Unless you’ve been living under a rock, er, growler for the past few decades, you’ve heard of TED, the series of inspirational conferences held all over the world in which opinion shapers from every discipline share — in 18 minutes or less — ideas worth spreading. Well, every year in our hometown, there’s TEDxCapeMay, an independently-organized off-shoot, and Cape May Brewing Company is sponsoring the 2015 initiative, happening on October 18 at Lower Cape May Regional High School.
TED is short for Technology, Education, Design because these were the original areas of focus when the program launched in 1984. Since that time, the conferences have grown to encompass all subjects… including beer. In 2013, CMBC President Ryan Krill spoke at TEDxCapeMay, and he’s also served as a member of the program’s advisory board. From the beginning, CMBC has sponsored the event.
“It is our three main, local backers — Congress Hall, Exit Zero Publishing, and Cape May Brewing Company — who really bring together the hosting of this initiative, ” says organizer Norris Clarke. “Ryan and and his whole gang are a huge giveback to the community. This sponsorship is another gift they’re giving.”
The theme for this year’s program is Truth Be Told, and includes what Norris calls a “provocative” lineup. Among the 10 presenters are television host Marc Summers, who will tackle the subject of political correctness in the entertainment industry; former liaison to President Obama Brad Jenkins, who will discuss the power of comedy in saving lives; and renowned forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, on what it means to be evil.
Following the day will be a reception at Cape May’s Congress Hall hotel, complete with an open bar and beer from yours truly… appropriate for a day of truth-themed programming, since “people are always more truthful after a beer,” Norris says. “And you can argue that craft beer is the truest beer.”
For more information on the full presenter lineup, how to purchase tickets ($75/person), or how to sponsor a student’s attendance ($62 per person), visit the TEDxCapeMay page at TEDx.com. Or, to see Ryan’s 2013 speech, click here:
Every year, Cape May’s Chamber of Commerce hosts a dinner for 300 prominent members of the local community. The event features the annual installation of officers and directors, as well as an awards ceremony honoring businesses that have contributed in positive ways to this community. On October 13, CMBC will be recognized.
“We are excited to honor Cape May Brewing Company with the Business Growth award,” says the Chamber’s Marketing Director, Doreen Tally. “The expansion of their production area has provided an increase in year-round employment opportunities, and allows for more opportunities to buy home-grown, which will help support our local economy. As a Chamber that promotes tourism, we see Cape May Brewery as an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the local-to-table movement, a growing trend in tourism. They are a destination that has a lot to offer our visitors in the way of tasting and touring and enhancing the Cape May experience.”
By now, we’ve all heard the truth about the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, and it ain’t what your second grade school teacher told you. Sure, he sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and that sounds noble enough, but he didn’t discover the New World… he merely stumbled upon people already living there. When he hit the Bahamas, Columbus thought he’d landed in India, and he misidentified an entire population as Indians. He then led a mass genocide in the Americas, and forced Native women and children to serve as sex slaves. What he gave them in return? Syphillis. The explorer demanded gold, and when he didn’t get it, he retaliated by cutting off hands and noses. Oh, and he helped establish the African slave trade. So yea — just your garden variety megalomaniac with no soul and a fetish for blood.
Yay, long weekend?
But although the man is inarguably irredeemable, he did bring something to the New World that makes people happy: lager.
The cold-tolerant yeast that initially made the lagering process possible is actually a fusion of two yeast strains. One is called Sacharomyces cerevisiae and the other, Saccharomyces eubayanus, was a mystery to scientists until recently. In 2011, researchers discovered it in the beech wood trees of Patagonia at South America’s tip. And — drum roll, please — it’s a 99 percent match for what USA Today calls “the missing link.”
“Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, this New World yeast got to Europe just as the Columbian exchange between Europe and the Americas was beginning. Perhaps beech wood from Argentina was used to make something that ended up in a monastery. However it happened, it made its way to where beer was brewed. And the rest, beer lovers have cause to be grateful for, was history.”
So there you have it – if it weren’t for the sociopath called Columbus we celebrate every October, you might not have your lager. No, this doesn’t absolve the man, but at least it gives you something to think about over your next pint of Oktoberfest.
If you haven’t noticed, we’ve been on a bit of a surf kick this week, which is perfect, because if our upcoming release — the toasty, spicy, herbed brew we call Mop Water — were a sport, it would be surfing. The comparisons are endless! Okay, the comparisons are five. Read them while you wait for the beer, coming at you October 9.
The sex appeal.
