Farewell Meheen

Two weeks ago today the curtain came down on the illustrious career of Kinnegar’s faithful bottle filler, the Meheen. We raised a glass to toast the packaging team as they celebrated the retirement of their greatest foe. Our 6-headed colleague had been cursed and sworn at on an almost daily basis since its much-anticipated arrival in November 2014. It wasn’t always easy but that sturdy little trooper never, ever let us down.

The glasses we raised were in acknowledgement of the monumental effort that it has taken to fill 5.5 million bottles of Kinnegar. Just about the only “automatic” feature of the Meheen was the filling. Bottles were lifted from the pallet onto the loading side of the filler, 24 at a time, using a weighty cassette. Once rinsed, they were lifted further onto the ramp from which they gravity-fed through the filler. Filled and capped, the bottles chugged along a belt to the labelling machine, after which they were lifted into cases. The case was then fed through a case sealer and finally lifted onto a pallet. 4 x lifts totalling 30kg lifting per case. 450,000 cases. We reckon that the packaging team has lifted 13,500 tonnes over the past decade. 

Line up all the bottles filled on the Meheen and they’ll reach for 375km. Yes, the faithful Meheen has taken Kinnegar a very long way.

A big financial investment in 2014, we purchased it with the help of a combined grant and loan from the Donegal Local Enterprise Office as part of Kinnegar’s first expansion programme. Just over a year into commercial-scale production, we were already struggling to meet demand. Beside our original K1 brewery, the stables that had until then housed Rachel’s and Libby’s horses were converted into a packaging area and “automated” filling commenced.

Tom, Louise, Sandra and Daniel were the team that first mastered the Meheen. They were assisted over time by a colourful array of interns — Simon from Switzerland and Manon from France, to name but two of the early recruits. 

As we moved from K1 to K2 in the summer of 2017, the Meheen had a stint as a mobile bottling unit, shuttling the 24km between the two facilities in a nerve-wracking manoeuvre in Rachel’s transit van. We bottled in Rathmullan for the final time in September 2017 before the Meheen settled into its new home, feeling very tiny in the enormous almost-empty space of K2. Since then that space has filled up at pace. The canning line arrived in 2018 and stole all the packaging area's limelight, but the Meheen soldiered on.

Many, many hands worked on the Meheen line over the years. Jack, Dave, Paul, Angela, Chris and Laurie manned it to the bitter end, with our engineer Gavin, spanner in hand, nursing and cajoling from the sidelines. It’s unlikely that anybody ever worked at Kinnegar without standing on that line for a shift. For an “automated” filler, bottling with the Meheen was an intensely labour intensive effort. Nobody contributed more to that effort than Dave. We’re pretty sure that we saw a tear glisten in his eye as we filled 12,000 bottles of Scraggy Bay on that final day. His glass was raised higher than anybody else’s for the toast!

So, is that the end of the line for bottling at Kinnegar? Far from it. Watch this space!

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