The Men Who Move Beer (and Keep it from Freezing Solid)

A journey from the brewer to your mouth. With a plethora of options in my county alone, I am spoiled for choice of local craft beer and the journey from the people who brew it to the glass I imbibe from is generally very short. Sometimes a matter of feet. But not all beer can be drank with the kettles it came from sitting across the room. Macros and large craft brewers send beer all over the country and imports have to cover even longer distances. And sometimes the best way to get a large amount of beer to where it needs to go is not by foot or tire, but by rail.

Chicago has been a large rail hub since the locomotive’s early days, and it still remains so today. Grupo Modelo, known for the party beer Corona, ships their beer via rail up from Mexico to a logistics warehouse near the very large Proviso Rail Yard located in a suburb of the Windy City. The beer giant sends its product by the car load to be housed in a large facility known as the  “Beer House” where it will eventually make its way to different distribution centers across the country. Not only are the people who work at the rail yard in charge of reorienting the cars so that they get to their correct destinations, but they must ensure the product does not get destroyed in the process. And in Chicago during the winter, that means keeping the beer in its liquid state. has posted a story highlighting the efforts of two men who work a graveyard shift in the dead of winter that involves moving carloads of Corona in frigid temperatures. The piece lists beer as having a freezing point of 13 degrees Fahrenheit, but when it comes to Chicago (especially this winter) the nighttime temp can fall well below that number. What that means for Bill Diamond and Matthew Groesch, conductor and switchman respectively, is that the beer can’t be parked and ignored. The cars must be kept moving in order for the beer to jostle around which lowers its freezing point even more. And that little more means the difference between broken bottles and surviving product.

As someone who has worked in wholesale distribution, I admire the effort these men put into their unglamorous jobs for the sake of job pride. Most of us can’t stand running from our houses to our cars in weather this cold whereas these men are exposed to the elements in a place sometimes referred to as “Chiberia”. I may deride the light lager from Latin America, but a job well done can’t discriminate against the product.