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“A traditional wit is all about the interplay between the yeast and the spices.”

Cape May White in Cans!

Cape May White cans are officially available!

Our newest core brand has been well-received throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and now you have the chance to bring a little of that delicious elixir home with you in a six-pack of 12-ounce cans.

To celebrate, we wanted to learn a little more about the liquid in those cans. 

Cape May White began its life as Great Wit Shark, a silver medal winner at the 2019 United States Beer Tasting Championships. At the time, our sales managers out in the field saw a need for a new witbier to take the stage.

“Sales really wanted a witbier offering,” says Innovation Director Brian Hink, “and when we did the draft variety draft in the fall of 2018, sales eagerly picked a ‘Belgian White – super simple’ with their sixth-round draft pick.”

Because of that, Great Wit Shark was designed with the long-term goal in mind of eventually scaling it up to become a major release. However, we really put Great Wit Shark through its paces before preparing to make it one of our core brands. 

When it was released over the summer of 2019, it was a Tasting Room-only release, canned in one of our awesome stained-glass, geometric, 16-ounce cans. Releasing it this way was the first step in a long process meant to ensure that we’d have the best beer possible for its eventual release as a new core brand in 2020.

The Tasting Room-only release was well-received, so we brewed up another batch and released it throughout the state, eventually keeping it in stock all the time. 

“We brewed one R.A.D. pilot brew which got us really close to what we were looking for,” Brian explains, “and then a few minor tweaks on each of the three batches of Great Wit Shark we brewed: two for the June release and one in September for the re-release.”

However, the challenge with Great Wit Shark the first time around was that we were brewing with a new strain of yeast. As we’ve mentioned before, yeast is fickle. After all, they’re the ones really making beer — we make wort and those little yeasties turn it into beer. In general terms, we know what a yeast will do, but, until we actually brew a beer with it, we don’t really know exactly how it will behave in the finished brew.

“A lot of the process was learning the yeast,” Brian says, “what temperature we should knock-out at, what temp to hold it at for fermentation, to let it free-rise or not, when to spund it, how much warm conditioning time, how much crashed time, stuff like that.”

Regardless, we learned a lot from this process.

“We got a good feel on how this yeast will behave,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “We were able to dial in our fermentation temperatures to allow for certain esters to shine through.  We’ve also seen that this is a hearty yeast strain that can handle sitting cold under pressure, and that helps us immensely because we get a much higher yield when we are able to harvest cold. Harvesting cold is especially helpful as far as scheduling brews goes because we have a little bit of a larger window for when we can brew.”

For a wit like Cape May White, the yeast is extraordinarily important, and this one originated at Hoegaarden.

“A traditional wit is all about the interplay between the yeast and the spices,” Brian explains. “You shouldn’t know where the spices end and the yeast begin, balancing the fruity esters and spicy and peppery phenols. We kept the yeast the same as in Great Wit Shark — it’s the quintessential Witbier strain and perfect for this kind of beer.”

Coriander, grains of paradise, orange peel, lemon peel — these are the spices in Cape May White, and they’re what are traditionally added to a wit. 

“The lemon and orange peel play up the fruity esters and accentuate the subtle tartness the yeast develops,” Brian says, “and the coriander and grains of paradise balance and complement the peppery and clove-like phenols the yeast puts out.”

The rest of the beer is designed to get out of the way of the yeast and the spices. We used Saaz, a relatively neutral hop, sparingly in this brew.

“A nice, noble, dainty hop that is great for these low hopped, approachable, and delicate beers,” Brian says. 

And we used flaked wheat and oats in the grain bill. These raw grains have a ton of protein in them, which translates to a bit of cloudiness in the beer. You want a bit of turbidity in a wit — the Flemish word wit translates to “white”. In addition, the flaked wheat and oats help with head retention.

“There’s a ton of flaked wheat in here!” Brian says. “The grain bill is over 50% flaked wheat and oats, which is hands-down our highest percentage of flaked grains in a beer.” 

The result is an intensely drinkable brew with fruity esters up-front and a smooth finish, perfect any time of the year. 

“Scaling up Cape May White is great as far as variety,” Lauren says, “especially with Devil’s Reach taking a step back. As opposed to Devil’s, Cape May White is a mid-range ABV beer with little to no hop bitterness. Instead, this beer smells of citrus and spices that come from the hot side additions.”

Twelve-ounce cans are available now throughout New Jersey, drop on Friday in the Tasting Room, and will arrive in Delaware and Pennsylvania on March 2nd. Don’t miss it!