Brew Day for the Brew Crew
One of the great things about working at Cape May Brewing Company is that we all get the chance to participate in a Brew Day as part of our training. From the Beertenders to the Marketing Department, each member of the Brew Crew can take a day on the brewery floor, learning what the team in Production do each and every day.
Generally, we learn that they work very, very hard.
Last week, four Brew Crew members got their moment to shine: Tasting Room Manager Chris Costello, Private Events Coordinator Kathy Forler, Beertender Rich Schmidt, and Marketing Assistant Kristen Taylor.
We caught up with Chris, Rich, and Kristen after their grueling day on the floor. (Unfortunately, Kathy had to run to her shift in the Tasting Room.)
“Ensuring that everyone on the Brew Crew knows how our beer is made and what goes into making a great batch of beer is part of giving our customers the best brewery experience possible,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “It’s important that they learn the various ins and outs of what goes into each beer, what makes each style different, and what we do to give our fans the best craft beer around.”
They had what’s called a grain-to-glass day — a little bit of everything — as they brewed some Snag & Drop and an upcoming release.
“There are a lot of moving parts that I didn’t fully appreciate before this,” Kristen says. “Seeing the grain-to-glass approach was interesting, because I know all of that in theory, how to make a beer. But, actually doing it is a whole different story.”
“We started with the silo outside through to the canning line,” Chris said. “We got to see dry-hopping on Coastal and kegging on Coastal.”
“We really did everything,” Rich said. “Hands-on. Added hops.”
“Spent some time in the lab,” Chris said.
“Spent grain,” Kristen said.
We were trying to find out what they thought was the most interesting part of the day, but it sounds like they really loved all of it.
“The whole process was interesting,” Rich said. “Seeing how it’s done. When you give tours, you can talk about it, but unless you really see it or do it, you get a better perspective of what it is.”
Rich thinks the Brew Day will help him to give a better, more insightful tour.
“Oh, absolutely!” he says.
“I can give a tour now,” Chris jokes.
Chris was impressed with the amount of science and precision that goes into brewing beer.
“I don’t think people think about that when they think about brewing beer,” he says. “There’s a lot of science. There’s a lot of checks and balances to keep it safe. We spent some time in the lab, checking pH levels and yeast viability.”
“There are a lot of moving parts that have to work together,” Rich says. “The timing has to be right for everything. If a brewer’s brewing and he needs the yeast, the yeast has got to be ready. If he needs the hops, the hops have got to be ready. If no one’s there to do it, he has to run and do it, and now that’s taking time away from this, or time away from that.”
The weird thing is that, with all of the precision that’s needed on the brewery floor, there’s also a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.
“There’s a lot of time where you’ve got to wait an hour in order to do something,” Chris says, “but once that hour’s up, you’ve got a split second to get the next step done, then you’ve got an hour to wait.”
Yet, the day was not without its moments of zen.
“You can look at the canning line when it’s not being operated,” Rich says, “but when it’s working, it’s a whole different thing.”
“I can spend hours just watching that thing,” Chris says. “It’s like those weird, visually-satisfying videos on Instagram.”
Obviously, working in a brewery, they were all familiar with the general process of brewing. In fact, all three of them have tried their hand at homebrewing at least once. However, brewing five gallons is a far cry from brewing 30 barrels.
“Dabbling in homebrewing is one thing,” Kristen says, “but it’s obviously a whole different scale. We were talking about the amount of hops: dumping buckets in as opposed to a little packet in a homebrew kit.”
“The grain, too,” Rich says. “We used 2,500 pounds of grain in Snag & Drop, as opposed to the eleven pounds that I’m gonna be using at home.”
Ultimately, they were impressed with the chance to get their feet wet — so to speak — on the brewery floor.
“It’s a good opportunity,” Chris said. “Everyone in the company comes into the Tasting Room and sees what we do, but it was a good chance to see the hard work that production puts in every day. We’re pouring beers. We’re not hurling kegs. They probably go up and down the steps on the brewhouse God knows how many times a day.”
While they had fun and learned a lot, it doesn’t sound like any of them will be applying for a transfer anytime soon, though.
“Yeah, I’m tired,” Rich jokes. “It’s a lot like work over here.”
“It’s a little different from pouring beers,” Chris said.
You’ll be able to taste the fruit of their labor soon enough! Snag & Drop is out this week!