A Week At Fordham

Fordham Logo

This week (August 21st-24th) I got the opportunity to volunteer at Fordham Brewing Company in Dover, DE. I had been in contact with the Head Brewer, Walter Trifari, several times via e-mail inquiring mostly about opportunities with helping him brew and additionaly about just general help around the brewery. He was quick to reply and basically said that they bottle beer every other week usually on Monday’s or Wednesday’s and would I be available. At the time I was not, but I told him during July and August I could come down every Wednesday if he needed help. He never e-mailed me asking for help, so I assumed he didn’t need it. Last week I decided to give hime one last shot since August was almost up and asked if he needed help. Because of the timing of several different things at the brewery he was very much in need of help. So, kind of unbeknownst to me, I just signed up for four days of bottling.

Fordham’s bottling line is semi-automated. The reason I say this is because there has to be people at certain spots to make certain things happen, but generally the machines do most of the work. Here is a brief (and probably) incomplete run down of how the bottling line works. First, someone takes either loose empty beer bottles and puts them onto a conveyor belt or someone takes a case of empty beer bottles and puts them on onto a conveyor belt. If it is a case, there is a machine that extracts the bottles from the case, so the bottle go in one direction while the cardboard box goes in another. Next, the bottles are funneled down a conveyor belt to the true bottling aspect of the machine (actually multiple machines, but whatever). Anyway, the bottles are rinsed and sanitized, then flushed of air and filled with CO2, then filled with beer, then fobbed (basically another way of trying to make sure all the air is out of the bottle), then capped, then rinsed, then onto another conveyor belt. It probablt takes each bottle about five seconds to go through all of that part. The bottles are then shuffled down the conveyor belt to a dryer, then a labeler, and then seperated to be filled into cases. A person then pushes a button to raised the case and lower the bottles so they meet again. The same person then folds up the lid of the case and sends it through a taping machine. After that someone is standing at the end to lift the case off and stack it into pallets. Once the machine is fully running I would guess it takes a bottle about 30 seconds to travel from start to finish.

My job for the week was one of three: bottle loader, button pusher, or pallet stacker. None are glamorous, all are important. The trully difficult job is the person who has to maintain / watch the filler and labeler to make sure things are running smoothly. I kind of viewed the bottle loader position as feeding the mouth on the great bottling beast, and the pallet stacker as sort of the ass extractor, or something. The button pusher (man I make these sound exciting) was maybe the intestine or the colon . . . dunno, whatever. Anyway, it was a long physical week and I’m glad I had the experience and the opportunity to help. Next time though, I think one or two days would be much better. Between driving, tolls, and the repetative physical nature of the job (oh yeah, it was really loud too), I would not want to do that everyday by any means.

Hopefully I have created a relationship with a big brewery in the area and will have more and better opportunities around the bend. To say nothing else, it was an eye-opening experience. Also, they were generous enough to give me about a case of beer a day too, so right now I have some of their Lager, Copperhead and two seasonals, the Maibock and Oktoberfest – lucky me!

One Response to “A Week At Fordham”

  1. Fool Circle - Artisanal Ales » Blog Archive » Fordham Brewery Says:

    […] new at Fordham, how things have been in the last year, and when am I going to come down and volunteer again. While we were there (at 8:00 in the morning) Walt offered us some beer samples after a very brief […]

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