When the news broke on its own social media pages that Sidetrack Brewing was starting to can its MX Lager, we were left with one big question: How did they do that?
After all, space is at a premium in the cozy downtown brewery. Could they have agreed to a contract brewing setup at one of the bigger breweries? Did they somehow do this by hand?
Well, at the tail end of our interview about this Saturday’s Cask Fest, the origin story of the cans came up, courtesy of co-owners Dan Herr and Anne O’Neill, and head brewer Cordell Rincon.
“I saw a small canner at GABF in 2018, and it’s been on my mind ever since,” Herr said. “I know that all technology has been out there. Then the pandemic hit and everybody wanted a canner. It (eventually) came together like everything here does, we think about it for a long time, and do it real slow. We’re still in the process of doing it really slow before we blow it up really big. We’re working out the kinks.”
“Obviously our big thing was finding space,” O’Neill added. “That was the biggest. We did a lot of rearranging in the basement.”
Ah-ha, the basement! For those not in the know, the basement beneath the taproom portion of Sidetrack has long been used to store equipment, firkins, grain bags, and yes, there is even a cold room down there for the kegs that feed up to the tap lines above. Now the basement also includes a quaint, efficient little canner, perfect for a brewery the size of Sidetrack.
“A big old puzzle, (but) it worked out in the end,” Rincon said. “We’ve got a decent lineup, too, with the three house beers — MX, (A Tribe Called) Kolsch, and Basecamp (IPA).”
The MX can stockpile went awfully fast last week, so the next two brews are on deck to go into package for the first time, O’Neill said. Sidetrack will stick with rotating those three beers in cans, at least for a while.
“That’s our plan for now, just get things going and so we have a better understanding of how it all works — what we’re doing for can sales versus draft sales, what the demand is, and just trying to get a better feel for that before we try to get much more variety planned,” Herr said.
“Our goal, as Dan said, as we get going is to having something in the fridge all the time,” O’Neill added.
The canner has become the new pride and joy of Sidetrack, at least as far as equipment goes. People will always be at the top.
“We did a lot of research on equipment,” Herr said. “I saw this canner at GABF and it was just amazing. We looked at everything from that to what we have now, and we looked at smaller versions. We just really decided that we can’t have anything that’s too inexpensive. We had to spend more money than we wanted to, but we’ve got something that’s about the quality of the package. It’s not just a glorified seamer. And, it fits in our basement.”
We will be sure to let everyone know when A Tribe Called Kolsch and Basecamp IPA are canned and ready for purchase. Just be prepared to fight Crew member Erin for the former; she has been wanting to take that out to a New Mexico United tailgate for a long time now.
A big thanks to Dan, Anne, and Cordell for the bonus story this week.
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