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'Tall blonde' runs on modified line

Carolina Beer & Beverage, LLC, a regional craft brewer in Mooresville, NC, faced constraints in introducing its “Tall blonde” plastic bottle last year (see Feb. , p. 2) included costs.

A new stock bottle from Constar, the plastic packaging subsidiary of Crown, Cork & Seal Co. (Philadelphia, PA). The 16-oz longneck comprises PET/Oxbar™ oxygen scavenger/ PET. Crown supplies the bottles complete with a full wraparound label.

Crucial to the cost-saving strategy was to make certain the unbreakable, resealable, and lightweight bottle would run on the same line as its 12-oz longneck glass bottle. “The whole key to the line’s success was to have Constar design a bottle of the exact same diameter as the 12-oz longneck bottle that we run daily,” says Carolina CEO Mike Smith. “This allows us to use same bottle handling parts on most all of the equipment--rinsers, casers, conveyors--except the capper.”

New capper

Since the glass bottles are crowned, a new capper was required for the brewer to run the PET bottles. To do the job, Carolina added a rotary unit built by Zalkin supplied by Fowler Products (Athens, GA). It applies a 28-mm screw cap with a scavenger/barrier liner supplied by Crown’s Closure Division.

Carolina bottles Tall blonde at 200/min compared to 260/min for glass. Smith explains that the difference in speed is one of volume—12 vs 16 oz--rather than anything else. The beer is flash-pasteurized and cold-filled at 34° F.

Less expensive, more fulfilling

Tall blonde also opens up new markets for Carolina, something that wasn’t feasible for the small brewer via any other format, including aluminum cans. “We couldn’t add a can line because of costs, but with the new technology in PET beer bottles, we could make alterations to our existing bottling line and run the PET package on that,” says Smith. “The bottle is achieving all of our goals and objectives from a packaging standpoint.”

Besides the capper, Smith says that other expenditures included a new post-filling warmer along with several modifications to its rinsing system and case packer. “Overall costs were only about 10 percent that of a whole new bottling line,” he sums. “

Blonde foursome, maybe more ahead

Other than the four-pack of Tall blonde planned for summer introduction into supermarkets, Smith says their future plans in PET will be “wait and see.”

“We produce seven varieties, from dark brown porters through Carolina Light including a light lager beer,” he notes. “Our interest in bottling more versions in PET depends on the package’s success beyond the excitement surrounding the launch.” If it does well, he indicates that Carolina Light would be next. Can a Tall brunette be far behind?

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