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08-05-2015, 18:32
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The Bloke from Hull writes...Earlier this year I had arranged with Oates Brewery head brewer Anthony Barrett to go over to Halifax to assist with the brewing of a beer. I rang him the day before to confirm and he said that there had been a change of plan and that instead of brewing they were canning.
My initial response was “Oh, that won’t interest me then”. Anthony then explained that a mobile canning unit was coming to can Oates APA and Caragold XB and that it was to be “real”. Not quite believing it – I was now very interested especially when he said that the canning was to be the first commercial run in the country. My standpoint was now “count me in”.
It might sound like a simple thing to do but there were many hurdles to jump over and hoops to climb through by provider “WeCan Solutions” to reach this stage. After eighteen months planning and testing and following successful trials at Brains and Everards breweries, I was indeed about to witness the first commercial canning run for real ale in this country.
Challenges such as scaling down and developing the canning unit to become mobile, making it flexible to operate in breweries of all shapes and sizes, keeping it sterile, seaming and capping the cans, labelling issues had all now been overcome. Indeed Andy Hughes, co-director of WeCan Solutions commented “the easiest part of this project was to buy the machinery - the hard part was to figure out a range of solutions to make the service easy for the brewers”.
Thus on a bright sunny day I arrived to find Andy Hughes and Martin Forder from WeCan Solutions setting up their unit in the main area at Oates brewery as an expectant Anthony watched on, waiting for the word to connect the line from his beer.

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After short period of setting up and correcting a few glitches the beer was flowing immediately, disappearing into the top of the machine, filling the cans through a set of nozzles and then being sealed by the special caps. Amazing!!
The manner in which beer is put into the can is critical to ensure that additional oxygen is kept to a minimum. The previous tests carried out at Brains and Everards on had shown excellent results in terms of fill level consistency, sanitization, carbonation and Dissolved Oxygen levels. As this was the first run WeCan provided the cans with adhesive labels but will in future have them printed on directly.
So what is the point of canning quality beer and real ale in particular? It enables microbrewers to enlarge their product distribution, whilst allowing discerning drinkers who are not able to go to the pub for a multitude of reasons to drink real ale. Environmentally, only the unit is travelling not the beer thus reducing beer miles following brewing. Recycling is also more efficient when compared to bottled beer.

On the first runs around 400 cans of APA and 800 of Caragold XB were filled. The APA is a 6.11% ABV real ale in a can to the style of an American pale ale, made with five of the finest malts and three fruity hop varieties. The Caragold XB is at 4.5% ABV a slightly stronger hoppier version of the best selling brand made with fine English malts, Target and Bramling Cross hops and is packed full of flavour.
It should be remembered that as these beers are can-conditioned they will need time to settle and need to be poured carefully to leave the sediment in the can.
The cans are available via the brewery website: http://www.oatesbrewing.co.uk/ and the intention is also to have them available in specialist independent beer shops, farm shops and delicatessens.
No doubt there will quite some discussion as to whether these beers are “Real Ale”.

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