This is a story of resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This story was originally published on the Hoyne Brewing WEBSITE.
Cans have always been something that we considered, but we wanted to be able to do them right before we made the investment. Sean [Hoyne]’s view was that only the best machine that delivers the highest quality canned beer would do. In 2019, shortly before the world turned inside out, we found that machine and made the leap, putting down substantial deposits on a state-of-the-art canning line from Italy.
Had we known what was coming with the pandemic, it’s highly unlikely we would have ventured into this new realm — but we’d made the choice and there was no turning back.
When COVID emerged in Canada in late February into early March, we’d already seen the toll it was taking on Italy, which was under severe lockdown measures and suffering from high infection rates. It was next to impossible for anyone to enter or leave the country and with our canning line already in transit, the next few months looked impossibly complicated.
And then came the shutdowns here. Overnight, along with just about every other craft brewery, we lost about 50% of our sales as pubs and restaurants shuttered. It was a scary and bleak moment, filled with uncertainty — which, for us, was compounded by the fact that our pricey canning line was set to arrive any day without the support of technicians who usually facilitate the install.
As the pandemic grabbed hold and uprooted our routines, jobs, and social lives, [Hoyne’s owners] Sean and Chantal made a decision: anyone who wanted to keep working would be able to keep working.
“Our team is what keeps us moving, so we wanted to support them as best we could,” said Sean Hoyne, Brewmaster.
“It didn’t mean the business wasn’t stressed to the max,” Sean explained, “but we’ve long believed in investing in our community and that meant getting creative with our team.”
Sales reps became home delivery people, our front office took on new projects, and our brewers, who’d seen production slow dramatically, were enlisted to become the missing technicians we’d been expecting from Italy.
Our initial reservations on moving into cans were based on quality, which is central to everything we do at Hoyne. Most entry-level canning lines permit oxygen into the cans, which affects the beer in very short order, so we knew we didn’t want that level of machine. The one we purchased not only purges all oxygen from the cans as they’re capped, but also uses ionized air to sterilize the cans and an automatic fill-detection system that detects low fills and kicks them out — so every beer that is canned is perfect.
It was the machine we’d been waiting for and excitement was high. We’d carefully mapped out the footprint for the machine, having it custom built to fit our space and create the most efficient use of our packaging floor — but then the challenges of assembly emerged with technicians being unable to come to help.
Putting It All Together
“It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” said Sean when he first considered putting it together ourselves.
The entire line was delivered in pieces — very large, expensive, heavy pieces. Putting it together was complicated and required an assembly manual that would cause panic in anyone who’s ever put together an IKEA shelf. Our core team of installers included brewers Chris McCrodan, Antoine Foukal, and Dylan Hoyne, Sean and Chantal’s son. With a steady and practical approach, along with some Zoom calls to technicians abroad, everything was arranged into place. Then a Vancouver company called Bevco came to assist with the final hook-ups, with our team there to help and learn.
“The unforeseen benefit to all of this is that we now understand the canning line way better than we ever would have.” – Chris McCrodan, brewer.
Up And Running
As things slowly reopened into a new reality, the canning line served as a lifeline for us. It helped keep our crew busy, not just in assembly but once it was up and running with more home deliveries and stores around the province. We couldn’t have predicted it, but the project helped us save jobs.
In July, we released our first cans for retail sales. Hoyne Pilsner and Dark Matter rolled off the line and into stores, then into fridges or camping coolers throughout our great province. Now we have a long list of offerings in cans, including Helios, Entre Nous and more.
Like everyone else, we’re hopeful for the days after the pandemic but are very proud of the way our team pulled together to keep the ship afloat during one of the biggest economic challenges we’ve ever faced. We’re also very excited to be in cans!