Surfing conjures up images of bronzed nubiles thrusting down the glassy faces of unbroken swell – sexy. Mop Water is brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and a ton of whole-bean vanilla – also sexy.
The smooth factor.
At least, surfing is supposed to be smooth… if you’re pumping down the line like a defective jack hammer, you’re doing it wrong. The German malts used in Mop Water lend a smooth and creamy, totally rad, mouthfeel.
The commitment level.
Hesitate in surfing and you either get sucked over the falls or drilled in the impact zone. At 7.3%, Mop Water requires commitment, too. This is not a beer for the faint of heart. Or the low in tolerance.
Surfing has a way of sucking you in, so that you find yourself paddling out even on days when the ocean is an angry washing machine. Mop Water’s been responsible for a few cravings as well. And unlike most spiced brews, this is not a one-hit wonder; you can keep coming back for more every fall and winter.
Kelly Slater. Mick Fanning. Steph Gilmore. Surfing is a sport with no shortage of idols. Mop Water is the brainchild of CMBC’s co-founder, resident Mop Man, and legend in his own right, Bob Krill.
Drop in (pun intended) to our tasting room beginning this October 9, and see if you can’t come up with a few more reasons for nose diving into a pint…
We caught up with some of our surf-happy fans between sets this week, and we asked them which of our beers taste best after a long session in the water. Here’s what they had to say:
“I’m a big fan of the Honey Porter and Blonde Ale.” –John Digenni, surfing Sea Isle, photo by Seth Stafford:
“When I work the judging tower at Lowers [at Trestles Beach in California] for the US championships, I crave Devil’s Reach.” –Tom Leonik, surfing Cape Hatteras:
“Cape May IPA, of course!” –Beth Drabkoski, surfing Playa Grande, Costa Rica:
“Devil’s Reach!” –Tai Menz, surfing Cape May:
“I do love the Honey Porter and I Know What You Did Last Shandy pumpkin-flavored ale.” –Joe Henry, surfing (or at least helping his dog Blockhead surf) Stone Harbor:
“I’m a big fan of Cape May Brew Co, which is why we have two of our taps at The Watering Hull dedicated to them. My favourite is their Double IPA Coastal Evacuation. For a DIPA it’s not too heavy, its got a high drinkability and packs so much flavor into every sip. With the high ABV, about three is usually my limit. But when you go into the bar from a great day outside and in the water, the Coastal Evac is the perfect beer to start your session.” –Trevor Lord, surfing Panama
“Take Five Session IPA… or any IPA with an ureasonable amount of hops in it!” –Kyle Morgan, surfing Stone Harbor:
“My favorite beer is definitely The Bog. I’m an old cranberry girl from the pine barrens.” –Linda Dill, surfing the 20th Annual Nun’s Beach Surf Competition in Stone Harbor, where she placed third in the Lady Legends category and took home the prize for Wave of the Day:
“I’ll take any beer you give me.” –Ed Gibbons, surfing Cape May:
“After a long session, Mop Water will warm you right up.” –Diane Stopyra, surfing Stone Harbor:
In the spirit of the (hurricane) season, when surfers flock to our tasting room with wetsuit tan lines and salt-crusted eyelashes, we’ve put together a list — in no particular order — of 11 times that suds and swell have overlapped. Admit it, Beach Blanket Bingo would have been a bore without the booze…
Disclaimer: We don’t endorse drinking before surfing. Or during surfing, for that matter. But after surfing? We’ll be ready to pour you a tasting… especially if you’ve been pummeled by a gnarly set and need something to ease the sting.
When we brewed our Poverty Beach Belgian IPA, named for arguably the best surfing beach on Cape Island. It’s not on tap right now, because all you surfers drank it.
When — in Frederick Kohner’s iconic 1957 surf novel, Gidget — Gidget attends a luau and drinks beer in an attempt to win the favor of Cass, aka “The Kahoona.”
When Weezer (remember them?) put out their song “Surf Wax America” with the lyrics: “The sea is foaming like a bottle of beer… the sea is rolling like a thousand pound keg.”
When there were so many of them, Surfer magazine ran this 2013 story on the best surf-themed beers in the country.
When a Ventura beer festival last month, Surf ‘n’ Suds, featured brewers alongside surfboard shapers.
When Budweiser served as primary sponsor of the Professional Surfing Association of America tour from 1987 to 1993.
When surfwear brand Reef debuted their line of sandals with built-in bottle opener, circa 2005.
