Ch-ch-ch-changes… in the Tasting Room
If the past year has taught us anything at all, it’s that just about everything you’ve ever known is subject to change. Sometimes they’re good changes, sometimes not-so-much, but, either way, this pandemic has certainly kept everyone on their toes.
Take the experience of visiting the brewery: as more information regarding the pandemic has come to light and as the outlook has grown more optimistic, we’ve changed and modified the experience multiple times, from being closed completely to creating a take-out window to allowing for outdoor dining to expanding the Brewtique to opening the Brewtanical Garden, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
We’ve been rolling with the punches, and you guys have been right there, along for the ride. So, we wanted to clue you in to a number of changes that you may encounter on your next visit. We got together with Tasting Room Manager Jake Hauser and Brewtique Manager Kaitlyn Smith to get all the deets.
“When you enter through the Tasting Room entrance,” Jake explains, “your greeter will seat you in the red, blue, or yellow section — we came up with a new seating system that helps with the flow of people being sat and speeds the time that their server will come greet them. It also cuts down on our wait time.”
However, if we happen to be on a wait, you’ll be asked to wait outside.
“It’s easier now that the weather’s a little nicer,” Jake says. “It helps avoid people having to wait in line if they’re only here to shop in the Brewtique. We were running into issues with the Brewtique line getting extremely long, so we ripped out a couple of tables and created a snake-like amusement park line.”
We’ve expanded the seating a few times, as well, each time the governor has increased the indoor seating limits throughout the pandemic. Now, we also have seating along our half-wall, which is what necessitated the entrance change.
“We threw those in when we got bumped up to 35% capacity,” Jake says, “because we were able to have more people, but we didn’t have more space for seating. So, we kind of improvised, making little four-seat sections.”
However, now that we’re at 50% capacity, we’ve been able to add some tables back into the Tasting Room bar area.
“We finally have people sitting in the Tasting Room, which is nice,” Jake says. “For the first time in over a year. We’ve got four tables in the Tasting Room, now. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Speaking of directional movement, the exits in the Tasting Room have remained more or less the same.
“The flow remains much the same,” Jake says. “Folks can exit through the back of the Beer Garden or through the Brewtique.”
We’ve also made a number of changes inside the Brewtique.
“I started begging Chris for another cooler about four months ago,” Kaitlyn says. “When we were looking at the release schedule, I realized that we had four summer beers that are around all summer, four seltzers that are around year-round, all of our core brands that are around year-round, and basically a new canned release every Friday: we have a lot of beer.”
“We want to make sure that, when people buy our beer, they’re getting it in the condition that we want them to,” Kaitlyn continues, “and, unfortunately, without the new cooler, it would all have to get stacked on the floor.”
“So, we bought a new cooler.”
And, once we did, we realized that we needed more display space on the floor of the Brewtique, so, you may also notice that we removed an entire wall. There was a small room near the exit that had previously been used as an office before being turned over to storage, but now it’s a cute little alcove.
“Once we had the conversation where we realized we needed another cooler in the Brewtique,” Kaitlyn says, “we realized we needed someplace to put that. Then, once we figured out where we were going to put it, we realized that we were losing an entire wall of display space.”
So… we made some more room.
“We built this really cute featured-item wall,” Kaitlyn says. “They’re the last-minute, fun things that you might not think to grab. You might have seen them around the space before, but it’s your last chance to take a look and realize that you want it and need to take it home.”
It’s also a space for some last-chance items.
“It might be something that’s flying off the shelves and I think it’s something that we don’t need to advertise any more than it’s already advertised. People know to look for it, and they can find it there.”
And we also found some space in there to add a much-needed second register. At first blush, it might seem like a weird place to put a register, but it works well.
“It’s really great,” Kaitlyn says. “You can just grab whatever you want and peace out without having to do a second loop in the store. When it’s busy, the Brewtique can be a little overwhelming, but now that you know that that section is there, you’ll know that everything you want to grab from the Brewtique is in that little corner and you can make a beeline for it. Grab your beer, head over there, grab your merch, and go home.”
