Our newest soon-to-be Assistant Lab Technician, Packaging Operator Tom Dooner, has had a pretty awesome path to Cape May Brewing Company. We were lucky to catch him on his first training day in the lab for a few minutes while Lab Manager Lauren Appleman held down the fort.
Tom joined our team in June as an intern, before moving into the packaging team later this summer. Because of his background, we knew he’d be a great addition to our lab team, and we’re thrilled to have him aboard!
Without further ado, meet our new lab team member Tom Dooner!
“I’m from outside of Philadelphia, and grew up in Radner. For the last five years, I lived in Philly and was a teacher there,” he says. “So this is a career switch for me.”
We love teachers and know that they are an incredible asset to our Brew Crew. Our Tasting Room crew often has a number of former and current educators pouring beer, barbacking, greeting, and helping out in the Brewtique!
Tom is a fellow Villanova alumni (just like co-founder Ryan!), and double majored in secondary education and history.
“I taught history at Bartram High School in southwest Philly,” Tom shares.
Over the course of his career, he taught at all the levels of high school, starting with 9th graders for the first few years and then teaching all grade levels.
While at Bartram, Tom also coached the JV boys basketball team and enjoyed traveling all over the Philadelphia area competing against other high schools.
“I taught English for the first two years, and then U.S. History. Tenth graders in Philly all take African American History, so I taught that too, and then for seniors, I taught Social Science, which is like a civics or government course,” he says.
Some of his favorite courses to teach were U.S. History and African American History. Even though he only taught the latter for one year, he enjoyed getting to dive in and learn new things alongside his students.
“It’s easier to get excited for the stuff that you’re also learning, but also more stressful,” he says with a laugh.
“This is the first year of my life that I haven’t been in a school in September, because I started teaching right after college,” he says.
“Especially when I leave here around 3PM, there are school buses everywhere. I forgot that kids are in school now. It’s just not on my radar anymore,” he says with a laugh.
Tom taught this past school year until mid-June, and began his internship with us the very next day as part of his studies with USciences (University of the Sciences) in Philly.
“I did that from June 15th to July 7th, which is when I came on full-time here,” he says.
Tom has been homebrewing for a few years now, and started homebrewing alongside his cousin. They even enrolled in the USciences program together–how cool is that?!
“My last year of teaching, I was also taking night classes, and I really liked the beer world,” he says.
Every student is placed at a different brewery as part of the internship, and Tom was particularly stoked to check out Cape May Brew Co. more.
“In the back of my mind, I’d always wanted to live down here in Cape May,” he shares.
“I came down here in the summers since I was a kid. When I was in high school, I started winter surfing down here, too,” he says. “The waves are better in the winter.”
“Through college and as a teacher, I’d come down most weekends, or at the very least, every other weekend, even if it was just for a night,” he says.
His family lives in Ocean City, and he describes the area as a “cousin stronghold” with a lot of extended family members!
The USciences program was three semesters, with each semester having a typical academic course and then a lab course.
“One of the courses was Quality Control Lab, which has a lot of the same equipment and procedures that we have here,” he says. “He taught it in detail and we got hands-on experience with it.”
“The way that USciences designs the internship, they want you to see every part of the process, so I spent a week with the brewers on the brew deck, a week with the packaging team, and then a week split between lab and cellar. I even spent a day in the warehouse,” he shares.
“Right after the internship ended, they put me on the packaging line so that I could learn from the ground up,” he says. “It was fun.”
Tom joined us smack dab in the middle of summer, working in an insanely hot brewhouse that gets pretty humid and nuts. It’s basically like working in a sauna, so we’re thankful that he stuck it out with us and wasn’t fazed by the hard work!
“I looked at it like a workout,” he says with a laugh. “Previously, I lifeguarded in the summers, and it’s hot and you’re moving stuff around, so it’s similar.”
Tom was with Ocean City Beach Patrol for the last several summers.
“The usual yearly flow was to teach nine months, and lifeguard for three months,” he says. “It’s definitely been an adjustment so far, since I wasn’t on the beach all day this summer, but it’s probably better for me honestly.”
You know those iconic beach boats, like the one on our homepage? Tom competed in one of those!
