First Draft with Toucan Mobile Canning's Mo Oelker

Co-owner of the travelling aluminum can packaging company talks beer

Mo Oelker once sat in a bar in Lexington, Ky., listening to the guys from Country Boy Brewing describe the various money and space constraints prohibiting them from canning their beers. But when they mentioned they'd been approached by a mobile canning operation, "the light bulb went off in my head," he says. "I set off to find out more."

Oelker, who worked — and still works — full-time for a can sheet mill that supplies aluminum to industry leaders such as Crown Holdings and Ball Corporation, attended the 2013 Craft Brewers Conference and decided to become one of Colorado-based Mobile Canning Systems' first affiliates. He purchased a canning line and Toucan Mobile Canning was born in March 2013. Mo's son Carl soon left his corporate job to become his father's business partner. In two short years, the Oelkers have worked with breweries in Tennessee (Nashville's Jackalope Brewing Company), Alabama (Gadsden's Back Forty Beer Co.), Missouri (4 Hands Brewing Co.), and Georgia (Orpheus Brewing, Wild Heaven Craft Beers, Second Self Beer Company, Eagle Creek Brewing Company, and three more on the way). They even can Country Boy's beer now, too. A week before the Nasville-based Toucan put Orpheus' Peace.War.Truth.Lie IPA into cans for the first time, Creative Loafing caught up with the elder Oelker about his company's fast rise and exciting future.

Describe your first beer.

My dad used to drink the glass quart bottles of Wiedemann's Fine Bohemian-Style Beer from Cincinnati on a pretty regular basis. Some of my favorite family photos show the cousins, my siblings, and myself holding these large bottles at a very early age.

How did you get your first customer and how did you then grow from that base?

Our first customer was Jackalope. In March of 2013, Carl and I walked in and announced we were going to put their beer in cans. Steve Wright, their head of operations, looked at us like, "Sure you are." In December of 2013, we canned the first run of Thunder Ann Pale Ale and are now over 250,000 cans packaged. We now have nine breweries using our services throughout the Southeast.

Why might a brewery choose mobile canning over having its own canning line?

There are several reasons. Mobile canning lines have no cost of capital involved with the machinery; we provide labor to operate the filling end of the line; and the brewer doesn't have to dedicate space for a fixed line and can spend their money on additional fermentation capacity.

How do you plan to keep up the growth?

As the craft beer industry grows in the Southeast, we're growing right along with it. We're taking delivery of our second canning line in early fall and plan to have it dedicated to the market in and near Atlanta. We are one of 14 Mobile Canning Systems affiliates in the U.S. (there are two in Canada), so we do have a network of mobile canning companies that we utilize to share best practices.

What's your impression of Georgia beer now that you've worked with a few of our makers?

Despite the oppressive regulatory environment, the industry is growing at a rapid rate. While we're encouraged with the recent changes that were made, we think there needs to be additional efforts made to get Georgia on par with the rest of the country. Georgia brewers are making some of the best beer in the country and people are taking notice. Too bad they can't purchase these beers directly from the craftsmen that make them.





Christmas in July
?When: Sat., July 4, 10 a.m.
?Where: Sprayberry Bottle Shop
?Price: Depends how many cellared beers you buy
?This Marietta beer store will sell a bunch of beers it’s been cellaring, including selections from Lost Abbey, Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien, and many more.

American Hombrewers Association Rally
?When: Sun., July 12, 1 p.m.
?Where: Monday Night Brewing
?Price: Free for AHA members
?Monday Night invites Atlanta-area homebrewers to sample some MNB beer, learn about hops, meet other local beer enthusiasts, and take a VIP tour of its brewery.

Great Southern Craft Beer Competition
?When: Sat., July 18, 6:30 p.m.
?Where: Red Brick Brewery
?Price: $30
?Attendees will get two vote on two homebrew finalists in a blind taste test as well as enjoy Red Brick tours and samples, alongside food, live entertainment, and more.

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