137,088 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 137,088 Bottles of Beer…


If you read the blog, you know that Steve Via broke our keg line record a few weeks ago. Well, Keg Masta Steve isn’t the only one around here kicking ass and taking names. Our bottling line crew recently set a new record by bottling a staggering 137,088 12-ounce bottles of Stone IPA and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (95 pallets and 12 cases) in one day!

The previous record was 130,728 bottles (90 pallets and 47 cases), set on December 17, 2008, with each person clocking thirty minutes of overtime that day. Not only did the bottling line break the old record by 6,360 bottles, but they did it with significantly less overtime.

The Bottling Line Crew

Our record-breaking bottling line crew, from left to right: Steve Parks, Manny Amador, Kevin Nolan, Eric Szaras, Nelson Clara, Zack Robertson, Caitlin Misner, Ryan Roersma, Zack Soderbeck, and Beau Bratton

Our bottling line has come a long way since Ben Lee, our Production Coordinator, started on the bottling line over six years ago. “A 21,600 bottle day was a huge deal back in the day,” said Ben. Ben remembers having to place bottles onto the line manually, and then load them into boxes by hand after being filled. Bruised and swollen hands weren’t the only fun side effect. “We had to wrap our fingers in duct tape to avoid getting shredded by the bottle caps.” After one person loaded the bottles manually, another person had to stamp the boxes, load them onto the pallet, and repeat.

Lee Chase and Steve Wagner showcasing our first ever 12 oz. bottle with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii looking on. Note that the "Maheen" bottling machine in the background is roughly the size of the three of them.

April 14th, 1999: Lee Chase and Steve Wagner celebrating our first ever bottling run, with Stone Brewer, Toshi Ishii (right) loading bottles into the "Maheen" bottling machine. Note that the "Maheen" is roughly the size of the three of them combined.

Though our bottling line was still pretty rudimentary during Ben’s days on the line, he was at least lucky enough to start right after we bought our first Filler machine. Before the Filler, we employed two old “Maheen” bottling machines (one for 12oz. bottles and one for 22oz. bottles), which required a minimum of two people to operate. We taxed the Maheens to their limit, running them for two shifts a day. “We were doing about 60 cases an hour with them,” said Stone President & Brewmaster Steve Wagner, recollecting the “rudimentary, highly manual” pieces of machinery. “We thought that was a huge amount of beer at the time.”

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler

Bottling Line Operator Bryce Williams-Tuttle managing the Filler. About 3/4 of the machinery on our bottling line is used and/or refurbished.

A lot has happened since Ben or Steve worked on the line (most notably, the extinction of the dinosaurs). The crew has doubled in size, and the level of automation has increased exponentially. As mentioned before, we eventually installed a Filler, which we bought used from the Molson plant in St. John, Newfoundland. We acquired a second used filler from Pyramid Brewing on August 20, 2007, and later installed a Climax Uncaser and extra Accumulation Conveyors on July 19th, 2008.

The newest addition to the line is a Slitter-Sealer machine, which we obtained from Abita Brewing in Louisiana. The gently used Slitter-Sealer was installed last Friday (the day after the bottling crew broke the record), and it makes the crews’ lives a hell of a lot easier. Instead of having to manually break tabs, fold, and seal about 20 boxes per minute, the machine will take over, sealing about 50 boxes per minute (once it’s running at full speed). Bill Sherwood, our Facilities Manager, likes the “chop-chop, flip-flap” action of the Slitter-Sealer, calling it a “Dr. Seuss kind of machine.”

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

Beau Bratton manually breaking box tabs, folding, and sealing.

According to Packaging Supervisor, Kris Ketcham, breaking the bottling record was “a perfect ending to the last day that we will probably ever have to manually break box tabs, fold, and seal.” Breaking the record was indeed a fitting end to the last day ever manually sealing boxes—but not the end of the story. We’re sure our stellar bottling line crew will continue to rock our socks off, and we can’t wait until they reach their next milestone.