“I made poor Kara paint the entire Brewtique with the tiniest paintbrush, and she was a real trooper about it,” she laughs. “But we really liked the chalkboard paint because it’s a great way to give people information in a nice, subtle way without being in-your-face about it. We can share our feedback on things or our teammates’ feedback on things.”
And, you’ll probably notice a bunch of new signage around the Brewtique, as well. We now have a clearly marked pickup area next to the registers.
“We moved it around a bunch of times,” says, “but, really, the only logical place is right at that barrel at the edge of the counter, because our team has to run in the backroom to get the orders. Also, it’s easy to exit from there, as well.”
The changes to the Brewtique are designed to make the facility flow a little better while making it easier for folks to find what they need.
“My favorite word is efficient,” Kaitlyn says. “We really thought to make it as enjoyable of an experience, but also make sure that the process is as streamlined as it can be. We’re limited to only fifteen people in there right now, and we wanted to make sure that people could come in, enjoy the space, and know that they have their space to be safe.”
Another big addition you may notice behind the building is the addition of a new cooler.
“I think Jake is in agreement with me on this one,” Kaitlyn says, “because we brought over a shitton more beer on Saturday, but then, throughout the day, we used that cooler to restock what we blew through.”
“It saved me a few trips on a forklift to SRE,” Jake says, referring to our supplemental storage facility on the other side of the airport, “which is nice.”
Since we can usually tell which beers will be selling faster than others, we can keep more on hand.
“It also has that new-cooler smell to it,” Jake laughs.
Some of the more obvious developments are in the Brewtanical Garden. If you recall, last summer we expanded our outdoor seating to include the wooded space behind the brewery, opening up a great deal more room to seat people outside during the pandemic.
We learned a few things about that space pretty quickly: primarily that it suddenly decided to start flooding nearly as soon as we expanded into the space.
“It flooded. All. The time,” Kaitlyn says, dramatically.
But it’s true — the slightest bit of rainfall would create Lake Cape May Brewing Company.
“When it was bad, it would cover 50-75% of the Brewtanical Garden,” Jake estimates. “There was one day when I went out there, and it was just ankle-deep water with the whole thing covered.”
“And I don’t remember it ever flooding before we put the Brewtanical out there,” Kaitlyn says.
“Someone’s sabotaging us,” Jake jokes.
So we gave the bar a lift.
“Everything’s up on a platform now,” Jake tells us. “It works out well: the jockey boxes aren’t in the mud anymore and it’s a lot easier on the beertenders’ feet.”
We also shifted things a little to the southwest.
“We changed the perimeter of the fencing,” Jake says. “And we also changed our entrance. People will now enter under the lovely holly trees we have out there.”
If you park behind the building, you’ll notice the entrance to the Brewtanical Garden has moved — it’s now on the left side of the perimeter, as opposed to the front/right side where it was last summer.
“It’s such a vibe,” Kaitlyn says.
We’ve also better curated the merchandise on display out in the Brewtanical Garden.
“It’s a little pop-up-py,” she says. “We’ll be featuring a lot of our cool, awesome products out there, but we’ll be changing it up as necessary. Right now, Boat Ramp Champ merch is taking over out there, but we do have a special, ladies’ Brewtanical Garden shirt coming this spring.”
But, perhaps most importantly, we’ve expanded the number of taps to twelve.
Well… technically, we’ve always had twelve taps out there, but we were only able to use eight at a time because we were using half-barrel kegs.
“We can fit more in the jockey boxes by switching to sixtels,” Jake explains. “Which is part of the reason that we, unfortunately, had to suspend sixtel sales this summer.”
In addition, the change will allow us to have our seltzers on tap all summer long in the Brewtanical Garden.
“We did get a few comments that people were disappointed that they couldn’t get seltzers out there,” Jake says, “so we’ll have them out there all summer long.”
Those few changes in the Brewtanical Garden will lead to fewer closures and better variety, as well as giving us an overflow waiting space.
“It’s nice because we’ll frequently be on a wait inside,” Kaitlyn says, “but now we can tell people that they can go outside to the Brewtanical and grab a beer while they wait.”
So, a few big changes, some not-so-big, but all aimed at bettering your experience at the Tasting Room.
Swing down soon to check it out!