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“We can experiment with new ingredients or processes,” explains Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm.

These beers are R.A.D.!

rad (adj.): An abbreviation of ‘radical’ — a term made popular by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Still primarily used by people on the West Coast who find words like ‘cool’, ‘awesome’, and ‘tight’ to be tired and overused; ‘rad’ is generally considered to be a much higher praise than the aforementioned superlatives. Also used as a general expression of awe.

R.A.D. (n): Cape May Brewing Co.’s new Research And Development program, which is rad.

CMB HighRes_MG_3783olIn the beginning of November, we released the first in our Research And Development program: R.A.D. #001. A work-in-progress available only in our Tasting Room, we released it with the specific objective of gaining valuable feedback from our loyal fans.

As the name suggests, this is the first in a particularly ambitious series. These brews exist somewhere between our One-Off Wednesdays and full-blown releases: R.A.D. gives us the chance to experiment with recipes and procedures with a batch that can live in the Tasting Room for a few weeks, rather than brewing one keg that kicks nearly immediately nor sending a brew into the field for wide distribution and receiving only limited feedback.

“This isn’t going to completely replace releasing smaller, limited batches,” explains Head Brewer Brian Hink, “rather it’s going to supplement those beers and be in addition to and help us try out new things.”

“We can experiment with new ingredients or processes,” explains Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, “such as a new hop variety, new fruit ingredients, new dry-hopping procedures, or even new souring methods, just to name a few ideas that we’ve actually already started to kick around.”

These beers could end up being our next seasonal or our next core brand or we may decide that it was wildly misguided and never brew it again. This series is all about experimentation, and these guys are excited about the possibilities. Our Core Value #3 — Foster Creativity — is one of the favorites of the guys in the brewhouse, and this program is specifically geared to allow their creative juices to run rampant.

“As a production brewery we have to keep our core brands flowing first and foremost,” Brian says, “and when we have a seasonal like King Porter Stomp or The Bog we don’t want to let them run out either, so the majority of the production schedule is based around these known entities, but by introducing the R.A.D. series we’re leaving a very clear and open path to more unique and differing brews to be brewed.”

CMB HighRes_MG_3683olJimmy loves the fact that the program will bring ideas from everyone on the production staff, not just him and Brian.

“It will allow us to receive feedback from our crew more easily and be able to implement that feedback,” he explains. “I don’t pretend to know everything about brewing or all of the millions of ways we can make awesome beer out of only four ingredients, so this is a direct line for our Brew Crew to have their input on some of these developing beers.”

The guys are looking forward to using this program to up their game. While we pride ourselves on having the most talented brewers on the planet, like artists of any other persuasion, they’re prone to self-doubt and uncertainty. They’re their own worst critics.

This is why we want specific, targeted feedback from our fans in the Tasting Room. While our guys are always monitoring feedback on Untappd, a lot of that information isn’t particularly targeted: most people leave a star rating and a thought or two. On the other hand, when you try a brew from our R.A.D. series in the Tasting Room, you’ll get a survey asking specific questions about the brew.

“Whether we’re overthinking one aspect or missing another,” Jimmy says, “having more feedback will help us to see the bigger picture through every detail.”

Brian offers up R.A.D. #001 as the perfect example.

“I thought we hit our target on the first try, but after reading through the feedback it appears maybe we leaned a touch too bitter,” he says. “For a clean and easy-drinking pale lager maybe the 20-25 IBU range is just a touch high — looks like in the 15-20 range would’ve been more appropriate for the style we were going for. That kind of feedback was important to hear, and if we do brew this beer again we’ll brew it with that in mind.”

IMG_9435For our fans, this program means one thing: more new, awesome beer! Since this is a primarily experimental program, it’s all about educating ourselves on how to perfect new ideas. However, as far as our fans are concerned, this program can be summed up with the words “expect the unexpected.”

“Expect us to have some fun with this program and come out with some unique beers,” Brian says, “but also expect to see some less thrill-seeking beers because that’s the nature of the beer.”

We may brew up a batch of Coastal Evacuation with the French Saison yeast we use in Devil’s Reach, just to see what will happen. We’d unleash that in the Tasting Room as R.A.D. #20577 or whatever, get your feedback, and — who knows? — it may end up as our next core brand.

“The one thing that links these beers together is that these will be fun, exciting, new brews from us,” Jimmy says, “ones that really get us excited as brewers and hopefully our fans, as well.”

The timing of this program isn’t set in stone. This isn’t like Summer Catch or our Quarterly Double IPA program — these guys have a set schedule and our fans know when to expect them. With the R.A.D. program, like Forrest’s mama says, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

“I can guarantee we’ll brew no less than one R.A.D. beer in 2018 and no more than 1,000 R.A.D. beers in 2018,” Brian says, somewhat unhelpfully. “Somewhere between those numbers is the sweet spot, I think.

“All kidding aside, the possibilities really are endless. Right now we’re working on a few potentially new core brands, and possibly some new upcoming seasonals, so I know we’ll be brewing a handful over the winter months.”

“But no matter what they’ll always be small batches that come and go pretty damn quickly,” Jimmy says, “so our fans will have to be on top of it if they want to get some!”

CMB HighRes_MG_3826olAnd the only way to taste these brews is to stop by the Tasting Room. To be completely honest, making exclusive beers is not something that we enjoy doing — we want as many people as possible to try our beers. However, with this program, small, local releases are the only way we can truly monitor the feedback.

“We want to make sure we can get as much feedback from them as we can,” Jimmy says, “and if we were to send these out to all over New Jersey, we wouldn’t get that feedback back from people, or it would be very generic. This way we can really focus on that aspect and ensure we’re getting the feedback we’re looking for.”

Also, this is an opportunity to give a little something back to our fans who are willing to make the trip to the Tasting Room. There are so many reasons to come to the brewery — take a tour, meet the staff, try a brew — and this is just one more.

“As a beer drinker I love going to tasting rooms and trying something I can’t get out on the market,” Brian says, and we know that many of you agree.

At its most fundamental, though, this program is about experimentation. It’s something Jimmy has wanted to do for awhile.

“I really believe in the scientific method for beer development,” he says, “it is a science, after all, and as much education, experience, and know-how as we might cumulatively have in this place, nothing beats brewing up a beer and seeing how it actually comes out. It’s a vital part of the recipe development process.”

And the R.A.D. program will allow us to perfect a recipe to the smallest of details.

So, keep your eyes peeled for the next releases in this program. The guys started brewing R.A.D. #002 this week and there’s more in the works, so keep a lookout!