ELK RAPIDS — The air at Short’s Brewing Company’s Elk Rapids bottling plant was warm and citrusy when brewery employees stacked cases of Key Lime Pie beer into neat piles.
Short’s employees bottled 800 cases of the award-winning beer, almost 20,000 bottles, in just 3.5 hours, thanks to the company’s new bottling and packaging line. The task would have taken more than eight hours just two months ago.
“We’re doing 150 bottles per-minute,” said Short’s Sustainability Specialist Matt Gacioch. “It’s really, really big growth, over 10 times more than what we were doing when we first opened this facility five years ago.”
Short’s spent $1.55 million on a new bottling and packaging line that increased the company’s production by 300 percent at its Elk Rapids production facility, where the company makes its beer for distribution.
It’s the third machine Short’s used to package its beer. It can churn out 100 more bottles per-minute than the equipment it replaced and 138 more than the original equipment used when the production facility opened in 2008.
The shiny new mechanics aren’t just good for the bottom line, they're good for the brew. Tyler Glaze, brewery operations manager, said the new line’s “double pre-evacuation” technique of sucking oxygen out of bottles to pump in more carbon dioxide means Short’s bottled beer will be even better.
“The filler fills with much better quality. The beer no longer takes up as much oxygen when it’s filled,” Glaze said. “It extends our shelf life by a long period of time – months more shelf life.”
The new process also is more efficient so more of the brewery’s beer gets into bottles and onto store shelves. The old bottle filler leaked beer through a hose, leading to cases worth of beer and hundreds of dollars lost.