HERE WE grow again! Coastal Empire Beer Company has a new set of equipment that is going to allow them new flexibly and will lead to some exciting new beers for all of us.
Last week a shiny new addition to Coastal’s existing canning system arrived. This new gear will allow Coastal to “shrink wrap” new labels on their cans, eliminating a pesky and expensive issue with pre-labeled cans and giving them more flexibility with which beers they can ship out in cans.
I spoke with Chris Haborak, co-founder of Coastal Empire Beer Co., about the new labeling system and why they chose to invest in it. As you might expect it had to do with money.
“Over the past two years the big three can manufacturers had been increasing their minimum orders to truck loads for each style of can.”
This was the first hit in a list of events that made canning more expensive and difficult.
“In late 2015 one of the can manufacturers told about 450 small brewers that they would not be able to service them anymore.”
This led many breweries, Coastal included, to move their orders to a new company in Mexico. Craft beer being popular in Mexico too, that option dried up as the demand for cans in Mexico ended shipments to the U.S.
“This left a majority of the smaller brewers scrambling to find a way to source cans. Some brokers have emerged but they still want their customers to pull whole truck loads of their printed cans. For some brands this can work because the volume is there but not all have the same pull through and you could be sitting on a year or more inventory,” Chris says.
As you can imagine having a huge supply of cans sitting around isn’t good business practice.
“This is the reason we decided to start wrapping our cans. We will buy a truckload of blank cans and then apply the label of the beer when we package it,” he says.
The new system allows for Coastal to order labels only and in smaller batches than the cans themselves. This lets the brewery not only can as needed but provides flexibility when it comes to canning small batch beers and artwork.
“The labeler will also allow us to can one off’s that normally we would have only sent out in draft.”
As if a new labeling system wasn’t enough Coastal has several events lined up including a few during the upcoming 2016 Savannah Craft Beer Week.
“We will be celebrating our fifth anniversary on August 27 which unofficially kicks off Savannah Craft Beer Week,” he says.
The event goes 7-10 p.m., and they will have at least five tap room exclusive releases: Sour Pale Ale conditioned on oranges, Blueberry Wild Ale, Raspberry Wild Ale, Blackberry Berliner Weisse and a Session IPA.
“Monday we’ll be at the Opening of Bow Tie BBQ to release an American Black Ale we brewed in collaboration with Corbin. Tuesday we have a tap spotlight at Hops & Barley and will release a Northeastern IPA, Vermont Style, that we brewed in collaboration with David,” Haborak says.
“Wednesday Night we will be at Crystal Beer Parlor for a Hawaiian Night where the first several guest that order Coco Piña will be served in a real coconut. Thursday we will be one of six breweries featured in a local beer dinner at Fiddler’s on River Street,” he says.
“Finally Friday we will have a tap spotlight at World of Beer and will release a Session IPA we brewed in collaboration with the guys and girls of WOB. And if it’s ready we will also have a collaboration we brewed with Alltech Brewing. It is a Bourbon Barrel Espresso Brown. Of course we’ll finish the night at the Savannah Distillery Ale House for Night of the Beer Geek.”
Even further down the road is an exciting collaboration with an old friend.
“We had a visit a while back from Jentri Hand who was the Co-Founder and Head Brewer for Old Savannah Brewing which was a production Brewery here in Savannah around 2006. Her old brewery location is actually on the same street we are on now,” Chris says.
“We decided to do a collaboration and bring back her award winning ESB recipe that Savannah grew very fond of and also won a Silver at The World Beer Cup. We will release this in September.”
The first beer to be labeled using the new system will be Coco Piña, which they hope to have canned the week of August 22nd. This will mean (the very excellent) Coco Piña will be on shelves for Savannah Craft Beer Week. Chris is encouraged by the excitement and growth surrounding Savannah’s craft beer scene.
“We think Savannah’s craft beer scene is continuing to grow as all four hometown breweries continue to grow their names and bring exciting new beers to the market,” says Haborak.
“Several of us have been winning medals in international competitions which helps bring notoriety to Savannah as well. Also all the support we receive from local establishments making it a point to carry local options helps build Savannah’s scene too.”
Coastal Empire Beer is at 79 Ross Road. Tours and tastings Thursdays and Fridays 5-8 pm and Saturdays 1-4 pm. Coastal's 5th Anniversary Party is Aug. 27, 7-10 pm. Tickets $20 and buy music and tastings. Food available for purchase.