Part of the VBC philosophy is sourcing ingredients and supplies from people and companies that we know and trust. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (or O-I), a company that produces glass containers of all imaginable shapes and sizes, is one such supplier. They currently operate 19 plants across North America (and 77 worldwide in 21 countries!), including one just down the road in Toano, Virginia. We aren't planning on full-scale bottling during our first year, but plans are in place to purchase a packaging line within 12-24 months. That means that at some point we will need...wait for it...glass bottles!
As the main supplier of glass to the craft beer industry, the O-I folks always put together a fantastic, informative booth for BrewExpo America (part of the Craft Brewers Conference). While visiting with the O-I representatives this past April we mentioned how close our brewery would be located to the Toano plant and that we were interested in a tour at some point in the future. When we returned to Virginia we were immediately put in contact with Chris Tonk, the Plant Manager in Toano. Within days we were scheduled for a tour in early May!
Chris met us when we arrived at the plant and gave us a quick overview of the history of the company and the plant, the glass production process, and the different containers that are made in Toano. Owens Bottle Company was founded in 1903 and merged with Illinois Glass Company in 1929 to become Owens-Illinois, Inc. The Toano plant was built in the mid-1970s in response to the opening of Williamsburg's Anheuser-Busch brewery in 1972 (the plant no longer produces glass bottles for the brewery following InBev's 2008 acquisition of Anheuser-Busch). The plant currently produces almost one million containers per day, including the standard 22 ounce and 12 ounce bottles used by most craft brewers. Following the overview we donned the required safety equipment and headed into the plant!