Last Thursday, May 30th, we had our first canning run on our brand new Wild Goose canning line and overall it went pretty smooth but we did end up with 60 cases of beer that we weren’t able to sell as our dissolved oxygen numbers were too high for our standards. Our first beer canned was our cream label throwback “CRAFT BEER” which contains one of our original recipes the British Bitter/ English Pale Ale. Luckily our staff was able to put a large dent in that and still show up on time on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. No doubt they are true professionals. If you didn’t already know one of our company tag lines has been, “Beer not consumed by the staff, is put up for sale to the public.”
Our high standards come from our head brewer, Dylan, who sometimes sits up late at night with a pint of genuine Civil Life beer and thinks about a lot of same things beer drinking aliens think about. Things such as,” Why am I trying to drink beer through my finger?” or, “Do you remember that time NASA sent a spacecraft to Mars but the scientists failed to convert English to metric measurements?” Or more importantly, “How do we get more inter-galactic beer customers?” With craft beer growth on Earth slowing down there is no doubt it’s time for the Civil Life needs to go where no other beer has gone before but for now we will go to Illinois. Got to start somewhere.
This kind of commitment is what makes the Civil Life beers great. Dylan, Mike and Seymour make up our brewing team and they are always searching for ways to improve and always paying attention to the small details. It will be forever true that the substance of any company is in the small details.
On Friday May 31st, our small Civil Life brewery crossed another milestone and added another flag in our cap when we loaded up a truck from our Illinois distributor Robert “Chick” Fritz with cans of our flagship American Brown and CRAFT BEER. (For now, we are holding off on a bigger piece of our distribution puzzle, our great home state of Missouri). Since this was only our second day using the canning line, (it’s able to pump out 2 cases of beer every minute) we knew it would be hard to predict exactly what time we would be ready for the pickup. When their driver, Eric showed up we still had to can about 85 more cases to get him a full 3rd pallet of American Brown. He jumped right in and started helping us fill pallets and load his truck. “Your Friendly Beer Distributor” is printed on the door of every beer truck Chick Fritz owns. I’d probably add hardworking to that as well.
I seem to only remember a few dates these days, my wife’s birthday, my child’s birthday, the day I tried to sit still for 24 hours straight and the day Chick Fritz began distributing us in Illinois in 2015. I’ll tell you more about this when I serve you a pint in our pub. Our Civil Life American Brown is on tap at many great Illinois establishments and it’s entirely because Chick Fritz has believed in the Civil Life and took a chance on us. Some of our many great Missouri customers would be shocked to learn how many times patrons cross the mighty Mississippi to come to the Civil Life. I am looking at you Rob, Bill, Bonnie, Erin, Zach (Go to Taqueria Z in Edwardsville and say hi to Zach and the gang), Matt, Charlie just to name a few. I was sure for many months all of you lived in Tower Grove South. If you live in Missouri and haven’t been to Illinois lately for a few pints you are missing out. There are many great establishments on the other side of the river and we shouldn’t let any river, even if it is a mile wide uh now, 2 miles wide divide us. We are one economic region.
There are many reasons why we chose to distribute first in Illinois and hold off on Missouri for a bit. If you have been paying attention to the odd slow way the Civil Life has grown in reverse the last couple of years, you probably realized that we have been very methodical and patient even when numbers haven’t gone our way. Perhaps to a fault as many other breweries have passed our volume numbers as they went into cans first or have been able to afford a sales staff. It’s okay, I’d say to myself as getting involved in a production race is a bit too much for me since I haven’t been on a track team since 1988. The Civil Life will set no land speed record this year either but Chick Fritz has grown our draft every year we have been with them and they have invested heavily in the Civil Life. Fun Civil Life factoid: Illinois has more Civil Life neons than even St. Louis. We have done several events in Illinois over the years and every time a group from Chick-Fritz is there to enjoy the event. Each year, one of my favorite beer dinners is at Trenton House in Trenton, Illinois (I’ll mark you down for next year) and each year, Chick-Fritz shows up with at least 10 people. Of course, Erin, Bill, Rob and Bonnie were there too this year. The Trenton House annual Civil Life Beer dinner is also the only place in the world that cans have been sold outside of the Civil Life for the past two years.
