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Colorado Company Finds Breweries ‘Can’ Do More

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(credit: oskarblues.com)

(credit: oskarblues.com)

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — The craft beer industry laughed when Oskar Blues became the first microbrewery in the country to put its beer into cans nearly 10 years ago. But since then, about 150 other breweries around the country have followed suit.

A pair of Longmont residents recently launched a business to cash in on this nationwide trend.

Mobile Canning, founded in September by Pat Hartman and Ron Popma, targets small to mid-sized craft breweries that either can’t afford or don’t want the expense of buying and running their own canning lines.

“There’s a need out there for the craft beer industry, and cans are on the rise,” Hartman said

Hartman, 37, and Popma, 40, are natives of West Chester, Pa., but they met up out here about a year ago, both having come out to live the Colorado lifestyle.

Popma had been working at IBM and Hartman had been working in sales, but both were avid home brewers and both had quit their jobs, unbeknownst to each other, in search of something new. That something new became Mobile Canning.

“We come in and say look, take this capital (expense) out,” Popma said. “Use it for what you need to be doing.”

Boulder’s Wild Goose Engineering is building Mobile Canning’s portable canning line. Wild Goose sells the same machine to breweries, but they run about $100,000 each, depending on how robust the machine is, Hartman said.

Add that to the expense of buying cans — a minimum order from Ball Corp. is about 200,000, he said — and you have an investment that many upstart breweries aren’t ready for, or don’t need.

By contrast, Mobile Canning’s services cost a brewery between a couple of hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on how much beer will be canned and what other work, such as labeling cans, is needed.

“Why we’re really here is to enable the smaller breweries to get into the canning,” he said. “They now have a way, by using our service, to get into the retail market; they now have a whole other arm for their distribution.”

Colorado is the target market for Mobile Canning, Hartman and Popma said — at least to begin with.

The pair recently landed their first client: Greeley-based Crabtree Brewing Co., for which they’ll be canning the brewery’s Eclipse Black IPA.

“Our first conversation, we sat down in (Jeff Crabtree’s) tasting room and he said, ‘Guys, I hate cans,'” Popma said. “Forty-five minutes later, he shook our hands and said, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”

And Hartman noted that there are more than three dozen microbreweries around the state that are in the planning stages — potential customers all.

“I see us as getting booked up pretty quick,” said Popma.

The potential growth of the business is one reason Wild Goose’s Randy Patton became interested in Mobile Canning, he said.

“Mobile Canning came in with sort of a business model which is perhaps based on things that are done in the wine industry — mobile bottling,” said Patton, Wild Goose’s director of business operations.

“We just decided that we were going to partner with them. … We want to explore this with them as a model for something we may want to do in other parts of the country.”

- By Tony Kindelspire,Longmont Times-Call

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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