By Eric Peterson / CompanyWeek | Jan 03, 2016
Equipment for Breweries
Founded: early 2015
Employees: 2 (plus contract engineers)
After consulting for Anheuser-Busch in Colorado and California 2011-12, Van Riper brought that knowledge to Odyssey after buying a Cask manual canning system "and automated some things around it." He sensed an opportunity with 4,000 breweries in the U.S., the most in history, and only "a small handful" of companies providing automation to the market.
"We both have automation backgrounds," says Van Riper, citing his experience with control systems and LeFevre's mechanical engineering expertise. "Brian finally started seeing what I had been saying. The market for brewery equipment is only going to be getting bigger. I was willing to sell Odyssey to focus on this."
Twin Monkeys’ target market is "small packaging breweries," says Van Riper, before they graduate to regional scale.
All Twin Monkeys products are named for rivers: The Yukon is a dual-headed keg washer, and the Yampa is a tabletop canning system.
Prices at $15,900, the Yukon is designed to take the pain out of cleaning kegs. "Having experience as a brewery owner, keg washing is one of the necessary evil things nobody wants to do," says Van Riper. "Basically, it's really labor-intensive and manual."
A small batch of kegs can easily take an employee several hours, but that same employee can load two kegs into a Yukon unit, press start, and multitask while they wash for five to eight minutes, then repeat. "It completely frees up the day," says Van Riper. "We've got some user-friendly controls for alkaline or acidic cleaners, wash, sanitize, or wash and sanitize. It's pretty versatile in that way."
Somewhat portable and partially automated, the $39,750 Yampa fills 15 cans a minute. "One of the design philosophies we put into it was to solve some of the problems people are having with smaller lines," says LeFevre, noting that it's easier to clean and realign than other small canning systems.
With capacities of 40 to 80 cans a minute, the Animas and San Juan canning lines are due out in spring 2016. "We're going to make Animas expandable into our San Juan," says Van Riper. Pricing is not finalized, but he projects the Animas to sell for about $80,000 and the San Juan $130,000.
Colorado Automation houses Twin Monkeys and is its contract manufacturer. LeFevre founded the 12-employee manufacturer of robotics and conveyor systems in 2005.
"We've gotten a ton of interest," says Van Riper. "That's starting to translate into sales."
Favorite beers: Van Riper is always looking for something new and different. "I gravitate to good beers over bad beers," he says. "I have my moods."
"I'm a big fan of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter," says LeFevre, who notes that his passion for dark beers vacillates to light lagers in the summer months. "I'm not a big, hoppy kind of guy."
Challenges: "Keeping enough time free for us while operating other jobs," says Van Riper. After selling Odyssey in late 2015, that dynamic is changing, but the hurdles of a startup tend to revolve around doing more with less, he adds.
Selling a premium canning line like the Animas or San Juan that eliminates transient air requires some customer education, adds LeFevre, to keep it competitive with cheaper "snorkel-based systems." Same goes for the Yukon, which is priced higher than imports from China. "You're not going to get any service on it," he warns.
Opportunities: A big market with plenty of potential: Twin Monkeys has received inquiries from breweries in 15 countries. Beyond the upcoming canning lines, a depalletizer is in the works, and Twin Monkeys will also tackle custom projects. "We will automate brewhouses," says Van Riper.
Needs: Sales. "We're still a startup and we need to get out in front of our customer base," says Van Riper.