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Hiker Brewing Co.

Our Canning Conundrum

Being on a tight budget to get our brewery up and running and having the luxury of our own canning line is currently not within our means. It is a very tricky balance as to how we will deal with this issue.

We have been exploring a number of options as to how we can manage, as we are obviously very keen to have our beer in package to both sell at our taproom (as takeaways) as well as to independent bottle shops around Brisbane.

Ideally our fleet of unitanks would allow us to have the capacity to be able to bring in a mobile canning provider such as Craft Punks to can our beer on top of what we keg ourselves to have beer for sale in our taproom.  As previously highlighted in our blog post The Stainless Steel we had to reduce our fermenter fleet mainly due to the increased shipping costs out of China as a result of Covid.

So, let me explain the conundrum we are in, by firstly talking about our capacity, and then around the requirements for using a mobile canning solution.

Our Fleet Capacity

Our initial fleet will be 5 x 1,000 litre unitanks – which will give us the ability to carbonate the beer in tank for packaging (either Keg or Can).  We have estimated that the time beer will be in tank will be on average 24 days, to allow for fermentation, conditioning and carbonation.

This means that each tank will theoretically be able to produce 15.2 batches of beer each year (365/24). Therefore, our total initial fleet will be able to produce 76 batches of beer per year (15.2 x 5).

Whilst the fermenters can hold 1,000 litres of beer, there are always losses due to trub (dead yeast and hop matter) that basically is a by-product of the fermentation and dry hopping process.  We have estimated initially that this loss will be 15%, but we are hoping for less given we have spent extra money on each of our unitanks to have a mirror finish inside to help with removing the trub through the dump value of the conical (time will tell if this investment was worth the money).

So, with a 15% loss, our estimated annual capacity will be 64,600 Litres (76 brews x 1,000 litres x 85% efficiency).  This estimated capacity is based on no down time in the process, which means we need to brew the next batch of beer as soon as the unitank is emptied – into kegs, cans or both.

Keg vs Can Ratio

One of the big unknowns for us, is how much beer we will sell via Keg (via our tap room, and independent bars) vs Cans (Takeaways from our Tap Room, On-Line Sales and Independent Bottle shops).

In an ideal world we would sell all our (capacity) beer over our taproom taps, so around 1,200 litres per week – (a mere 2,800 schooners, or 400 schooners a day if we operated 7 days a week). Whilst we would like to think that is going to happen, it probably won’t, and we need to factor sales of cans to help support the business and to be able to fully utilise our capacity.

One thing that the Covid period has taught us, is that beer in can has become very popular and helped a lot of small breweries survive during this difficult period.

Canning Options

We have been exploring a few options, and I thought I would go through each option as we weigh up our options. The options are:

  • Mobile Canning
  • Contract Brewing
  • Our Own Canning Line
  • Can by Hand

Mobile Canning

I am a big fan of this option from a quality point of view, as the nuances of packaging can be quite difficult to master. For example, if you don’t have the right equipment you can destroy an amazing beer due to poor packaging, such as high levels of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) which can make your beer taste like cardboard.

Services like Craft Punks who are a mobile canning solution are experts in canning, and do an amazing job to get beer in can with minimal oxygen pickup.  When I worked at All Inn Brewery they would come to can every second Thursday, and would do an amazing job.  We were able to test the DO levels with some of our lab equipment, and the results were always great.

So, the issue with Hiker using a mobile canning provider, is not about the quality, it is really about the constraint of our capacity.  Mobile canners minimum run is 240 cartons which equals 2,160 litres of beer (240 cartons x 9 Litres in each carton).  You also have to take into account losses in the packing process – so say 10%, that makes it around 2,400 litres of beer required.  Which for us would mean around 3 of our 5 unitanks would be required to can (remember each tank can produce around 850 litres of beer). This is also without any beer going into keg for sale at our tap room – so that doesn’t work.

So, if we decided to can with a mobile canner, and wanted to keg 50% of our beer we would really need all 5 unitanks ready for canning.  5 unitanks x 850 litres x ½ for canning x 10% wastage = approximately 2400 litres of beer. The issue with this is would severely impact our annual capacity as tanks would have to sit longer than 24 days while we wait for the mobile canner to arrive to do their thing. 

Without increasing our unitank fleet, this option really isn’t viable.  We have been on the lookout for some second-hand fermenters or brite tanks to help with this situation, and is still a work in progress.

Contract Brewing

One option is to contract brew some of our beer at another brewery, ideally who has their own canning line.  This is definitely an option and is something we are beginning to explore.  It is not our ideal situation, as we would like to keep everything in house, as obviously there is a premium to pay for hiring another breweries equipment, and we would like to be in full control of the brewing and cellaring processes.

Our Own Canning Line

The obvious solution is to purchase our own canning line, and we are able to can as little or as much of our capacity as we need, and it is in our medium to long term plans.  Breweries are a capital-intensive business, and it really isn’t something we can afford from the beginning.  We have lots of items on our wish list as we get established that we have really had to compromise on a few things in the building phase, to ensure we don’t run out of money and are financially viable. Simple things like fans (extractor and circulation), lab equipment, and the building of our beer garden.  All these things will come in time and we will need to prioritise this list, particularly as we move into the summer period (fans will be a priority for our tap room).

One semi – affordable option we have been looking at is a new product from Kegland which has launched the Cannular Full Auto Canning Line for around $19,000.  The jury is still out as to how good it works, and we are awaiting feedback from the initial small breweries who did purchase the first batch to see if it a viable option.  Canning is one thing, but making sure it ensures the integrity of the product is another.

Can by Hand

The most affordable option (from a capital point of view – but not from a labour perspective) is to pull together a high-end home brew canning solution.  These solutions have come on to the market over the last couple of years, and really is made up of three parts (filling the can, sealing the can, and labelling the can).

For :

  • Filling the can – using the duofiller which will purge the can with CO2 and then fill it with beer from a keg.
  • Sealing the can – using the cannular semi-automated can seamer
  • Labelling the can – using a label applicator machine.   

This solution would be less that $5,000, and would give us the flexibility to can from keg and will definitely get us out of trouble initially, although it would be at least a 2-person operation at a very slow rate, which is not really efficient. 

The thought around this solution, is that once we open, we would get an understanding of how many take-aways of each beer we sell, and can that amount each week, and would factor it into our weekly production schedule.  We would also use the cannular to be able to sell Canimals (1 Litre cans) as takeaways from the tap room, as an alternative to growlers.


Whilst it is an exciting time as we build our brewery, we still have a lot of balls in the air, and both Daniel and I are focussed on both the build phase, as well as how we will operationalise the brewery.  We do love problems to solve, and we know we will work out the best solution as we open our brewery and taproom.

Until next time…

Cheers to the journey



  • reply

    Tim Canavan

    May 2, 2022

    I reckon if you had a trial day or two there would be a few people who would help with canning in exchange for beer so it wouldn’t be as labour intensive possibly. Get them a shirt to say thanks and it’s free advertising.