Flexible "Green" Packaging For Carbonated Beverages
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Western Time Zone
New “BeerPouch ™ Flexi-growlers”
Eclipsing breakable glass jugs
No light, no air, means fresher beer
Even purists and traditional beer-snobs can't stop celebrating the new advantages
Mike Murphy For Beerfinder
April 10, 2014
Have you ever come up with a great idea, then kicked yourself later for not following through? This happens to me about once a month, as I never really manage to follow through on anything.
Regardless of my faults, inventor Kevin Tubbs, of Wasilla, Alaska really pisses me off (and not just because he can probably see Russia from his house).
Some 25 years ago, I took one look and knew bottles and cans would be made obsolete by this newfangled flexible packaging NASA was using in space. I watched with amazement, while our astronauts were having lunch in orbit via these “nourishment pouches”. That's when it hit me; “Heyyy...I should put some beer in those things”...but of course, I never did it.
Flash forward a quarter century, Tubbs and his “BeerPouch Flexigrowlers” are changing the face of carbonated beverage packaging world wide, and awwdammit, I'm not.
Glass growlers have remained a common, but necessary evil to most brewers since the inception of the craft brewing industry. The heavy, 64 ounce jugs proliferate nationwide, but also across the globe.
The day of the glass jug may be over. Enter the silver, 64oz. BeerPouch, Flexigrowler.
The first thing you notice, is that the pouch is sturdy, and feels unbreakable. Tubbs and his team sell this aluminum-laminated growler pouch, featuring an oxygen trap cap for freshness. It folds flat when empty, taking up far less space until needed.
As a marketing and shipping advantage, consider that a box typically holding just 6 glass growlers, now arrives at your brewery door stuffed with 200 of the 64 oz. BeerPouches, ready to fill.
BeerPouch promotes PayPal's “Bill Me Later” program. This means you can even get your pouches delivered Fed Ex, without interest or payments for six months. By taking advantage of this option brewers can actually sell the pouches off, well before they have to pay for them.
As he explains it, Kevin is a little like the Johnny Appleseed of the BeerPouch these days. His team is planting packaging dealers all over the globe, helping them tend their orchards. Currently, the network is supplying a growing list of brewers, home-brew shops, tea makers, wineries, soda pop sellers, and just about anyone who has something wet to contain.
Because of it's durability and convenience, there is a legion of hikers, runners, and well stocked “preppers “ who collect the BeerPouch for a range of secondary uses. Some of the more zealous cache them in the cellar for long term water storage.
According to staff, letters keep coming in from happy customers with new ideas for the pouch. “I've got a guy somewhere near Port Angeles, Washington who told us he is packing in fresh beer, and shingling his cabin roof with his empty pouches” notes Tubbs, who explains that he regularly revels at the ingenuity shown by his customers.
Apparently, having a BeerPouch is of great value when your brite tanks are close to polar bears.
Tubbs represents the third generation of his family in the beverage business, crediting his children with inspiring the breakthrough. “I was trying to design a container for local brewers so they could get their beer into my liquor store, when I saw my kids with their Capri-sun pouched drinks” he added. “The rest was many years of very messy testing, some epic explosions and a wide number of new designs inspired by brewers, now we are rolling out”
While I hate him for his initiative, (and my loathsome lack of it) the University of Alaska loved his ideas enough to award the BeerPouch thousands in an Arctic Innovations Competition grant, last year, naming Tubbs one of Alaska's most innovative entrepreneurs. He used the money to finish his prototypes, and now his product can be found in breweries, shops and wineries around the world.
There's secret sauce in the design, so let me try to tell you why folks are making such a fuss over Kevin's BeerPouch. First off, you need to understand that the two blood-sworn enemies of fresh beer are light and oxygen, and that every brewer learns to protect their beer from these factors as job one.
Unlike a bottle, the opaque and reflective, BeerPouch can eliminate light and oxygen with some pretty slick technology.
There's an oxygen trap (scavenger) in the cap of the BeerPouch which is something akin to a roach motel for rogue oxygen molecules. Once it lets them in, it won't release them.
Tubbs teaches his brewers to fill the containers all the way to the brim, then burp the pouch, eliminating all the airspace (can't do THAT with a glass jug). The aluminum in the pouch is a barrier to the oxygen and also holds in the CO2. There's organoleptic (flavor free) film used as a contact layer ensuring no BPA , and no change of taste from the container.
Here's the kicker; If you don't have airspace or light, you have done something very good for beer, (or any other beverage for that matter) and it's something which a bottle cannot match. Beer can change flavor in as little as an hour of light while stored in a bottle. Light damage doesn't happen in the silver draped BeerPouch.
Freshness. That's where the rubber meets the road for the craft brewer or customer, and the BeerPouch offers it in spades. This explains why even the most traditional beer-snobs are taking their old glass jugs to the rifle range.