You might be wondering still why we didn’t try to also release in St. Louis at the same time. Well, honestly when I sent the entire list of our summer production to Chick-Fritz they said they could take it all but also understood that we have other commitments and would be happy with whatever we could send. I thought to myself for over 5 minutes but I thought so hard that it felt like 6 minutes. Once again, I agreed with myself and me that this was the right thing for our small company and that Illinois was the place to launch our cans. Most importantly, this will give us some time to learn how to use this new expensive machine at a pace that works with our current schedule and what we realize now are fairly significant space issues. A huge thank you to our friends across the street from the brewery at EZ Storage that are storing all of our extra kegs.
Simply put, our plan for our first summer of cans is to learn how to walk first. We’ll get all the protocols in place and get our staff trained properly over the next couple of months. We already have made some adjustments from the way we stack our full pallets (thanks Carl!), the pallets new brite (that isn't mispelled but I did misspell misspelled) cans will come in on, our can supplier, our tray supplier and an adjustment on the canning line by adding a non-violent air knife to get more water off the cans before our labels go on. Wasting a roll of labels makes one think that there must be a better way. The first adjustments are the easiest but we’ll also be relentless in our pursuit for dissolved oxygen numbers so low that people think Dylan is some type of beer Sorcerer. Perhaps we’ll even staff up a bit more in case Eric can’t stop by to help us. We’ll take our time learning to walk as we have always believed that it’s harder to do things right if all we are concerned about is going fast. Mach II with our hair on fire just isn’t much of what we do at the Civil Life. We do not at this time have a time line for when we will get to St. Louis in cans outside of our brewery. So perhaps we should call this a long walk or a walkabout. Of which I actually quite like, you might not know but once I walked 500 miles to Cape Finesterre, Spain (translates as End of the Earth) on the Camino de Santiago and I’d walk 500 more. SPOILER ALERT: There is a bar at the end of the Earth just as there should be.
We hope over the next few months we get learned and educatameted on the canning line and are able to take on a bigger task of supplying our thirsty St. Louis patrons in pubs, restaurants and grocery stores. I can assure you nothing would make me prouder in St. Louis than to walk into a convenience store and be able to walk out with a 6 pack of American Brown and some Cheetos. Not to mention the many great bars, restaurants and retail stores that are chomping at the bit to get our cans. That old adage “Patience is a virtue” might seem like a bunch of crap right now but please pop on into the pub some day and we can talk more over a pint. I don’t like to let anyone down but I do wholeheartedly believe this is the correct path for our little brewery.
If I was to look at my magical cracked crystal ball, I’d say my bet (keep in mind I have never won a bet in 46 years but am feeling pretty good about this one) is we will have the canning line running smoothly sometime in the future and be ready to support the St. Louis market sometime after that future day. I don’t want to pin down a date at this point as many of you may recall we announced an expansion in 2016 at our State of the Beer Union address, well, there still is no building on the lot but there is a pretty interesting formation of weeds taking over. Until then please, please seek out our beers on tap around town. If you are a bar or restaurant, the good people at Major Brands can let you know what is available in draft. If you are a true Civil Lifer yourself, the biggest thing you can do for us is ask for the Civil Life on draft when you are at your local pub or restaurant. As I have always said, “Drinking a beer on tap at any establishment is as good as drinking it at the Civil Life.” Best yet, supporting the many pubs and restaurants that carry our beer is what makes our business work in forward motion and not so much in the moonwalk motion of the last 3 years. We can’t do this without them.
We thank you from the bottom of our livers. We thank you for your continued support of our little brewery and for believing in the Civil Life.
There is another old adage that says good things come to those who wait. We say good things come to those who drink Civil Life. Hopefully this stage won’t take long, but I thought it would be best if you heard it from me. If you are looking for some of that CRAFT BEER for sale. You might want to head across the river and say hello.
As for us, our small brewery just got a little less small. We’ll keep reaching inside and moving onward at a Civil pace. We’re not sure where we are going or when we will get there or even how to get there. But when we do get to where we didn’t expect to be we will let you know we have arrived at someplace in the future. Until then, I will keep asking myself and me if I am really the correct person to run this brewery. Survey says, "Perhaps" as the crowd says, “Build that Bar.” Decoder rings are available for this blog post by sitting at the bar and talking with me. No extra charges apply.
Captain of the “sometimes wayward” Barley Ship
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.