Brewery has business in can
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
Defiance Brewery Co.'s beer business has overflowed from draft kegs into cans.
A multi-colored sea of cans chug through Defiance's humming assembly line as two spouts fill them and lids are clinked into place. The products manually are rinsed off, divided into six packs, stacked on pallets and wheeled into a refrigerator.
Although much of the process is automated, the 11-hour process requires constant attention. The 12,000 cans in a batch have to be kept upright entering the belt as approximately 21 cans a minute pass through the steps.
There are plans to install two more spouts to double the output. A tunnel for washing and drying cans will be added to streamline the process.
Following Defiance's pattern of naming its equipment after characters from the television show "Saved By the Bell," the canning machine has a pinup of Kelly Kapowski.
The 12-ounce cans are available in Hays, Garden City, Dodge City and Great Bend, and soon will be available in Wichita, said Matthew Bender, Defiance co-founder. Canning will account for 80 percent of business, while draft kegs will be 20 percent.
"We're excited," Bender said. "We need to make a lot more beer, which is a good problem to have."
Defiance has hired a third employee and anticipates up to two more people will be needed. Plans to expand operations will be unveiled later.
Dylan Sultzer, co-founder, said the cans' elaborate artwork reflects the beers' styles. Thrasher, an IPA, features wheat in the design to identify itself as a "Kansas kind of beer," Sultzer said.
Bender said the Gutch, an English-style mild ale, has artwork on the can reflecting its mixture of American and British brewing styles. Icons from both cultures are intertwined in the design.
John Stadler, a Fort Hays State University graduate and graphic design artist, created the designs.
The two men want to offer a different drinking experience to its customers. Although they experiment with flavors, Bender said they only make what they enjoy consuming.
"We're trying to offer our own unique twist because there are so many beers that are available out on the marketplace," Bender said. "Your can design and everything will get people to try it the first time. ... But you really want to have something unique in your beer that will make you stand out so people will purchase it again."
Defiance will release a seasonal beer in July.