*Warning to all breweries big and small, keep your seams tight*
Here at Iron horse Brewery we have been canning on our own system since Fall of 2015, starting with the Cask ACS canning system then we eventually upgraded to the Cask ACSX2, fancy right? We and our consumers were not only excited by the new venture of canning but were a bit nervous to jump into a whole new type of packaging with little experience working with the machines comprising the canning process. We had our issues early on; learning how to properly run the machine, troubleshooting issues that arose, as well as learning about what a proper seam should look like.
What I want to delve deeper into is the most important part of the canning process: Seaming. With our first canner, the Cask ACS, we ran into some seam issues. This was due mostly in part to having a pneumatic seamer. With a pneumatic seamer you run into more variances in your seams due to the varying levels of pressurized air running to your seamer head. We fixed this issue with the purchase of our second canner, Stacy, the Cask ACSX2. With this new and improved canner you get can driven seamers, which I highly recommend. With the change in the way the canner seamed the cans, we felt a lot more confident in our seams. We were checking the seams regularly, about once every pallet of 100 cases. How did we learn to hand check a seam? The internet, as we all know is full of a plethora of knowledge. Well, checking seams is not in this plethora. Constant searching as well as pestering manufacturers I was able to find a way in which to teach myself as well as my employees the signs of bad seams as well as specific boundaries on where the measurements should be. While we were using accepted practices, it is quite difficult to get it right. The person inspecting the seams would have to cut the seam with shears (distorting the seam in the first step) then use a set of calipers and a magnifying glass to measure things like overlap as well as body and cover hook length. It’s very difficult and prone to error.
With all that work we were about 95% confident in our seams. What we needed to take that confidence to 100% was to take the human variance out of the seam inspection. We achieved that by purchasing a CMC-Khunke Seam Analysis System. Although very expensive, this piece of machinery has helped our process greatly. The CMC-Khunke cuts a can with a precision saw designed specifically for the process, then gives the inspector a view of the seam through a high resolution, high-magnification camera lens that shows the operator precisely what the seam looks like and what the measurements are. This helps with finding variances in these seams and confirms that the seam is in spec. It takes a 15 minute process and boils it down to about 5 minutes. The peace of mind is worth more than the money! Also consumers can now enjoy a perfectly seamed beer which means no ingress of oxygen into your beer and no beer on the side of the can.
Now in the time that we weren’t 100% certain of our seaming quality, things fell out of spec for a short window. You may have experienced a can that suffered from that fate. You would know this if you found a can that had a little bit of beer residue along the underside of the rim where the can meets the lid, aka, the seam. If there is one thing we try to avoid at iron horse, it’s obfuscation. We screwed up a bunch of seams and you may have been a victim of this mistake, that’s the full frontal truth.
So, here is what we know:
1) we caught and sorted what we believe to have been the vast majority of cans that were subject to this mistake
2) there were definitely some that made it to a shelf near you
3) we love our fans and never want them to feel cheated by us
4) we never shy away from spending money or a little reputation to make things right, that’s why we’re telling everyone this story and spent cash on our new seam inspection system. What we also want to say is, if you got one of these cans, we want to hear from you. Send us a message letting us know about your experience and we will be ready to have a conversation with you about how we can continue to make you feel the iron horse love.