-Matt Steele

The Return of Sawyer's Triple

My job here at the brewery (tours, fan correspondence, special events, etc.) gives me the frequent and pleasurable opportunity to interact with our fans on a daily basis. I definitely think it’s important that people be able to connect with us on a personal level and understand, that behind all the Arrogance and bombast, we are in fact ordinary—but no less interesting and authentic—folks just like themselves. This honest and unstaged interaction makes people feel good about supporting us in what we do. And one very central part of our mission in our endeavor to make fantastic beer, one that further strengthens this relationship with our fans, is our involvement in charity work. This is, of course, no glossy public relations chore, but rather a deep abiding, heartfelt conviction that dedicating ourselves to being the best brewers we can be means also dedicating ourselves to being the best citizens we can be—and that means bettering the community in which we live in every way we can.

Occasionally, this commitment has moved us to take up important causes that directly affect many of us here at Stone on a deeply personal level.

Some of you may recall a special beer that we brewed back in 2003 under the name “Sawyer’s Triple,” a golden, Belgian style ale quite unlike anything else we’d ever done before. By all accounts it was a marvelous beer, and I often get inquiries from fans as to whether we would consider bringing it back. Well, we are indeed bringing it back, and we are doing so to further the same cause that we took up some five years ago when we originally brewed this very special beer: the fight against ALD. ALD (Adrenoleukodystrophy) is a rare and devastating neuro-degenerative disease that typically affects young boys, ultimately taking them from us before they see their twelfth birthday. You may recall this illness from the 1992 film Lorenzo’s Oil.

Bill Sherwood

You may also recall that Sawyer’s Triple is named in honor of Sawyer Benjamin Sherwood, the son of Bill Sherwood, Stone’s facilities manager and an accomplished brewer, and his wife Janis Sherwood. Sawyer was a wonderful kid, and we are truly blessed to have had the privilege of watching him play baseball, running around the brew house while visiting his dad at work, and just being a bright, happy and energetic little boy. Bill, as a loving father and dedicated brewer, crafted Sawyer’s Triple soon after Sawyer was diagnosed with this terrible condition in the spring of 2003. The beer was to be sold specifically for the purpose of spreading an awareness of ALD and to help find and effective treatment, and eventually a cure, for this tragic affliction. 100% of the sales of this beer were donated towards the fight against ALD.

Sawyer Benjamin Sherwood

Sadly, Sawyer left us just before the initial release of Sawyer’s Triple later that year. But the cause continues, and we at Stone are just as dedicated as ever to rallying the kind and enthusiastic support from among our fans and the greater community that makes it possible to improve and save lives. Therefore, it is with no small amount of gratitude and conviction that we are pleased to announce that we are bringing back Sawyer’s Triple again for the very same noble endeavor. And I want to personally invite you to participate by spreading the word—and by picking up a bottle (or two…or three) of this ale that we have brewed on behalf of such an important cause.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Bottles of Sawyer’s Triple will be available for sale at the Stone Company Store starting Tuesday, November 11th. The 22 oz bottles will sell for $6 each (plus tax and CRV).
  • Sawyer’s Triple will be available on draft as well at the Stone World Bistro & Gardens for $6 a pint.
  • As before, absolutely 100% of the proceeds will go to charity; specifically, to Fight ALD!, the research and education foundation started by Janis Sherwood.
  • Although the sale of Stone Special Release beers has often been limited to 2 or 3 bottles per person, there will be no such limit for Sawyer’s Triple. Please note, however, no “case discount” will be in effect in order to provide Fight ALD with as much funding as possible.
  • Currently, Sawyer’s Triple is available for sale exclusively here at Stone.

I hope that you will join me, Team Stone, and the rest of our devoted fans in paying tribute to a noble spirit and in promoting a noble cause. Here’s to your health, generosity, and fulfillment!

-Ken Wright

LINKS:
-FightALD.org
-stonebrew.com/sawyerstriple
-Read the back of the 2008 label
-Photos from the bottling run on Flickr
-BeerAdvocate.com’s Reviews