factor is they stack, helping you to cram more into the only place you should ever store them; your fridge.

We’re taking a big step to help encourage the shift to quality packaged cans. We hope Hong Kong will too.


Founder, Gweilo Beer

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