The BeerPouch represents a truly elegant solution to problems faced by every beverage manufacturer in the world. Now consumers can reap the benefit of easier storage, cheaper shipping, and enjoy fresher tasting beer. All this, in a green container that costs less than glass.
Considering all factors including the lower carbon dioxide footprint, the BeerPouch is the greenest container for beer on the planet outside of your mouth. There is about 97% product to 3% package with a BeerPouch. Their lower carbon footprint over glass and cans leaves little comparison.
Considering all factors including the lower carbon dioxide footprint, the BeerPouch is the greenest container for beer on the planet outside of your mouth.
Non traditional? Sure it is, but that is probably what they said when brewers went from using crockery to glass.
Fresher tasting beer? Count me in, but the truth is I also love the plain convenience of this thing. I can roll one up and keep it stored in my glovebox...can't do that with a glass jug.
According to disciples of this technology, growler sales for brewers in the BeerPouch family jump about 20% when the BeerPouch is added to their lineup. It seems a great number of people don't want to collect the heavy glass jugs. Glass is also breakable, expensive, and these old fashioned growlers take up the same size empty as they do full.
It is noted that using the BeerPouch will often convert customers who might not have bought a growler. For example, customers often forget to bring back their glass jugs for a refill, and will usually decide to wait until NEXT TIME (when they remember it).
Now, brewpub servers simply hand customers a BeerPouch and explain that they don't have to wait until next time to bring home 64 ounces of their favorite ale, they can just grab a BeerPouch and go.
The TODAY show and their 40 million viewers gushed over the invention, TIME magazine mentioned the breakthrough and the beerpouch.com Facebook site has articles from all over the world touting the new technology.
“People think that this is a simple idea, but it took me nearly 15 years to figure this out” Tubbs explains, (making me feel a little better that this just didn't happen overnight).
“We are saving the planet one beer at a time” he explains, noting that the carbon footprint for the pouches is but a fraction of that found in bottles or cans. “We are proud to work closely with our manufacturing partners at R2D to customize pouches for a range of uses. This includes the BeerPouch and a range of other pouches for soft drinks, wine etc”.
Pouches only use 1/20th the amount of aluminum reguired in a can, greatly reducing their reliance on bauxite. Additionally, the pouches have become recyclable and are widely considered the greenest commercial containers with a ratio of 97% product and only 3% package, (numbers unheard of in bottling).
Amazingly, some dealers of the BeerPouch like California based EcoGrowler company; www.ecogrowler.com have a cooperative agreement that actually plants a tree for every EcoGrowler sold. Like magic, entire forests are being planted as a bi product of folks enjoying fine ales. What could be greener than THAT?
The pouches are tough, so strong that to demonstrate them Kevin fills one with air and stands on it with both feet. There are a pair of fractible seals near the tips of the spout designed to degass a BeerPouch. This solution won't allow it to break like glass often does during packaging and priming. “Keep your beer cold. We suggest a frozen gelpack and a rubber band to hold it to the pouch for anyone transporting BeerPouches unrefrigerated. This keeps the beer cold, your Co2 in solution, and our container happy” Tubbs explained. Most people keep craft beer cold anyway so this is not much of a caveat.
As jealous as I am that it wasn't me, I have to admit Tubbs has taken this pouch thing much farther than I ever would have.
So here I sit, writing this article from a van parked down by the river, while Tubbs is off saving the planet one beer at a time.
It was a great idea when I had it too...Got BeerPouch?
This beer won't break hikers' backs
What Ales You?
By Dawnell Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
(Published by: Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2002)
When exploring the hills, streams and trails of Alaska, many people like to carry a beer or two, even if it means adding weight to an already-bulky pack, pulk or gear bag. Well, thanks to Kevin Tubbs of Yukon Spirits in the University Center, hauling your favorite brews just got a whole lot easier.
Nestled amid hundreds of craft beers from around the world are lightweight backpacker pouches, which look like shiny Capri juice packages but contain beer instead. The Great Bear Brewery in Wasilla jumped into the pouch business first and "became the No. 1 selling Alaska brew in a period of one week -- to the point that folks are often waiting at the store when we open just to get a box of pouched brews," Tubbs said.
He attributes the popularity to Great Bear's tasty beer and the unique gold foil pouches that reflect light and "really stand out on the shelf in comparison to other brands with traditional packaging."
For a small outfit like Great Bear, filling pouches allows them to get beer on the shelves without facing the prohibitive expense of buying and running a bottling line. Ultimately, Tubbs wants to stock pouched beer from every brewery in the state, no matter how small the operation.
After all, the love affair with glass really has to do with appearances, not substance. Bottles weigh a lot, can break easily and let in light, which damages beer. Worse, the process of filling bottles leaves airspace between the bottle cap and beer that eventually leads to the flavor flaws resulting from oxidation.
