Summit Brewing Co. Sees Expansion Among COVID-19 Downturn
It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a challenging year in the beer community. After a tumultuous first six months several breweries, ourselves included, are now always bracing for the unexpected. However, amidst all the change we’ve been fortunate enough to see some growth on the packaging side of our brewery in St. Paul, Minn.
First, we’ve acquired two brand new bright tanks specifically dedicated to hold beer for canning.
The two new tanks were precisely designed to be as large as possible while still being able to fit inside our canning area, to help ensure the beer would be protected from Minnesota’s humid summers and harsh winters. To bring beer from our brewhouse to the canning area, we’ll continue to utilize our insulated beer pipeline as a means of transfer.
“The increased bright tank capacity will allow us transfer far greater volumes of beer across to Building A in a much more efficient manner,” Chief Brewing Officer Damian McConn said. “We will have the potential to fill all four bright tanks in advance of a big canning run so our packaging team isn’t waiting until beer has been transferred. We could even dedicate certain bright tanks for specific brands and reduce cleaning costs and downtime.”
The new bright tanks each hold 180 barrels, which is the equivalent of roughly 2,478.6 cases of 24 12oz cans. Or, 713,836.8 ounces of beer. With the two original 180-barrel tanks already in place, this brings the capacity of in our canning area up to 2,855,347.2 ounces of beer waiting to be canned into 9,914.4 cases of 24 12oz cans at any given time.
Plans to acquire and install the new bright tanks were in place prior to the start of 2020, in part because of the increase in demand for cans.
However, it became even more crucial to have the new bright tanks installed this year as our packaging team has seen a major increase in canning since March.
Customers Turn to Summit in Cans
The amount of beer we put into cans has been steadily on the rise over the last four years. This is in part due to the decrease in customer mindset that cans are inferior to bottles, as well as the recognition that cans are easier to incorporate into life’s activities (especially for Minnesotans).
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the rise in demand for all Summit product (bottles and cans) was noticeable. In particular, we noticed a significant increase in cans.
Director of Sales Brandon Bland said he believes this is in part due to an ever-growing consumer preference toward cans over bottles but also that consumers are specifically seeking out brands they recognize and trust.
“Demand for our beers during this time has been strong. Prior to the pandemic, we were already beginning to see signs of consumers shifting their shopping patterns away from the trends that took hold over the past 10-15 years, such as constantly bouncing from brand to brand and always seeking what’s “new and hot” from a wide number of breweries. The pandemic has only expedited this behavior in my opinion,” Bland said.
Customers have shared that they are more likely to enter a store quickly, already knowing what they want, so they can limit their contact with other shoppers and employees. Bland said, in his opinion, this means they are turning to brands they trust.
“I have talked to many consumers who have said this has not only played out in their beer choices over the past few months, but has shown up in many of their shopping choices, whether that be only purchasing name brand disinfectants, or laundry detergent etc. They want to do what they can to remove what they see as “unnecessary risk” wherever they have the opportunity to do so,” Bland said.
Coupled with the inability – for a time – to enjoy Summit beers at bars, restaurants and events, the additional time at home lead to additional purchases of packaged beer.
Record Setting Packaging
This increase in demand not only lead to the new bright tanks, but lead to our packaging team setting canning records! On Friday, June 19 the team set a daily record of packaging 10,015 cases in just under 13 hours! This beat our previous record of 9,235 cases, set in 2015, by almost 800 cases!
“On that day, our team was packaging two brands and used five bright tanks. Each tank change adds 15 – 20 minutes,” Packaging Manager Steve Secor said. “[For our team] 100 percent efficiency on the canning line is 1,000 cases per hour.”
Thus, in a word, our team was working at 100 percent efficiency to complete and meet our customers’ demands.
All in All
While 2020 has had its challenges, we here at Summit are dedicated to working together to continue to provide our customers with a product they can trust.
Our additional bright tanks are not just exciting pieces of equipment that help decrease time for brewing and packaging team. They ensures our ability to brew more beer, they increase our efficiency in getting beer in cans faster and they decrease our waste so more beer gets to you.