JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Anheuser Busch plant is one of 13 breweries the company operates in the US. All that beer it produces on the Northside of town goes into bottles. All those bottles are produced at the only glass plant in Florida.
For 87 years what's now known as the Ardagh Glass plant has made West Jacksonville home. It's been in the same spot since 1926 when it opened off Huron Street as Tropical Box and Glass. Soda bottles were produced there.
But now, tons of molten glass is formed into 2.7 million beer bottles a day in a plant that operates 24/7. It's only client, the Anheuser Busch brewery on the Northside.
"They use it for Bud, Bud Light, Busch, Busch Light, Natural Light, all their brands," said Ardagh Human Resource Manager, Tom Krawiec
Most people in Jacksonville know this place as the Anchor Glass plant. Last year, the company was sold to Ardagh based in Luxembourg.
Your cold beer starts off as a red hot bottle. Sand, soda ash and limestone are heated to 2800 degrees in huge furnaces. Machines spit out molten glass hotter than volcanic lava. That hot liquid is cut, shot through tubes, and dropped into a form. Air is then blown into the glass to create a beer bottle that at the beginning is quite malleable. The bottles are slowly cooled then sprayed with a special coating so they don't scratch or stick to one another.
Next stop is off to quality inspection
"It's a good job to work," said Pat Wilson who has been working the line for 38 years.
She's part of the inspection process. It's all about the integrity of the bottle. Specially designed equipment make sure the thickness of the bottle is correct, the opening is just right and no hairline cracks are present.
Bottles that don't make the cut are pushed aside. It takes just one hour to go from liquid glass to finished product.
"These bottles are going to be over at the Anheuser Brewery probably this afternoon of tomorrow most likely," said Krawiec.
There's only a handful of glass plants left in America. That's because beginning in the 1960s a new product shattered it's lofty status. Plastic has taken over as the container of choice leaving glass plants in a fragile condition.
"There's basically three large companies left in the states. We're the last glass plant in Florida," said Krawiec.
Ardagh employs more than 200 people. In January 2014, it will replace one of its furnaces with a brand new one at a cost of $8 to $9 million dollars. Those furnaces run on a lot of electricity. Ardaugh says it's monthly JEA bill can get as high as $650,000.
As long as people want to continue to drink their beer in glass bottles Jacksonville's Ardgagh glass plant will survive and thrive as a Landmark Legend in the River City.