Friday, December 13, 2013
By TOM ATWELL
Marshall Wharf Brewing in Belfast, whose beer previously had been available only on draft at select bars and from growlers at the brewery, is now canning some of its beer.
Marshall Wharf is beginning to can some of its beers, which beer lovers may find locally at Downeast Beverage and the Bier Cellar in Portland.
Tom Atwell photo
The cans will be sold first on Saturday at Marshall Wharf's 5th Anniversary of Beer, being held under heated tents in the parking lot of the brewery and its affiliated Three Tides Restaurant.
David Carlson, co-owner and brewer, had said earlier that the cans would be sold sometime during the summer.
"The canning thing has been dragging and dragging and dragging and dragging," Carlson said. "Then we had to go through installation and training with their techs out of Calgary, Alberta. Their analysis says that sealing is the most complicated part – getting the lead seamed to the top of the can. So we spent two days practicing filling the cans, and then tearing them down and making adjustments."
Carlson said the big push to go into cans was due to recent changes allowing generic cans, giving the name of the brewery and other information, but no information about the specific beer. The beer name, percent alcohol by volume and a UPC code will be printed on a label that will be stuck onto the can. The UPC code is required so the cans' deposit can be tracked.
"It used to be the minimum order to do a batch of cans was 80,000," Carlson said. "When looking at a profile in which we had to commit to one of our beers, Illegal Ale-Ien say, we would have to sell 80,000 cans of it, which would take about a year, before we could do something else."
He still has to order the 80,000 cans -- with a price tag of about $30,000 when shipping and other fees are included -- but he can switch varieties as much as he wants.
Carlson said he is committed -- and it says so right on the generic can -- to brewing a 200-gallon batch of beer each week for canning, which will amount to about 1,600 16-ounce cans. The beer will not be available at every supermarket and corner beer store.
"We self-distribute," Carlson said. "I am actually doing all of the driving myself now as we get our inventory up."
He said his plan is to drop off the cans to beer stores on the same trips he makes each week to deliver kegs to bars in a triangle, with Bangor, Bar Harbor and Kittery at the corners.
He said he expects the Portland stores that will be getting his beer will be Downeast Beverage on Commercial Street and the Bier Cellar on Forest Avenue because they are small enough to handle a limited product like his and because he drives by the shops on his weekly bar runs.
"We will be using social media, Facebook and Twitter, to announce on a weekly basis what we have canned and where we are going to be," Carlson said. "Let's say that I deliver to Portland on a Wednesday, which I usually do, and someone comes in on Saturday and there is no Marshall Wharf. With a regular store, the clerk might say, 'I don't know, Marshall Wharf must not have their act together.' "
With a smaller store, the clerks know that the shipment has sold out.
And I am guessing it will sell out often. I enjoy Marshall Wharf beers a lot but seldom get to Belfast to buy growlers. If it is on tap at a bar I am visiting, I order it. I order Oxbow for the same reason, and have a decision problem if a bar has both.
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