Cans on the run

One problem: The partners lacked the $150,000 to $250,000 needed for a new canning line.

One solution: Call Mobile West Canning.

Since 2013, Mobile West has loaded a sleek, swift canning line into a truck, then hauled it to breweries in temporary need of its services.

"It's a great option for small breweries," Zirpolo said. "They run the line and we package everything off that, then store the cans in our cold box."

Mobile West charges $3 to $6 per case, far less than the cost of buying a new canning line.

"The advantages are, one, you don't have to make that capital investment and, two, you don't have to become an expert," said Matt Woempner, owner/manager of the Poway-based company. "This is not a plug and play system."

For years, San Diego beers were only available on draft or in bottles. That changed in 2012, when Scot Blair hired a Bay Area firm - the Can Van - to can three beers from his Monkey Paw brewpub.

Since then, larger breweries like Stone, Ballast Point, Green Flash and AleSmith have invested in their own canning lines. But many of San Diego County's 150-plus breweries rely on Mobile West.

"They did a great job for us," said Bill Warnke, co-founder and owner of Bitter Brothers, which hired Mobile West five times in May and June.

One problem: Mobile West is so busy, its calendar quickly fills up. In June, Bitter Brothers was unable to nail down a canning date for early July. "In the time I was unable to can," Warnke said, "I lost about 140 cases of sales."

One solution: In August,  Bitter Brothers bought its own canning line. Used and refurbished, this machine is a steady performer.

But nothing like Woempner's portable operation.

"His is the Cadillac of canning lines," Warnke said. "It's a great machine."

Mobile Canning West: mobilewestcanning.com

 

DrinkAbout on the Outs?

Was DrinkAbout too good to be true? No. Once a month for seven years, it supplied free rides to craft beer bars.

But was it too good to last? Perhaps, as it suspended operations in August.

"We called it quits," said Jeff Motch, one of the organizers. "Doing it on a regular basis was no longer relevant in the age of Lyft and Uber."

If business is defined by us vs. them competition, DrinkAbout was never relevant. On the third Wednesday of every month, owners of eight beer bars paid for a bus to ferry riders from bar to bar. The route through Normal Heights, University Heights, North Park and South Park hit some hallowed craft beer sites: Blind Lady, Small Bar, Live Wire, Tiger!Tiger!, Ritual Tavern, Toronado, The Station and Hamilton's.

"It was great," said Scot Blair, owner of Hamilton's. "You definitely saw an uptick in business and you definitely saw a lot of people on the bus."

Bar owners evenly divided all costs, and all changes required unanimous consent. Even the bus providers - Jon and Mindy McDermott from Brewery Tours of San Diego - cooperated by offering a reduced rate.

Gradually, though, passengers began to hop off these buses.

Motch, co-owner of Tiger!Tiger! and Blind Lady, cited two factors. The DrinkAbout bus followed a set schedule, while ride-sharing services offer transport at any time to any destination.

"And now there are 10 times the number of beer bars," Motch said. "You miss the bus at Blind Lady, you might just walk across the street to Sycamore Den. Then, boom, you're gone, you get a Lyft or Uber."

The final blow may have come in April, when Ritual's owners announced they were closing their bar.

Motch and Blair insist that DrinkAbout is not dead, just on hiatus while the program is revamped. Motch hopes an improved DrinkAbout bus will roll into San Diego Beer Week, Nov. 3-12.

"We all want this to get better and better," he said, "for people to get out and see other places and enjoy themselves without driving drunk.

"We don't want this to die."

For updates on the fate of DrinkAbout, visit sddrinkabout.blogspot.com.

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