Hops – those perennial, marijuana-related flowering cones – have come a long way in the collective mind of the beer-drinking world. Originally, they were considered an important ingredient largely for the antiseptic properties they bring to the table, while herbs and juniper berries got all of the taste-related glory. But now we’ve seen the light, and modern brewers praise the gods of agriculture for the aroma, flavor, and bitterness brought forth by the humble hop.
Any expert will tell you: Washington’s Yakima Valley is to hops what California’s Sonoma Valley is to wine – a latitudinal sweet spot. And since the hops that were planted here in March are being harvested as you read this, our fearless leaders – Ryan, Chris and Bob – flew west last week for this year’s hop selection process.
“Our visit was amazing,” Bob said. “We rubbed the hops together with our hands, compared notes and decided which we will use in our beer going forward. We also visited the plant that processes the hops into pellets, and spoke with a scientist who creates new hop varieties.”
Now, the guys are off to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, and while we eagerly await their return, we’ll fill you in on a conversation we had yesterday with hop industry expert Phillip Davidson. His company, Hopsteiner, is one that our guys met with in Yakima, and he’s got the skinny, er hoppy, on all you need to know…
Walk us through the hop harvest timeline. Well, harvest happens once a year. It takes about a month, from the last week of August until the first week of October, domestically. This is when we need to get the hop bines down in the field. And I do mean ‘bines’ with a ‘B.’ Not ‘vines’ with a ‘V.’
What’s the difference? Vines climb using tendrils that grab and hold – picture a grape vine. A bine climbs by wrapping itself around something. In this case, it follows the sun up a rope. And, eventually, the hops have to be removed from it.
Then what? You’re separating them from the leaves and the stems, and then you’re kilning the hops, or drying them in a kiln. So you get rid of all the moisture, and make them stable. Next is baling, where the dried hops are compressed into rectangular prisms about five feet tall and 2.5 or three feet wide. There are 200 pounds of hops, give or take, in each bale. These are taken to a storage facility where they are refrigerated until they are purchased either as leaf hops directly from the bale, as pellets or as extract.
How much of this is done by hand, and how much by machine? It’s a pretty labor-intensive industry, absolutely, and not just the harvesting. There are about 900 hop plants to an acre, and there are 40,000 hop acres in the United States. Each plant requires someone tying the top of its rope to a trellis and anchoring it to the ground on the bottom. And every plant has to be trained by hand around the rope to get it started.
How many brewers descend upon Yakima Valley this time of year? I don’t have a hard figure, but for me personally, for the company I work for, I cover Maine to Washington, DC and out to the Pennsylvania border to Ohio, and I have about 17 customers coming over three weeks.
And how many brewers depend on Yakima Valley? It’s a worldwide dependency. The raw material is valued by its alpha acid, the bittering component, and every brewery everywhere needs it. The US, which is growing about 35-40 percent of the world’s hops, is making a major contribution to that.
How much creativity is there in hop farming? I wouldn’t call it creativity. It’s science. I will say that hops are dioecious, meaning they are male and female, so breeding and crossing is easy. But to take a seed and turn it into a new breed is a 10 to 12-year process. And if you start with 10,000 seeds, you’re going to have one or two that make it through.
What do the brewers do when they come for hop selection, exactly? We show them our ranch and our processing facilities. We introduce them to the people running our farms and plants and basically develop those relationships. This is a relationship-driven industry.
And how does the actual choosing play out? We give them bale cuts, or brewers cuts, which are sections of a bale that’s been cut out, represented with a lot number, and put in packaging. If we have eight Cascade lots, the brewers see one cut from each. The brewers open those pouches, look at them physically, and look at data on them. There is USDA data here from the state of Washington that gives the total count of leaves and stems, the percentage by weight of seed, the measurement of the alpha acid. The other big part is aroma, so they’ll crush it in their hands, rub them together until they burst the lupulin glands to make sure they smell the right way.
Doesn’t it get difficult to differentiate after a while? There are means of resetting the nose, like sniffing coffee beans for instance. And you’re only picking Cascade against Cascade, and you select in the order in which you want to select, usually moving from fine, delicate aromas all the way to big, pungent hops, toward the end.
Is there much variation in hops of the same variety grown on the same lot of a hop ranch? There can be. Terroir is a big part of hop growing, as is microclimate. There are slight soil variations as well.
How is the current drought affecting hop production? It wasn’t a problem this year. If it persists into next year, it will be.
