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Mobile bottling, canning companies tap into growing craft demand

Mobile bottling, canning companies tap into growing craft demand

Jan Nawa is the founder of Craft Alliance Packaging Solutions Inc., a Franklin County-based mobile bottling company that caters to the craft beverage industry. He started Craft Alliance Packaging in 2012 to tap into the continued growth of the industry, most notably the rise of craft breweries.

The comparison is apt.

The former Army helicopter mechanic — and bluegrass musician — drives to weekly gigs in four states, has heavy equipment that takes hours to set up and tear down and, well, he smells like a brewery at the end of the night.

The latter can’t be helped. A large part of his business is beer.

Nawa is the founder of Craft Alliance Packaging Solutions Inc., a Franklin County-based mobile bottling company that caters to the craft beverage industry. After working nearly three years at Roy Pitz Brewing Co. in Chambersburg, he started Craft Alliance Packaging in 2012 to tap into the continued growth of the industry, most notably the rise of craft breweries.

He has found a variety of customers.

DRIVING DISTRIBUTION

Getting people into a tasting room or brewpub to try a company’s beer not only helps drive retail business, it can also boost wholesale distribution for those looking to expand their reach.

Hoping to bring more beer enthusiasts into the front of the house and support local breweries, Andrew Rothacker launched Lancaster Community Supported Beer in 2014, a membership program with a brewery twist on the popular community supported agriculture, or CSA, programs.

The CSA is what inspired Rothacker.

“We were supporting local farms, but exposing ourselves to things we wouldn’t normally eat,” he said.

Not long after that, he and his wife traveled to Chicago for a wedding. On that trip, he scouted local breweries he could visit. “As I was doing that, I realized I had never taken the time in Lancaster.”

He began calling local breweries about his idea, which morphed into the Lancaster CSB.

Customers buy a membership share for $60, which gets them a set of monthly gift cards to use at participating breweries.

For six months, you get a gift card for the featured monthly brewery to use on a growler fill. Lancaster CSB has its own growler that members can buy, plus there is a premium option with a fancier growler customized by a commissioned artist.

The Lancaster CSB collects the membership fees and pays supporting breweries a percentage to cover their beer costs.

Most of the breweries have been in Lancaster County. Lebanon’s Snitz Creek Brewery is involved in the current season, which began this month. Liquid Hero Brewery in York also has been featured.

“Our goal is not just to give gift cards, but to be on the curating side of the local beer experience,” Rothacker said.

Since launching in the fall of 2014, he has seen 400 to 500 different members. There are 223 members signed up for the current season.

“We have a lot (of breweries) on our radar,” Rothacker said.

Some are microbreweries that want to add to-go sales or distribute their beer through wholesalers, but that have limited space or can’t afford packaging lines.

Others are larger breweries that take on contract production and need the flexibility provided by a third-party packaging service.

Then there are the regional breweries that rely on mobile bottling or canning services for seasonal and specialty beers.

“There’s more work than I can handle,” Nawa said last week, as he pulled 4,000 bottles of Anzalone Special Lager off his two-person mobile bottling line for packaging at Lancaster Brewing Co. Anzalone is a Luzerne County brand that LBC brews under a federal wholesale contract.

Demand

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