Utah Brewer Cooperative
Utah is one of the strangest states in the US. The most common religion is Mormonism and within its borders there are at least three types of natural environment (the rocky Colorado Plateau, sandy deserts and pine forests) and 70% of its territory is composed of protected nature areas. Utah is also the home of a top-quality beer brand, the makers of which have chosen CFT as its partner in success.
It is the Utah Brewers Cooperative, also known as “Wasatch and Squatters Beers”, from the merger of its two parent companies. Their headquarters is in Salt Lake City, the home of its main plant, and they also have a number of pubs and restaurants in Park City and Salt Lake City.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The Utah Brewer Cooperative was founded in 1986 when, following his move to Utah, Greg Schirf discovered there was no local artisan brewery. So he opened one—Wasatch Beers.
More or less in the same period, Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis decided to open a microbrewery in Salt Lake City, calling it “Squatters”.
From the ’90s to 2000, Squatters and Wasatch Beers vied for the title of the best brewery in Utah, but in 2000 they decided to join forces as a cooperative, merging their respective expertise to make the best beers to be found in pubs throughout the state.
Wasatch and Squatters Beers has a very broad product range, extending from non-alcoholic beers (fruit and non-fruit) to high-alcohol beers, 12-pack seasonal beers and those for the holidays, like its “Wasatch Pumpkin Ale” for Thanksgiving.
2009: A KEY YEAR
The collaboration with CFT began in 2009/2010 with the signing of a contract to supply a turnkey bottling line for 12 oz (355 ml) bottles, in both 6- and 12-packs, and a double size change in the new 7 oz (207 ml) and 22 oz (650 ml) sizes. In that period, glass bottles still dominated the artisan beer sector and Greg Schirf (at the time president of the Utah Brewers Cooperative and now its Managing Partner) decided to expand glass bottling from 100 bpm to 440 bpm.
But the real insight in that period was that of leaving room for potential growth in using cans for its products. A decision that would be confirmed by market trends in the years to come.
In 2009, during the negotiations for the installation, the contribution of Master Brewer Dan Biurik was tremendously helpful. Thanks to his knowledge and experience about what was needed to make his beer, he fully understood the cutting-edge technologies offered by CFT and cooperated in the development of the best solutions to be adopted to reach and maintain ever-higher quality levels in the beers produced.
For Utah Brewers Cooperative, CFT created a full line that included conveyor belts to take loose bottles from the depalletizer to the Master Tronic RS 50/60/10 filler monoblock and a cap feed system to bring the caps to the capper. The filled and capped bottles pass through a stage that washes and dries the exterior of the bottle before it is labeled and packed in the formats chosen by the Utah Brewer Cooperative.
The company utilizes three basic packaging formats: 8-pack, 6-pack for 12 oz bottles and the traditional 12-bottle boxes for the 22 oz (650 ml) size, or in multi packs (for a range of types of beer).
2013: A BROADENING OF HORIZONS
In the period leading up to 2013, there was an increase in consumption of artisan beer in cans, a sign that the time had come to add to the pre-existing line a section for filling cans, thus completing the vision of Greg and his associates. The investment made earlier significantly reduced the cost of installing this new function because only the equipment strictly required for can production needed to be purchased. Installation of this part of the line will be completed by the end of 2013.
MANAGING THE LINE
Today, the Utah Brewer Cooperative bottling line is managed by Cindi Robinson and Dave Ruff.
Cindi Robinson is the business manager and is responsible for organizing efficiently the work flow in the production and bottling departments, as well as the shop adjoining the plant. Dave Ruff, with over 20 years’ experience in this sector, is the Maintenance and Operations Manager, has the task of maintaining the equipment so that it is always in top working order.
Without their invaluable production and maintenance efforts, the company would not be able to attain its current high product levels.
MASTER TRONIC RS & MASTER CAN TRONICS RS
On both occasions, the decision to call on CFT to create such a key line was dictated, in essence, by the fact that CFT was able to provide what its client was looking for: separated air return, very precise filling point accuracy and an unbeatable low oxygen pick up for both cans and bottles so that the end consumer would be able to taste and enjoy beer of the highest quality through maintaining its freshness and aroma, even long after it had been produced.
For glass bottles, the answer was the 60-valve Master Tronic RS 50/60/10 filling monoblock. A machine with a range of features designed and built to operate at high speed and over a number of shifts, with low maintenance costs, in terms of both time and energy and consumption.
For cans, Utah Brewer Cooperative turned to CFT for its Master Can Tronics RS filler-seamer. The Master Can fills and closes 170 cans per minute guaranteeing consistent filling specifications without ever missing a beat.
The same features found on the Master Tronic RS are also present on the Master Can.
Both machines have a very simple touch screen control panel used to adjust levels and on which counters are displayed, and from which the various job files and other aspects that may arise during production can be managed. They also have an ergonomic design, both in terms of all filling phases and for maintenance
THE CFT CHOICE
CFT is the only group in the world that can create and build in its plants in Parma, Italy, both the can filler and seamer, thus offering clear advantages in terms of technology and management.
By also including a can filling system, Utah Brewers Cooperative has responded to market demand for beer in cans and beer in glass bottles, utilizing the best technology currently available on the market.
Utah Brewers Cooperative
What is key of success for a brewery in USA?
Well it all starts in the bottle. That does not just mean great beer, but great beer consistency. Then you need to back up the superior product with first rate packaging that needs to be reinforced as your primary branding image.
What is market situation on USA for indipendent brewers?
Very strong. The Craft category is about 10% market share nation wide, even much higher in certain markets like the Northwest. I believe it will be growing to 20% in the next five years.
Why they did choose SBC / CFT as a partner and what is the key point of relationship between Utah and us
We went with SBC/CFT for our new bottling line because of their engineering support and price. We chose CFT for our new canning line for the same reasons, but mostly for the incredible service we received during the install of the bottling line. Knowing these guys made the canning line decision easy. The simply do what is needed to have a successful project. No nickle and diming and no BS.
FOCUS ON: ARTISAN BEER IN CANS
Glass has always been the perfect container for quality and artisan beers. Until just a few years ago, drinking artisan beer from a can was unthinkable because it altered its flavor and reduced product shelf life.
But today, the world of cans has changed. Cans themselves have changed. We have gone from cans made of three separate pieces of metal (bottom, body and lid) to cans made of two pieces of aluminum weighing just 13 grams.
Cans are now easily transportable and light, they virtually never break and they are an excellent system for defending the product from oxygen and light. The quality of artisan beer in cans is preserved through a careful, special filling cycle designed to eliminate oxygen and reduce overall absorption to the minimum possible.
Bottles and cans are two excellent bottling systems for top-quality beers and Utah Brewers Cooperative is the most concrete example of this. With their two filling lines they are demonstrating that excellent artisan beers can be drunk both from a can or bottle, without either infringing on the qualities of the other.