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  • A Better Way to Fill Crowlers

    We understand that for many breweries crowlers are a way to get any beer a customer chooses out the door with the hope that people are going to drink that beer fresh and fast, very similar to growlers.

    Well we've been hearing some bad stigma about crowlers, and we've even experienced some ourselves. We've seen for ourselves other breweries taproom employees improperly filling crowlers, pouring the beer into the can like a pint glass, inundating it with oxygen. leaving them stale and undercarbonated even opening the can the next day.

    We've turned the crowler into our main off sale package, leaving growlers by the wayside for many reasons. We played around with filling them directly off the faucet like a pint glass, even with a purge, but didnt have good results with package stability, or carbonation. We wanted to fill them just like a high quality canning line. So We invested in flow control faucets so we can control how fast the beer is filling our cans and developed a filler based on a counter pressure filler we had handy. It purges the Cans with co2 and fills slowly from the bottom up. We made a small video to show the process. One person can actually fill double (maybe more) the cans normally possible. It might not be feasible for many breweries, but i thought we'd at least share what works for us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ6sKT24Zf8
    Last edited by Junkyard; 08-14-2016, 05:04 PM.

  • #2
    First, I am certainly not implying anything negative about your QC practices just trying to learn more. I've been very interested in a crowler for awhile now but I always thought they were designed and used as a replacement for growlers, not as a packaged product avenue. I was under the impression that they had a similar shelf life of that of a growler (filled from the tap) and not of a bottle or can (purged, double evac, etc).
    Are many people using these as retail packaging?
    By the way, I really like the video. Just curious: if you're selling these as a retail product your packaging costs are much lower per ounce than say bombers, do you mind sharing you're price range. I ask only because bomber pricing can be ridiculous at times (but that helps me because I can be competitive on my small 3bbl system)
    Thanks


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    • #3
      Crowlers were definitely designed as another form of Growler. But even when we filled growlers, we would never fill them on demand. Thats just asking for quality control problems. We always filled them with a counter pressure filler after purging them with co2, we'd fill enough for the week and sell them in an off sale cooler. It also allows you to better manage your inventory.

      Also, another motive of ours: in Minnesota, the only package sizes we can sell off sale in our taproom are 750 ml, and 64 oz. So opting for cans instead of bottles we chose the crowler. Other breweries in minnesota do the same- prefill crowlers and sell throughout the week, and ive even seen other small breweries crowlers in a liquor store before, and im thinking "i hope they didnt fill these poorly"

      Crowlers are just like any other can, they have a hermetic seal, and they are seamed the same way, doesnt it make sense that, when filled properly- sanitized, purged, filled from the bottom up, with the proper carbonation. the shelf life would rival that of a 12 oz can from a canning line. The reason crowlers are looked at as a worse shelf life right now is because the way people are filling them- filled at draft speeds down the side of the can, rousing lots of co2, lots of times not purged, lots of times not even sanitized.

      We price our standard beers at $6 per crowler, DIPA's, High gravity stuff, Sours, are priced $8-$12 per can. The can, lid and label cost a little under a buck. We can fill over 600 crowlers in 6-8 hours (this includes labeling) so it really makes sense for us.
      Last edited by Junkyard; 12-06-2015, 10:07 AM.

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      • #4
        Thanks for the info. I agree with you on perception of crawlers in liquor stores being of bad shelf life quality, but that's just because I've always envisioned crowler a being filled from the tap.
        So if you are profiling growlers and growlers and then storing them, you are submitting for COLA on both?
        Once you switched to crowlers, have you seen your growler fill quantity decrease?


        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Crosley View Post
          Thanks for the info. I agree with you on perception of crawlers in liquor stores being of bad shelf life quality, but that's just because I've always envisioned crowler a being filled from the tap.
          So if you are profiling growlers and growlers and then storing them, you are submitting for COLA on both?
          Once you switched to crowlers, have you seen your growler fill quantity decrease?


          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

          Yea, I was always under the impression that if growlers were pre filled and sold that they were subject to a COLA for each brand, just like any other type of packaging. Im guessing the growler could be like a keg collar, with check marks for each brand.


          ........Though here in Ohio if a brand is only sold within of state we no longer need a COLA, whether its draft of packaged, so who knows ;-)

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          • #6
            How long until Seaming?

            Not trying to be overly critical here- I love that you purge before filling!

            But after you fill, there is nothing keeping CO2 in solution and the fact that there is no lid, isn't oxygen interacting with the beer at that point effectively upping the packaged D.O. and reducing carbonation level?

            Have you tested the D.O. of these crowlers? I'd be happy to do it if you send me one :-)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by porter View Post
              Not trying to be overly critical here- I love that you purge before filling!

              But after you fill, there is nothing keeping CO2 in solution and the fact that there is no lid, isn't oxygen interacting with the beer at that point effectively upping the packaged D.O. and reducing carbonation level?

              Have you tested the D.O. of these crowlers? I'd be happy to do it if you send me one :-)
              We fill the cans pretty much to the brim, usually with less than a finger of foam because they are being slowly and gently filled from the bottom up. as soon as a can is set down on the drip tray, a sanitized lid immediately gets pressed down on top of the can, squishing out the foam and a little beer, the cans are literally full to the brim with minimal air space when you crack them open, which isnt always the best for pouring, but we feel it is worth it for a DO perspective. I havent tested the DO yet, but another local brewery has a can DO meter and offered to help test one as well so we plan to do that soon. It hasnt been a huge concern though because none of us have picked up any oxidation in month+ old cans. We do lots of hoppy styles, and the hops always taste fresh and vibrant after some age in the can. Carbonation is always very close, if not exact to the level of carb in the beer that goes into the can.



