Mike Tempest opened his Reading, England Wild Weather Ales brewery in 2012 and began bottling his beers almost from the start. But he quickly saw cracks in the concept of beer packaged in glass. “We never really liked bottles,” Tempest says. “They’re fragile and allow light strike and early hop fade.”
He made the jump to cans through a UK mobile canner, but the idea of handing over control of something as important as packaging to a third party bothered him. So in September of 2016, he purchased a Cask Manual Canning System and began canning his own beer.
Cans are so much easier to ship around the world,” Tempest says. “They are robust and stack easily and safely in cases, like building blocks. They provide complete protection for our beers, they are pretty much bulletproof, and we like them way more than bottles.
“While manual and labor intensive,” he says, “the machine got us into the market with our beer canned by us. And our cans quickly started to sell much faster than our bottles. A year or so and some 200,000 manual cans later, we started looking for options to move up to an automated line.”
They settled on Cask’s Micro-Automated Canning System (mACS). “We looked at a number of options from different suppliers,” Tempest says, “but settled on the Cask mACS machine. It was brand new and offered some new technology in terms of can-seam reliability. Plus, we had worked well with the team from Cask since our early days with the manual system, and these sorts of relationships really count.”
Christened in January of this year, Wild Weather’s mACS has helped the brewery dramatically increase its canning speeds and more efficiently expand into a little-explored realm of craft beer canning. “We’ve always carbonated our kegs through natural secondary fermentation,” Tempest says, “and we wanted to do the same in a can.”
Perfecting the process took about nine months of research, including some experimentation among types of beers. “Different beer styles,” Tempest notes, “require quite different preparations to ensure that they naturally carbonate to the proper level. But we really like can conditioning because it is a totally natural process, and we can keep the whole of our brewing process natural from end to end.”
To achieve the required carbonation, Wild Weather ferments its beers to completion and then adds a measured amount of priming sugar and live yeast to its beer when canning. Before the cans are released to the market, they remain onsite for about two weeks as the yeast works its carbonation magic.
The freshness protection and rising consumer appeal of cans has helped the Wild Weather team — which includes brewers Jamie Duffield and Chris Price and sales/marketer Jain Clarke — grow its beer production by about 25% this year. The shipping efficiency of cans has helped the brewery expand into distant markets it wouldn’t have pursued in glass. The brewery sends its naturally carbonated 330ml cans to about ten countries spread across the UK, Scandinavia and Asia, with more nations on the horizon.
“Cans are so much easier to ship around the world,” Tempest says. “They are robust and stack easily and safely in cases, like building blocks. They provide complete protection for our beers, they are pretty much bulletproof, and we like them way more than bottles.”