Craft Beer Loves Cans
Cans are an incredible invention created by great minds with amazing technology. Because we use them every day, we take for granted the careful thought and consideration of the engineering, design and construct of today’s aluminum can. This vessel protects and transports our favorite beverage from our favorite brewery to our favorite piehole.
We talked about why cans are so good for craft beer. Let’s dive into how cans are engineered and constructed thus allowing understand and appreciation for this fine thirst-quenching implement. The engineering of our favorite beer can is fascinating and helps us recognize it’s powerful position in the craft beer industry.
And in light of the recent news that Bell’s Brewery will release Hop Slam in cans and not bottles in 2016, I continue to educate myself about this technology to share with you.
Before it becomes an excellent option on a craft beer shelf, this ultimate beverage vessel’s construction goes through an array of steps and takes into consideration several structural factors. These factors include superior hygiene, ease of transportation, merchandise display, optimal amounts of materials used and volume contained, product branding space, packaged product safety and the consumer’s ease to store, use, and disposal.
Everything about the can’s engineering and design has evolved for particular reasons based upon the aforementioned factors. This process happens on a scale that, in the aluminum can industry, yields production of over 100 billion cans each year.
Nearly 500 craft beer brewers use aluminum to can more than 1,700 different beers. Protection from light and oxygen are two key benefits in addition to the unparalleled sustainability of aluminum packaging.
I will be forthright here.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I took on this project two months ago with my first bit of coverage of the canned craft brew.
What’s so special about a can of beer? Choose it from the store, bring it home, put it in the fridge, grab one when needed and to crack open. The. End.
The more I got into the subject, the more fascinated I have become with the process. I enjoy learning how things are made; I love the appreciation I gain from understanding these processes.
Can manufacturing occurs through many steps. Each step happens lightening speeds of a fraction of a fraction of a second making it difficult to document successfully in a video. Using photos from the display above will help visually represent several of these steps.
2. This cup is then moved along into the Draw & Iron Body Maker. This process covers three stages that include redrawing, ironing and doming. The aluminum is pulled to the desired length, called ironing, and happens through three phases. The aluminum is lubricated so as not to tear it. It also doubles as a cooling agent as the aluminum become hot during this process.
A dome is then pressed into the bottom of the can. This allows:
a. less material to be used to make the can,
b. redistribution of some of the can’s load,
c. and enables the can to withstand greater pressure.
4. Cans are then whisked off to a washer and undergo a six-stage cleaning process that includes two stages of hydrofluoric acid at 60º and four phases of deionized water.
6. A roller then coats the bottom of the can with varnish. This varnish allows for more fluid movement in a vending machine and conveyor belt. (When shined with an ultraviolet light shows a blue ring.)
7. Printing comes next. Then varnish is applied to protect the ink. The printing and varnishing is a rapid process. A Rexam representative, the producers of Four Peaks cans, tells me that Rexam prints about 1500 cans per minute!
8. The cans then take a quick trip through an oven to dry the ink and protect the varnish.
9. Then, the cans are sprayed with a water-based varnish on the inside of the can. This does two things for the can:
a. It creates a barrier between the drink and aluminum preventing the beverage from taking on the metallic taste of the aluminum.
b. It prevents aluminum from being eaten away by the acid in beverages.
10. The printed cans move to the necking machine. (Not to be confused with your Prom Date. Bah-da-bum!) During this process, the can goes through an eleven-step process so as to not tear the already thin aluminum and produces a 5 cm neck of the can.
11. The can then passes through a flanger. The flanger creates the curved-over edge on the top of the can. This is later covered by the top of the can during the canning process.
12. Finally, the cans pass through a computerized visual inspection where the computer takes and views pictures to ensure superior quality in the cans leaving the plant.
After this process, the cans are then shipped to the beverage production facility. In our next canning discussion, we’ll follow a can of Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter through the canning process at our production facility on Wilson Street and the home of the Four Peaks Tasting Room.
Aluminum is recyclable infinitely. The Aluminum Association boasts that “as the most valuable package in the bin, aluminum cans are, by far, the most recycled beverage container. The average can contains 70 percent recycled metal.” Not only is that can transporting liquid gold to you, but it can also continue the tradition for generations to come.
“The aluminum beverage can is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to take for granted, but the next time you take a sip from one, consider the decades of ingenious design require to create this modern marvel.” ~Bill Hammack
Watch Bill Hammack enlighten us on the fascinating engineering of the modern aluminum can.
*For additional information about Rexam’s aluminum can production process, click here.