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Lazy Magnolia updates production, packaging

lazy-magnolia-southern-pecan-6pack_4cBy LISA MONTI

Leslie and Mark Henderson, the founders of Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co., are both engineers, so when it came time to update equipment at their Kiln, brewery, they devised a production line that would keep the craft beer tasting better longer.

“It’s a huge big deal, both from the capacity standpoint and also the quality,” said Mark Henderson of the new $1 million line they put together.

The predominant machine is the bottler consisting of a rinser, a filler and a capper. The process starts with beer being piped in at the front of the production line and ends with cases of beer ready for sale.

Mark Henderson said the couple is “actively engaged” in the groundbreaking brewery and collaborate on making the operation run. “We do a lot of engineering on the product flow and the whole process,” he said.

Lazy Magnolia opened in 2003 and is the oldest packaging brewery in the state. The beer, which has won national and international competitions, is sold in 16 states.

The new production process minimizes the effects of oxygen, one of the three things, along with heat and light, that can ruin beer.

Brown glass bottles protect the beer from light, refrigeration combats the heat and the new production line minimizes the oxygen pickup.

“The predominant thing we’ve done is removed as much as oxygen as can reasonably be removed,” he said.

Henderson calls the new line world-class and said it’s “10 times better” than the old one. “If you went into one of the macro breweries, our equipment is better than theirs.”

Even with increasing volume and more sophisticated processing, Henderson said, making beer is still very much a craft.

“We sell about 4 million beers a year, so in order to get that right 4 million times, we spend a lot time making sure the machine handles the beer properly all the way through the process and that includes the people, the procedures and the controls. You want to make sure you’re doing it right every time.”

The goal is to provide “fresh-from-the-tank flavor and aroma many months after packaging.”

In tandem with getting their customized $1 million production line up and running, the Hendersons are updating Lazy Magnolia’s labeling and packaging, which hadn’t changed since their beer first rolled out, to make it stand out in the crowded craft beer section.

The new packaging, which will be released gradually over the next year, required new equipment and uses new, less expensive labels.

The old stick-on labels cost about nickel each, the new paper ones are a penny. “When we did that, it also allowed us to change the size of the label to make it larger,” Henderson said.

The Hendersons worked with Jason Odom, a local graphic artist, to update the label artwork with new customers in mind. “Not an insignificant number of our customers were not of legal drinking age when we got started,” Henderson said. “A decade ago, the industry was a completely different place. This was an opportunity to look at how people interact with our beer, what they’re look for, what words they key in on.”

Henderson said he gained some marketing insight recently in a local grocery store aisle. A woman searching for IPA beer looked at Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Hops’pitality and pointed out it doesn’t say IPA on the labels.  The new packaging and labeling will help to better communicate with their customers, Henderson said. The new 6-pack carriers will be out shortly with new labels.

“What we don’t want to do is lose customers who supported us for many years,” he said.  “A slow release lets our customers adjust to our new designs, while still being able to find and enjoy their favorite Lazy Magnolia brews.”

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