BERLIN — To get its beer into cans, Burley Oak Brewery is thinking outside the box, launching a Kickstarter campaign this week to generate funding for a canning line.
Canning beer from its Berlin brewery has been a goal for Burley Oak since it first opened in 2011. Distribution has been steadily growing over the years and now includes a tasting room, takeout growlers and 750ml bottles as well as kegs that are shipped around Maryland and the mid-Atlantic. But owner Bryan Brushmiller has always wanted to make Burley available by the six-pack and the Kickstarter fundraising effort might be the fastest way to make that happen.
The brewery’s Kickstarter page launched Monday and within less than 24 hours thousands of dollars was raised. As of Thursday at 10 a.m., more than $21,000 had been pledged by about 135 different backers with a total goal of $45,000. The amount seemingly jumps every time the page is refreshed. Brushmiller said he is thrilled over the local response.
“It’s a really community involved project just like how this brewery was built by $5 and $6 pints of beer,” he said. “It’s a true community-supported small business.”
Brushmiller admitted that he had some reservations about turning to Kickstarter to raise money for a canning line at first. For those unaware, Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing website that allows businesses and individuals to pitch their ideas for projects and set a financial goal to make that project happen.
People are able to pledge money to the projects, often in relatively small amounts, and usually receive some kind of incentives or recognition if the project meets its goal. If the project fails to meet its funding goal, then no one who pledged money is charged.
While initially uncomfortable, Brushmiller agreed to look further into Kickstarter and quickly found that it was a perfect tool for Burley to make canning happen.
“That was the neatest thing, that we could raise $45,000 by $10 at a time,” he said. “I thought it was neat that it would involve a lot of people and involve our community.”
Burley Oak isn’t just asking for backing for free, either. The brewery plans on delivering different incentives and accommodations based on how much people are pledging. It starts with stickers, koozies, bottle openers and T-shirts and tops out by giving backers brewery “co-worker privileges” for a year, private brewery tours and the opportunity to create their own beer.
All of the “AmeriCANmade” gifts are unique for the Kickstarter campaign and there are other rewards like signing the canning line and a custom poem from brewery staff that Brushmiller believes will give supporters a real sense that they are part of Burley Oak Brewery.
If the $45,000 goal can be reached within the next month or so, Brushmiller will jump into canning full-speed. If backers overfund the project, which happens frequently with popular Kickstarter campaigns, then Brushmiller promised that Burley Oak will step up to the plate to deliver even more.
“Right now ,we’re probably going to can one [type of beer] in the beginning and then depending on how much we go over we’ll can up to three. We’re not sure on the beers yet,” he said. “Just like with the Kickstarter how we made it community oriented we’ll probably do the same thing with the beers.”
Canning will start small and local and spiral out from there. The brewery has the potential to reach 19 East Coast states through its distribution network but Berlin and Worcester County will be the first to see anything new.
Cans of Burley Oak beer would certainly be something new. Brushmiller chose cans over the more traditionally anticipated bottles for a number of reasons. Cans are easier to recycle and produce a lower carbon footprint while being transported. They also fit better with the area’s active lifestyle, according to Brushmiller.
“Anywhere that glass is prohibited cans fit right in,” he said.
Finally, cans better protect beer from UV light and oxidation. Even the darkest bottles with the tightest caps can’t shelter beer as well as a quality can, Brushmiller explained.
The specifics of canning along with dozens of other details on the project are laid out on Burley Oak’s Kickstarter page. The “Wild Goose Canning” system that the brewery would like to purchase is small enough to fit on-site but large enough to deal with initial canning goals and not difficult to upgrade. Brushmiller sees Burley starting with one batch of beer per week canned with an eventual goal of five batches.
The Kickstarter has a lot of other information as well as a short video. Brushmiller thanked Good Clean Fun Life, an online magazine, for filming and producing the video which he promised is worth a watch even for those unwilling or unable to pledge.