Vault Brewing co-owner James Cain opens up about new brews, additional capacity, process improvements and other nitrogenated products like canned coffee and wine.
The frothy nitrogenated pour of Vault Brewing’s widget-less Nitro Can was the subject of a well-received July 2015 article, Nitro Can delivers widget-less pub-style beer. Nearly a year later, Vault cofounder James Cain discloses what the brewer is doing now with the technology and its plans—and his take on the growing market for nitrogenated beverages.
1. Company releases a Breakfast Stout
“We’ve made no major changes to the design of the can or the process,” declares Cain, “but since we first debuted our Nitro Cans we’ve gained expertise with the technique as we have released more beers using this technology. We produce only a half dozen of these Nitro Can beers a year, but along the way we’ve been able to refine the process and become more experienced at how to perfect widget-less nitrogenated beers.”
The most recent Nitro Can beer was the April release of Breakfast Stout, which Cain describes as “a coffee beer that we brew with oatmeal and lactose, local coffee, maple syrup and vanilla beans. It sold out the first day.”
2. A plan to add capacity is brewing
My obvious response to that was that it seems they should have produced more, but the logical answer is that a 10-barrel batch, or about 120 cases or 3,000 cans, is Vault’s current capacity.
However, the brewery won’t be as constrained starting in about 6 months.
“We are expanding and are in the process of building our new 20-barrel brew house to bring our capacity up to 10,000 barrels within the next couple years,” responds Cain. Vault will be adding new 40-barrel fermenters with the expansion. “That’s certainly going to enable us to produce a lot more Nitro Cans, hopefully sometime in the second half of this year,” he adds.
3. Continuous improvements to nitrogenation
Vault has made improvements to the Nitro Can process. “We’ve become more familiar with the process and better understand the variables," Cain says. "Packaging different beers gave us the opportunity to tweak amount of nitrogenation, temperature of the beer, and carbonation level. For the initial cannings, we essentially nitrogenated still beer. In subsequent runs, we’ve adjusted the carbonation amount to add more mouthfeel and provide a better drinking experience.”
He says mobile canning provider River City Cannery and nitrogen-dosing supplier Chart Industries remain “excellent partners. One of the biggest challenges with mobile canning is that the amount of dissolved nitrogen in each can is going may not be the same, unlike a larger canning operation where every can is exposed to the same conditions for the same amount of time. You could have a 4-head filler, 8-head filler or more, and there will be different boil-off times for the liquid nitrogen from can to can. However, we can quickly establish a baseline and then dial that in across the line —that’s something we have a lot more competency in perfecting now.”
Next: Nitro Can tech isn’t just for beer.