              Originally posted by Crosley View Post
              Thanks for the info. I agree with you on perception of crawlers in liquor stores being of bad shelf life quality, but that's just because I've always envisioned crowler a being filled from the tap.
              So if you are profiling growlers and growlers and then storing them, you are submitting for COLA on both?
              Once you switched to crowlers, have you seen your growler fill quantity decrease?


              Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
              We only sell off sale inside the state of minnesota, but minnesota does require our brands to all be registered, even if we are only selling beer at the taproom. Growlers in MN are required to be shrink wrap sealed and possess a sticker or tag with the proper credentials. Its $40 per brand in MN, and when you send in your registration, you also send the keg collar, growler sticker/tag label, and 750 ml can label.
              Last edited by Junkyard; 12-06-2015, 01:47 PM.

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              • #8
                Just getting up and running. Was just planning on doing growlers, bombers eventually. Crowlers look really great. I've heard doing cans can be difficult because minimum can order numbers are huge for a small brewery. Did you find that? Also where did you get that seamer?

                Cheers!
                Last edited by thrillhouse900; 12-17-2015, 06:18 AM.

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                • #9
                  Oskar Blues sells the seamers for $3,000 and the cans are available per pallet through Oskar Blues as well (they buy and sell big orders of cans)
                  The email contact for them is crowler@oskarblues.com

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                  • #10
                    off topic (but also on topic)
                    What have you found your customers' responses towards the crowler to be? And I mean the well-filled, perfectly packaged crowlers, not ones that may have been poorly packaged.

                    I've never purchased one but I don't think I like the idea of a can that big. The nice thing about growlers is, even though once opened they have to be consumed rather quickly, that you can put a cap on it and throw it back in the fridge and perhaps even a day later it will still be carbonated.
                    With the crowler you don't have that option.

                    So do your customers generally like it?

                    Does it come down to a cost thing? Because even still I think that growlers are cheaper in the long run. Your customer purchases the growler either at cost or for a slight profit, and reuses it over and over and over until they break it.

                    Thanks for your insights

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                    • #11
                      Crowler filling

                      We just put a cO2 tap on our bar with a long stainless tube that we use for pre filling growlers and crowlers with cO2 before filling. It works really well. We also installed the same flow control faucets on the bar to help control the flow rates for tasters, pints and growlers. I've tested a few crowlers of our Pilsner and they've been great about a month later. You just need to make sure that when placing the lid on the crowlers you're displacing some of the beer.

                      The cO2 purge / crowler filling device does pretty much the same thing but is a couple more things to clean.
                      Chris Enegren
                      www.enegrenbrewing.com

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wlw33 View Post
                        off topic (but also on topic)
                        What have you found your customers' responses towards the crowler to be? And I mean the well-filled, perfectly packaged crowlers, not ones that may have been poorly packaged.

                        I've never purchased one but I don't think I like the idea of a can that big. The nice thing about growlers is, even though once opened they have to be consumed rather quickly, that you can put a cap on it and throw it back in the fridge and perhaps even a day later it will still be carbonated.
                        With the crowler you don't have that option.

                        So do your customers generally like it?

                        Does it come down to a cost thing? Because even still I think that growlers are cheaper in the long run. Your customer purchases the growler either at cost or for a slight profit, and reuses it over and over and over until they break it.

                        Thanks for your insights
                        our customers love our can's!

                        about the can's being big- In our minds, having the perfect carbonation for a given beer style is fundamentally important for the experience when drinking the beer. When you cap a growler after having a pint or two, the carbonation levels significantly decrease, and also oxygen gets into the package which will also rapidly deteriorate the product. So for us, we look at growlers being a 6 serving package and crowlers as being a 2 serving package. The 2 serving package is usually very easy for most to consume in one sitting. Crowlers also promote variety. With a 25 oz package it's easier to get multiple varieties. I understand that not everyone is as picky with beer as we are, but we genuinely want everyone to have the best experience possible with our beer.

                        With crowlers, we spend a lot less time cleaning dirty growlers, which was one thing we hated about growlers! Crowlers are also better for our customers because they don't need to constantly remember to bring their growler with them to get it refilled. For first time customers, they don't need to buy the initial growler. It really becomes an easy package, you dont have to constantly explain your growler policy either.
                        Last edited by Junkyard; 12-17-2015, 09:48 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CaptainEBC View Post
                          We just put a cO2 tap on our bar with a long stainless tube that we use for pre filling growlers and crowlers with cO2 before filling. It works really well. We also installed the same flow control faucets on the bar to help control the flow rates for tasters, pints and growlers. I've tested a few crowlers of our Pilsner and they've been great about a month later. You just need to make sure that when placing the lid on the crowlers you're displacing some of the beer.

                          The cO2 purge / crowler filling device does pretty much the same thing but is a couple more things to clean.
                          that sounds like a good process! Do you restrict your flow control faucets when filling crowlers also? do you fill crowlers on demand like this?
                          Last edited by Junkyard; 12-19-2015, 01:42 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Oil

                            Junkyard,

                            I'm from Day Block Brewing Company in Minneapolis, we are getting pretty close to running out of our oil for our machine. I was curious to where you purchase it and what kind you use for yours. Im assuming a food grade white petroleum oil but have not found it in a few stores.

                            Thank you!

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