What are people most surprised to learn about the hop industry? That it’s so hard. It’s an awful lot of management of land and understanding the dynamics of each variety, and understanding there’s a lot of money involved. This is a niche agricultural product, so the equipment is only used to harvest hops and is very expensive. We have to set trellises up to harvest grow and nothing else uses that. It’s a $10,000/acre investment. It’s logistically and financially demanding.
But the return must be considerable, considering the current craft beer boom? Hops is boom and bust, every time. Where there’s high demand, people start growing. Eventually they have too much and the bottom falls out. Currently hops are in boom – we are closing in on record total acreage. But things are always in flux. We’re experiencing a major market shift between bitter varieties like Columbus and Nugget to aroma varieties like Cascade and Centennial.
What’s the next sexiest? I have no idea. I want to hope it’s Eureka, which is a new variety to us we just released to the market. But
that’s something I don’t get to really determine, and something I try my very best not to influence. I’m here to support brewers and what the brewers need, and not tell them what’s right and wrong. And as for the next sexiest hop, the work going into making that starts 10 or 12 years before it hits the markets, and we’re talking 10 or 12 million dollars worth of research. The fact that it smells good is not the only important thing. A hop needs to grow well, it needs to yield per acre well, and it needs to be resistant to diseases and easy to pick.
And it’s that research that takes 10-12 years?How much of that time is simply waiting for the plant to mature? Well, hops do not produce a crop their first year. Everywhere else, it take three years for a hop plant to mature. In Yakima, it takes two. So to even be able to look into a plant to determine what’s good and not, that takes time, at least two years. Even then, you don’t scale up from one plant to a thousand acres. You scale up to four plants, maybe.
What do we say to people who call this a one-dimensional – ie, beer only — crop? There is development of alternative uses. Potentially, it could be cultivated for phytoestrogen for human hormone therapy. And it’s antiseptic, so it can used to supplant antibiotics in animal seed.
Can I ask what drew you to the hop industry? I was a professional brewer before this, and I was looking for an opportunity to… what’s the right word? Specialize myself, develop a knowledge base about a particular important aspect of all beer, but especially craft beer.
Does it bug you the brewers seem to get all the craft beer glory? Me, personally? No. There are hop growers who command a particular status in the brewing industry. But generally speaking, we are talking family businesses, and I don’t know if they want the fame. You should ask the barley growers. It takes a lot more barley to make beer than hops!
Any reason you’re especially excited to be working with Cape May Brew Co? Oh, absolutely. You’re definitely a brewery that is growing and maturing in a marketplace, Jersey, that has a lot of opportunity for growth. And you’re making really good beer.
When we called Mark Garland, he was holding a monarch butterfly in his hand at Cape May Point State Park, about to put a tag on it. That’s because Mark is a freelance presenter of nature-oriented programming. On his roster are two-week tours in Costa Rica, Cape May’s own Road Scholar Birding program, and yes, the island’s very important monarch monitoring program.
Leading nature tours, Mark says, has informed his work at the brewery, where he’s been a leader of walking tours since last spring.
“Whether it’s birds or beer,” he says, “it’s all about balancing entertainment, information and pace. You don’t want to overload on any of that.”
What we DO want to overload on today? A little more info on Mark. Presenting: the guy with all of the answers to your brewery (and nature!) questions…
I am from… Maryland.
My favorite CMBC beer is… Coastal Evacuation.
The best CMBC after a long day of birding is… In the dead of summer, I’d say The Bog, and I don’t even like fruit beers, usually. Otherwise, I’d say Take Five. I’m an IPA fan, and sometimes it’s nice to have more than one. But my days of wanting to get really buzzed are behind me, so that’s a good one because it’s lower in alcohol.
The greatest adventure I ever had was… hiking 150 miles through the Cascade Mountains in central Washington.
The superpower I’d like to have most is…eternal life.
My favorite non-CMBC craft beer is… That varies but right now I really like Stonefly IPA from Pennsylvania’s Saucony Creek.
My favorite cartoon is… Rocky and Bullwinkle. I blame that for my terrible fondness for puns.
My biggest fear is… disappointing people I love.
The question I hear most frequently while giving a CMBC tour is… ‘Are you one of the owners?’ People don’t realize how many people are involved now.
The most famous person I’ve ever met was… Ryan Krill.
My karaoke song is… anything instrumental.
My biggest pet peeve is… people who don’t do their jobs.
The sports team I follow is… I’m pretty casual about sports, although I do follow the Tour de France, and I root for the American riders.