Aluminum cans actually work better than glass bottles in many ways, but few small breweries can afford a canning operation. Plus, the flavor-barrier layer inside beer cans can deteriorate over time.
Tubbs' backpacker pouches overcome cost limitations and solve many of the quality issues. The interior layer of each pouch, he said, "is a permanent sanitary food-service barrier layer that has no flavor and will not allow flavor transference of any kind within the pouch."
So far, Tubbs has not noted any changes in flavor, even when in the pouch for up to seven months. Although he plans to continue testing the pouches, he believes "it is possible that this packaging medium may be the single best way to store high-quality beer for long periods of time."
Obviously, durability also comes into play, so Tubbs and his posse have tossed, squashed and generally mistreated the pouches to test their suitability for the rugged Alaska environment -- namely, a cooler, pack or other container often jammed, rammed and poked by mother nature, not to mention Uncle Stan and Aunt Rita.
Last but not least, the pouch is made from recycled materials and is reusable and recyclable. Heck, fishermen everywhere can haul pouches into camp with the sole purpose of filling them with fish fillets.
"Outdoors folks love the fact that the pouches are a fantastic way to package fish or game," Tubbs said. "The double foil laminates and food-service layer are ideal to help eliminate the potential for freezer burn. This is another significant advantage over bottles or cans. When was the last time you crammed a salmon in a bottle?"
How did this local boy came up with the idea?
"In a former life, like 1997, I experimented with a range of plastic substrates in the development of highly specialized "smart" telephone calling cards," he explained. "This gave me a working knowledge of which plastic laminates were available and which ones were strong, sanitary."
The possibilities seem staggering when you start thinking about consumers. Since the pouch's debut at Yukon Spirits, everyone from "green" consumers to snowmachiners and skiers to pure beer hounds has bought and devoured the product, Tubbs said.
"My experience is that folks will buy beer out of a yak's bladder if the beer is really good."
Maybe Tubbs will conquer the world with his pouch, the only one on the market that can withstand carbonation, but he just wants to get more pouches full of beer for now. He sells the packages to Arctic Brewing for sale to homebrewers and directly to commercial brewers, who then sell the filled containers back to Yukon Spirits through a local distributor.
Other stores also want to carry the beer wrap, which suits Tubbs just fine. He sees the potential of worldwide distribution as well as the benefits of having the brands at his store first.
"I'd like to see every brewery produce their own adventure brews, whether on a regular basis or for special brews they'd like to offer to a mass audience," he said. "I can see promotional angles, fund-raisers. The sky is the limit."
With that in mind, look for more Alaska-made beers in backpacker pouches soon. Great Bear products cost $4 to $7 depending on beer style, but the price gets you good beer and a ready-made receptacle for anything slimy, wet, fragile or gooey. Everyone from fisherwomen and berry pickers to camp guides, gardeners and parents can think of plenty of things that fall into those categories.
Is That A Beer In Your Pocket? Or Are You Just Happy To See
Kevin Tubbs Beer Port-A-Pack?
By James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts
Published by: The Anchorage Press, February 7, 2002
The history of beer packaging is as old as the need to keep beer that couldnt be consumed on the spot, extending at least as far back as earthen jugs discovered in Mesopotamia. Since then, beers been kept in stone, wood, glass, tin, aluminum, stainless steel and even plastic. Advances in technology have pushed beer packaging into the space age, yet most beer lovers find little glamour in what their beer comes in; its just a means to an end. Still, it ought to interest some that beer packaging history is possibly being made right here in Anchorage.
Beer container technology is driven by portability and the need to take beer farther and farther from its source; in Alaska, where backcountry travel often involves hauling far less than what will fit in the cargo area of a SUV, weight and mass become key considerations that can make the difference between packing suds or going dry. Thats one reason that local Yukon Spirits owner Kevin Tubbs developed a lightweight "Backpackers Beer Pouch" that just may revolutionize the heretofore-undiscovered high-portability beer packaging industry.
Tubbs wanted to find a way to get beer from breweries that dont have bottling lines to his store shelves. "I came up with all kinds of crazy ideas," he recalled, "including getting a tanker truck to haul a brewerys beer to a bottling plant somewhere."
And then one day he saw his daughter drinking a laminated CapriSun juice pack. Tubbs bought virtually every food product that came in a pouch and carefully dissected the pouches to determine a good match of material, durability, ease of use and cost. A foray into the medical-industry product line found Tubbs his solution, although he wont specify the materials. His testing included filling his pouches with highly carbonated soda pop and running them through the rigors of everyday use. "I had a few blow-ups along the way," he said. "I blew up samples all over my living room more than once, but now that Ive tweaked it, it passes my four-kid test and Im already making improvements, like different pressure release systems and stuff like that."
