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“I like a more middle-of-the-road ABV beer like Captain May IPA at 6.4%, a little more than a session, but it won't put you on your ass if you have a couple.”

Captain May IPA

Right now, with summer drawing to a close, down at CMBC, we’re looking forward to 2020: deciding which beers will be on the schedule when, which ones will be coming back for an encore, which beers have taken their final bow, and which ones will be making their debut on the Cape May Brewing Company stage.

We will lay our plans as best we can, but you know what they say about best-laid plans: they will surely go awry.

(Don’t call me Shirley.)

Beer trends happen and they happen fast

Governmental regulations happen and they can happen completely without warning.

The federal government could conceivably shut down once again.

Because of these things, we have to be able to be nimble. We need to find ways to respond and change with the market, with trends, and within guidelines.

Kinda like what we had to do with our newest release, Captain May IPA. We designed this beer as a response to trends in the marketplace and were all geared up to release it back in March. We were ridiculously excited — the liquid was planned, the artwork decided upon…

Then, our plans surely went awry.

Back in 2018, as we laid out our plans for 2019, Innovation Director Brian Hink noted that our 16-ounce lineup of hoppy, limited releases needed something new.

“We had a number of repeat brands in the fold,” he tells us. “Snag & Drop, Follow the Gull, City to Shore, and a few others were all slated to come back, but I noticed that we didn’t have any new brands in there to be packaged in the 16-ounce, 4-pack format.”

Never wanting to miss an opportunity, we were faced with some tough decisions. Which of the six brands on the schedule should we drop in favor of something new?

“We decided to add in a new brand and made the unfortunate decision to not bring back Corrosion,” Brian says. “As much as we all loved that beer, it was the clear choice to take a year off from packaging. With a slot in the lineup, we started to conceptualize Captain May IPA and had it originally slated to come out in Corrosion’s time slot in March.”

Then… that pesky federal government shutdown threw everything topsy-turvy.

And, again, we know that there were some serious consequences to the shutdown and not being able to get a beer out on time is not one of them. Regardless, ushering a new packaging design through the TTB takes time, and time was not on our side. So, we shuffled some things around: Bounding Main took Corrosion’s slot, we moved up City to Shore, and Captain May IPA could fill the September slot.

The bright side — and, when you’re talking about beer, there’s almost always a bright side — is that we had more time to develop Captain May IPA through the RAD process.

“I love the RAD process,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “It’s always about innovation: new hops, new yeast, the timing of additions, tweaking existing recipes.”

You might say, “it’s rad,” (but you probably shouldn’t because this isn’t 1989). 

“I love the end results,” she continues. “I’ve said this many times, but you gain a customer’s trust by making some great flagships. What keeps them coming back is the newer, limited-size batches. Even when I go to some of my favorite breweries now I look to see what they have that is new or experimental.”

And Captain May IPA has certainly been experimental. Other than Cape May Lager, this brew has seen the most RAD iterations of any of our beers.

“Yeah, we RADded pretty hard on this one,” Brian jokes.

RAD 008, 012, 013, and 015 were predecessors to Captain May IPA, each with their own small tweaks. The general concept of the beer stayed the same through each iteration, as did the yeast: London Ale III, our good, ol’ standby bringing a nice ester profile to complement the hops and a nice well-rounded mouthfeel.

The grain bill of pilsner, wheat, oats, and honey malts stayed the same through each iteration, as well.

“It’s a pretty straightforward malt bill for a hoppy beer,” Brian tells us. “The idea was to stay out of the way of the hops, be complementary, and provide a nice fluffy bed to provide supple support for the bouquet of hops.”

However, we definitely had fun changing up the hops in this bad boy, with each iteration in the RAD process being slightly different from the one before with a bit of carry-over.

“The first iteration was drastically different than what we eventually settled upon,” Brian said. “That one had El Dorado Amarillo and Azacca. Version two carried over the Azacca, which I paired with Simcoe and Denali. Version three ditched the Azacca and simplified it to Simcoe and Denali.”

When we finally hit upon the final RAD iteration — RAD 015, which was agreed to be the final Captain May IPA, we’d ditched the Denali in favor of Centennial and Comet to pair with the Simcoe.

We’ve always gotten a lot of mileage out of Centennial in Coastal Evacuation, and, because of that, we try to stay away from it for our seasonal brews. On the other hand, Simcoe shows up frequently, in such brews as City to Shore and Snag & Drop and as recently as Takes Two to Mango. However, Comet is a new hop for us.

“Comet is a hop that’s been around forever and never really caught on until recently,” Brian says, “and it’s been gaining a lot of favor recently. It was a varietal I was looking for an opportunity to play around with, and it seemed like Captain May IPA would be a good fit for this hop. Centennial is a great hop, but I was looking for something to play off Comet and Simcoe and Centennial was really an attractive option to tie it all together.”

In our IPA lineup, Brian considers Captain May IPA to be the “spiritual successor” to Follow the Gull.

“Like Follow the Gull, I feel it really blurs the lines between New England IPAs, traditional IPAs, and West Coast IPAs,” Brian says. “The good Captain has more bitterness than White Caps or Bounding Main, but similar to those more New England-y offerings — as well as Follow the Gull — Captain May IPA is super fragrant and hoppy and loaded with aromatic qualities in a softer, more well-rounded mouthfeel.” 

The result of this long process of development is a killer IPA, with a soft body, firm yet gentle bitterness, and a beautiful aroma of melons and over-ripened mangoes, orange-hued and opaque. 

Lauren is definitely loving this beer.

“I’m happy to see more variety, so I’ll be drinking a bunch of these,” she says. “I like a more middle-of-the-road ABV beer like Captain May IPA at 6.4%, a little more than a session, but it won’t put you on your ass if you have a couple.”

And, after its long development process, Brian is glad to see Captain May IPA hit the shelves.

“It’s always fun to see these beers be released to the wild, especially when it’s one like this that we’ve been working on for a while,” he says. “I think the artwork is great, love the color palette, and I think sales is going to do well with it.”

Ultimately, he thinks that Captain May IPA will be well-received.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to drinking this as a shiftie for however long it will last.”

Captain May IPA is available now in the Tasting Room and in liquor stores throughout New Jersey. It hits Philadelphia and the surrounding four counties on Monday. Don’t miss it!