One of the Firms behind the Can Revolution, from a US Company. Awesome, Nice Work!

Boulder-area firms benefit from craft beer’s ‘ripple effect’

Wild Goose Engineering supplying canning lines to breweries throughout U.S.

Three years ago, Boulder’s Wild Goose Engineering was a four-person design, engineering, manufacturing and fabrication outfit with 12 years of experience in churning out products from firefighter safety gear to underwater cameras and airplane parts.

Now, Wild Goose is nearly two-dozen people strong, fills out a 10,000-square-foot facility and is anticipating a 67 percent jump in annual revenues.

Its boost came from a seemingly unlikely source: beer.

Two-and-a-half years after fashioning a canning line for Boulder’s Upslope Brewing Co., Wild Goose has jumped full bore in the beer business, developing manual and automatic canning lines for more than 20 craft breweries across the United States. On Tuesday, Dry Dock Brewing Co. announced that Wild Goose would supply the canning line for the brewery’s new 30,000-square-foot production facility in Aurora.

The canning lines account for roughly 80 percent of Wild Goose’s business, said Jeff Aldred, the firm’s principal. Revenues, he said, could grow to $5 million this year, up from $3 million.

“There’s a lot of demand out in the marketplace,” he said. “If we get unlucky, we’re probably going to do three times this business.”

Craft brewing continues to grow at a fast clip. Last year, the industry posted double-digit sales and volume gains, grew to 1,940 breweries with the addition of 250 new members and upped its market share by volume to 5.7 percent, according to the Brewers Association, a Boulder-based trade association for the craft beer industry.

As the craft beer industry continues to grow in size and scope — 900-plus breweries are in the planning stages — more brewers also are canning their beer. Ten years after Longmont’s Oskar Blues was the first craft brewer to can its suds, there are 179 microbrewers that are doing so now, said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association.

The canning trend’s effects have been wide-reaching. Last month, the CEO of Novelis

Machinist Rod Duthcer programs a milling machine for a job at Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder on Tuesday.)

Inc., the world’s largest maker of aluminum sheet, told Bloomberg in a video interview that the craft beer industry’s growth is helping to drive demand for aluminum. Broomfield’s Ball Corp., the largest supplier of cans to the craft beer industry, recently added the second-largest U.S. craft brewer as a customer when Sierra Nevada Brewing started packaging its beer in 12- and 16-ounce cans, said Jim Peterson, a Ball Corp. spokesman.The growth in sales and activities such as canning has resulted in a pinch on resources — used equipment is harder to come by — and a growth in sub-sectors within the industry, said Steve Kurowski, spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild. Kurowski said Boulder’s Wild Goose appears to be on the leading edge of the canning line supply business, a market long-dominated by companies like Canada’s Cask Brewing.

“There definitely is a ripple effect coming off this strong industry growth that craft brewing’s experiencing,” he said. “Not only breweries are benefiting from this renaissance of beer culture, but others are as well.”

Home brewers Pat Hartman and Rob Pompa got a foothold in the industry through starting Mobile Canning LLC, a Longmont-based firm that brings a portable canning line — developed by Wild Goose — to craft brewers that do not have the capital or space requirements to install a permanent line.

Since launching the business last year, the two have brought on their first employee and have plans to make at least one or two more hires before the year is through.

“Since last year, really toward the end of last year, we’ve grown drastically,” Hartman said. “We’ve got about nine breweries right now we’re working with in Colorado and have done 7,000 cases to date.”

Mobile Canning is in discussions with at least another 12 breweries — several of which are in the startup phase — interested in the services, he said.

Denver’s Renegade Brewing Co. LLC not only plans to call on Mobile Canning to can its beers, but also is contracting with Hellfire Fabrication Inc., a Dacono welding shop, to build two 30-barrel tanks, said Brian O’Connell, Renegade’s founder.

“The good thing about craft brewing right now is that it’s really exploding,” he said. “The downside to that is that means there’s hardly any used equipment out there, unless you get extremely lucky and happen to snap up a piece of equipment.”

New equipment can be pricey, so other options could include looking to companies in China, he said.

“Really, for me, if I have the option to stay in Colorado and for our business to support other Colorado businesses, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

Travis Duvall mills stainless steel gears at Wild Goose Engineering on Tuesday.
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