Homebrewers provided another test. "They dont even need to heat-seal the pouches for average use," Tubbs said. "There is a screw top, or the zip-lock holds the pressure on its own, so they can re-use them."
The end result so far is a very light container that entirely blocks out the two primary enemies of beer, air and light. It costs less than a glass bottle weighs virtually nothing and flattens paper-thin when empty.
"In phase two of my product, Im coming out with larger sizes, such as a 22-ounce pouch," Tubbs said. "Fishermen will find that an emptied pouch will accommodate a quarter of a salmon fillet." This should be great news for beer-packing fishermen like me who put equal emphasis on catching a buzz and catching a fish.
Tubbs had to find a local brewery that would trust their coveted suds to an untested medium. It didnt take long before Jay Kelley, brewer at Great Bear, in Wasilla, saw the potential benefits. "Its the best thing to hit beer in a long time," Kelley said, noting that the package is "totally light proof (and) doesnt have head space, so theres no air and its entirely portable which is great for backcountry travel."
Kelley didn't decide to use the bags without first rigorously testing them. "We filled some up from our tap stands, then heat-sealed them. We've been throwing them all over the place 10 to 15 feet across the room onto the floor, and they hold up just fine."
Even if you don't care about portability or cutting-edge beer packaging, you should still note that this is the first time that Great Bear beers are available in liquor stores. You can get their Great Bear Gold, Hatchers Pass Pale, Old Town Brown, Ars Kigger Scotch Ale and Pioneer Peak Porter, with the rest of their 10-beer line to follow, Kelley says. The Pioneer Peak Porter just took a silver medal at the World Beer Championship, in Chicago, where their Skwentna Stout snagged a bronze.
Now you don't have to drive all the way to Wasilla to check em out. Backpackers pouches of Great Bear beer can be found at: beerpouch.com.
By Dawnell Smith
Published by: Anchorage Daily News, March 21, 2002
After writing about Kevin Tubbs and his remarkable backpacker pouches, I got e-mails from around the country inquiring about these handy containers. Judging from what I read, the coveted "Incan" gold-medal brew-pouches struck a chord in the industry.
I also heard from a local reader who requested details like the pouch size and the means for drinking from them. Tubbs can get the pouches in virtually any size depending on what a brewery wants, but he currently stocks 16-, 22- and 64-ounce pouches. The cost of each vessel depends on the size and style of beer, not to mention the brewery's pricing strategy.
I suggest that everyone go to beerpouch.com to nab a pouch or two, but keep in mind that Tubbs has run short the past few weeks due to the pouch's popularity. But perhaps the best thing about Yukon Spirits is that if you don't find the pouch, organic Belgian ale or blueberry wine you went looking for, you can take the less-traveled path by going on a beer discovery tour. The shelves simply hold too many beers (wines and liquors, too) to bore or disappoint anyone.
While browsing, ask Tubbs about the last beer-and-food tasting at the New Cauldron in the mall. It "was a hoot," he said, though he had expected more people. The ones who showed tried Chimay, various barley wines, beers from the Great Bear Brewery of Wasilla and much more. For a scant five bucks -- that's right, $5 -- those folks tried 14 brands of beer, ate crab cakes and halibut and generally discovered cozy bliss at the Cauldron.
Tubbs has another one up his sleeve the first week of April, so get ye to Beerpouch.com and find your holy ale.
Dawnell Smith is a brewer and certified beer judge who loves talkin' about brew.
By Melissa DeVaughn
Published by: Backpacker magazine, October, 2002
Hike up mountain. Pitch camp. Chill beer in snow bank. Now that's backpacking.
Okay, we confess. We've lugged a few brews into the backcountry.
What better way to celebrate a tough day on the trail than with your favorite ale chilled in a mountain stream? Only one problem: Transporting cans and glass bottles. The former tend to explode. The latter are just plain heavy.
Now there's a better way. After watching his daughter sip from a Capri Sun fruit drink pouch, Anchorage brewer Kevin Tubbs came up with the idea for Incan Brew Beer-In-A-Bag pouches.
"Alaska has the most microbreweries per capita of anywhere in the country, and I wanted the little guys to have an inexpensive way to package their beers without investing in a bottle line," Tubbs explains.
To his surprise, the pack friendly pouches caught on almost immediately with Alaska hikers. Light, strong and reusable, the foil pouches come in 16, and 64 ounce sizes. With no exposure to light or air and a taste barrier that won't deteriorate, the Incan's contents should last indefinitely.
We sampled pale ale from Great Bear Brewing Company and it tasted as good as any beer from a bottle.
How do you get your beer-in-a-bag? Contact one of the many breweries in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest who are testing or currently under contract to use the bags or buy the beer in local stores.