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“It’s indulgent. It’s a dessert beer through and through."

Make Room for Root Beer Float!

Next up in our On the Way to Cape May series is No. #003: Root Beer Float. As many folks already know, we make our own root beer and have it on draft in the Tasting Room. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to grab some to-go when we have enough in stock!

Our Culinary Ops, Soda Guru, and Cellarperson JP Thomas crafts our root beer and homemade ginger ale when he has time outside of cellaring all of our other brews, and it’s a great treat when we have it on draft.

For this series, we took that root beer flavor and scaled it up in a big way. This variant might be a bit different from the root beer you’ve had in the tasting room, as the bit of lactose gives it those root beer float vibes, but it’s just as delicious. We caught up with Cellarperson Andrew Casey and Production Planning & Specialty Brewing Manager Brian Hink this week to learn more!

“When we decided on the flavors for the On the Way to Cape May series, Courtney, Chris and I were throwing around ideas,” Brian says.

“One of us threw out the idea of a root beer float, and Chris’s eyes lit up. The whole idea behind these beers is to trigger nostalgia, and that’s what happened. Chris remembered the first night of vacation down here at his grandma’s house, when she’d bust out the ice cream and root beer and whip up a float,” he says. “We knew at that point that we needed to have a Root Beer Float in this series.” 

Although we already regularly make our own root beer, canning and scaling up the brew, especially to add alcohol and lactose, is a whole other beast!

On the cellaring side, Andrew clued us in to the extensive process that many of our brews undergo as well.

“I’m doing a Blueberry Lemon Crushin’ It right now, and that’s not even half of the stuff that the seltzers go through. Not to mention, the equipment, and the filters and filter housing, those things are really f-ing heavy,” Andrew says.

“When you put them in, they’re pretty light. It’s like an air filter. When you take them out, they’ve trapped all the shit, so they’re probably about fifty pounds. I thought just putting the brews in cans was crazy, but that’s not even half of it,” he says with a laugh. 

Andrew just recently moved into the cellar from the packaging side of production, and so far he’s gotten a crash course into all things cellaring. 

“It’s more of a process than, say, running a beer through the centrifuge and having it come out into the bright tank,” he says. “With beers that have a different alcohol base, that has to come through a double sterile filter, and that’s the first transfer, into a separate fermenter, and then that’s when the flavoring gets added. That goes through the sterile filter again. Then, when they can it, there’s another filter on the canning line that it goes through. You’re talking about adding maybe half a dozen steps into the process, as opposed to our normal process for beer.”

For this brew, we wanted the base to be as clean and clear as possible.

“That’s like 20% alcohol coming out of there. The process breaks out the sugars and yeast, bringing the alcohol down. Then when the additional flavoring gets added, the extra elements of that need to all get filtered out as well,” he says.

“In terms of time, seltzers can take a lot longer. If we want to do a seltzer transfer, that sometimes has to be the only thing on the schedule for that day,” he says. “The whole set up, running, breakdown, and CIP . . . there’s a lot of added parts, which obviously then need to get cleaned and broken down at the end of it,” he says.

“When JP does his small batch stuff, he actually uses the real shit,” Andrew says, talking about the regular root beer. 

“Please put that in there,” Brandon chimes in from the back of the room. “The real shit.”

“The fun thing about this is that we’ve been doing all-natural, handcrafted root beer in the Tasting Room for a long time,” Brian says.

“When we first brought JP on in 2015, one of his first big projects was working on creating our own root beer flavor. We did a lot of trials on it and worked on it for six months. What we had on tap at the time, everyone knew and loved, so we had to make sure that it was at least as good, if not better,” he says.

“The main flavors of a root beer are wintergreen, anise, and vanilla, so finding the right ratio, flavors, and color we needed was part of the process. We wanted it to be as simple and all-natural as possible, and treat it with the same respect that we treat our beers,” Brian says. 

Not to mention, there’s no additives to get that gorgeous color, either! It all comes from the brown sugar used. 

“It’s indulgent. It’s a dessert beer through and through, but it was designed to be that way; that was the goal,” he says.

“Because the alcohol is from cold fermented cane sugar, it has to go through the FDA,” he says. “To get clearance for this, I had to make a small benchtop and send off four 16 oz cans, in addition to making small-scale trials of it,” Brian says. 

“I knew we were going to use the root beer we make for the Tasting Room, so I took that and scaled it and added in the appropriate amount of base to get the alcohol that we wanted. We added lactose to it, to mimic some of those ice cream characteristics,” he says. “It is a different kind of sweetness than the regular root beer, and that’s because of the lactose.”

“We tweaked some small things, but we didn’t even re-benchtop, we just went all in on that first run,” he says. 

“I basically made a 600-gallon batch of root beer on the system and added base to it,” he says with a laugh.

“For me personally, I love the challenge of creating these. Everything from the conceptualization to the raw material to the artwork to the finished product and fan reaction, that bookend is what I’m most excited about, especially for these Tasting Room-only products. I’m part of the committee that comes up with these, and then on the production side, I get to design them. This one I did get to brew as well, so that was fun,” he says. 

“It tastes like an alcoholic root beer float, so we definitely achieved what we were going for,” Brian says. 

For many of these projects that he’s directly involved in, Brian will check Untappd and social media the first day of a new release to check out some of the reactions. If you check this one out, Brian might even see your review or comment as well! 

You can only find On the Way to Cape May No. #003: Root Beer Float in our Tasting Room and Brewtique, starting today, June 25th! Our first in this series sold out quickly, so make sure you stop by this weekend to grab your own 4-pack. Make sure to use #OnTheWayToCMBC on social media and tag us @capemaybrewco on Instagram if you snap any shots of your new score!

Comments

    1. Cape May Brewing Company

      Hi Tammi, thank you for reaching out! At this time, unfortunately we do not make any non-alcoholic beers. However, at our Tasting Room, we do offer non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy when you visit!

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