“I would do rowing competitions in the city, where the best person from each town faces each other. I wasn’t the best in Ocean City at all, but it was still fun to compete and fight for that spot,” he says with a grin.
“They do singles and doubles. I was good friends with my doubles partner, and we’d practice before and after work,” he says.
Here we thought those ribbed row boats were just great displays for photo-ops!
“I think that’s the main reason they keep them around. Everyone wants to take pictures with the boats,” he says with a laugh.
Although he doesn’t have time to lifeguard or row now, there’s still plenty of time to surf, especially now that he’s moved down to the shore.
“I’d rather surf than row anyway,” he says with a laugh.
Besides spending his time outside of work surfing, Tom still finds time to continue homebrewing.
“I made an English Pub Ale recently,” he says. “About two weeks or so ago.”
He’s been able to apply a lot of what he learned with USciences to his homebrewing as well.
“Even with something basic like water. Before I started the courses, I just used Ocean City tap water, but one of the things we learned about was water profiles and different minerals that vary based on where your water source is,” he says. “I never thought to change up the water I used in my brews before then.”
“Now I get the giant jugs from ACME,” he shares.
“I have a Corny keg,” he says. “The valve at the top is different from standard kegs.”
The cornelius kegs have tops that make it easier to fill them, and they’re perfect for homebrew setups.
Throughout his time homebrewing, Tom has mostly made a lot of IPAs, since it’s his go-to style to drink.
“I did a stout with my cousin a couple months back; that was fun. We did a saison, too, and the very first one we did was a brown ale, but that was a couple years back and didn’t turn out too well,” he says with a laugh.
“IPAs are probably my favorite thing to brew, and they smell so good,” he shares.
He’s already started to think about his next homebrew as well.
“I think I want to start making stouts with adjuncts, like a chocolate stout or vanilla or marshmallow stout,” he says. “Into this winter, I think that would be a cool project to brew different styles.”
“I might even brew a base stout, and if it’s good, use that same recipe with some additions,” he says.
“Personally, I like when people can nail a simple style, though. So this would be more for giving to family and friends to see what they think,” he says with a smile.
He just upgraded his garage with a two-tap kegerator as well, perfect for testing out some new brews!
Tom’s family and his siblings are all pretty close. He’s the oldest, with a younger brother and two younger sisters.
“They’re all still back in the Philly area, but they come down on weekends,” he says.
“We all surf with my cousins, too, and they winter surf,” he says.
“I recently got a vintage single fin, a G&S, which I love,” he says. “My shortboard is a Bonzer, from a company in Hawaii. Supposedly they’re the first surfboard company to make boards with three fins.”
Tom’s surfed pretty extensively outside of Cape May as well! Although he’s not sure if he’ll be able to do some surf travel this winter, other trips have taken him to California and up along the West Coast through Washington and Oregon, and even Argentina!
“I went to Australia two summers ago and got a little bit of surfing in,” he says. “We went to Sydney and then up to Cairns, but there wasn’t any surf up there. I think the Great Barrier Reef blocks it. Then we went down to Brisbane, and that was probably my favorite area.
“It shocked me how similar it was to the U.S.,” he says. “I’ve been to Ireland and did a bit of surfing there, too, since I studied abroad there in college. Australia felt a lot more similar to the U.S. than Ireland did.”
As an IPA fan, Tom is of course a pretty big fan of the classic: Cape May IPA.
“I remember seeing that way back in the day at the local liquor store, Super Liquors in Marmora,” he says. “I love Coastal Evacuation, too, and I really love Oktoberfest and Honey Porter. Right now, those are probably tied for my favorite.”
“They were brewing Honey Porter this week and the smells were amazing,” Tom says with a smile.
Now, Tom is training in our lab for his new position. We met with Tom on his very first day in the lab, and he officially started more of his training this past week with Lab Manager Lauren Appleman.
“It feels like I’m directly applying what I learned here in the lab,” he says.
We’re so glad to have Tom on the team, and to have a fellow graduate of the USciences program. The next time you see him in the Brewtanical Garden or hanging out in the Tasting Room after work, make sure to say hi!