If I could, I’d splurge on a… trip around the world.
Something few people know about me is… that I started my career as park ranger for the National Park Service. I spent most of my time in Olympic National Park in Washington State, but I also worked in the Everglades, and in DC. I joke it’s the only job I ever had to wear a tie to everyday, because we wore those green ties and Smoky the Bear hats. I loved what I did.
The best advice I’ve ever received was… follow your heart.
If I were an animal, I’d be a… Hmmm, that has to be a bird. Let’s go with the Resplendent Quetzal, a gentle creature that was sacred to the Mayans.
The best pick-up line I ever used was… I’m an old married guy, I don’t remember. I’m double the age of mostly everyone who works at the brewery!
My hidden talent is… Whatever talents I have, I don’t try to hide them!
I was drawn to CMBC because… I love craft beer, there was no other craft beer nearby.
If I had to name a CMBC beer tomorrow, I would call it… Migration. It would be a beer that really moves you.
It’s been aging for a solid two months, but our Turtle Gut American sour is finally done with its secondary fermentation — thanks to the rogue yeast strain we wrote about here — and it’s ready for tapping. This earthy, funky, malty-sweet wild ale will be available beginning Thursday, September 24.
In the meantime — given the intellectually curious beer fan you are — you’re going to want to know how we came up with the name Turtle Gut. Truth is, we didn’t. We reappropriated it.
Turtle Gut is the name of a former inlet in present-day Wildwood Crest, where the county’s only Revolutionary War battle was fought. The year was 1776, and the Brits were blocking the Continental Army access to the Delaware Bay. This was a problem for colonial merchant ships trying to deliver much-needed supplies to the oh-so-important port of Philadelphia.
Many tried sneaking past the Red Coats, but to no avail. Often, thwarted captains were forced to retreat to the clandestine marshes of Cape May County, where they might regroup. Finally, a guy named Robert Morris decided he’d had enough. He chartered a brig called Nancy, intent on steering her straight to the City of Brotherly Love. He stocked her with ammunition (and rum because, well, war is hard), and on he went.
This was a courageous move — Nancy was a relatively tiny ship with only six cannons on board — and it didn’t take long to see just how courageous. On June 28, Nancy was spotted by the HMS Kingfisher, one of the blockade’s leading ships. The captain, who carried 16 cannons on board, began chasing Nancy, and his sister ship HMS Orpheus (32 cannons!) followed for backup.
Nancy’s crew knew they were in trouble, so they called for help via flag signals from three other colonial ships: Lexington, Wasp and Reprisal. Each sent soldiers who, we’re sure, struck fear into the hearts of the British whey they showed up to battle in… rowboats.
In the wee hours of the next (very foggy) morning, Nancy slipped into Turtle Gut and purposefully ran aground. Because her British pursuers were manning much bigger ships, they couldn’t traverse the shallow water of the inlet, so they opened fire from afar. For most of the day, the Americans unloaded cargo, getting it safely to shore with the help of Cape May County locals, and they watched their ship take barrage after barrage.
Finally, the men left a beaten Nancy behind, intent on making it to shore alive themselves. John Barry, the captain of Lexington, ordered the remaining gunpowder be wrapped in Nancy‘s sail and exploded on deck with a long fuse. One especially dedicated man stayed behind to climb the mast and take down the American flag. When enemy ships saw what was happening, they assumed surrender was underway, so they began to climb on board. Unfortunately for them, that’s right about the time this long fuse ran out.
The blockade broke up shortly thereafter, and John Barry went on to be known as “father of the American Navy.” Today, a memorial in Wildwood Crest — and a tasty, sour beer — are what commemorates the battle.
Last year, we conducted a little brewing experiment.
The ingredients: Water, hops, yeast, malted barley… and a ton of grapefruit peel.
The hypothesis: This could taste great! (Or not great.)
The results: A beer with a whole lot of pithy bitterness.
The conclusion: This needs some tweaking.
But… how to fix it? There are two ways to cut down on the bitterness of a beer. One method is to shandyize, which is what we did when we added lemonade to our too-tart cranberry wheat, resulting in The Bog, a summer favorite. But for fall, we already have a shandy on the menu: our pumpkin pie-flavored brew I Know What You Did Last Shandy.
So we went with option number two: adding ingredients which aren’t sweet, but which are perceived as sweet. In this case, orange and vanilla. The result was Ebb Tide, a 5% American Wheat Pale Ale that tastes, every so slightly, like a creamsicle.
People loved it.
Too popular not to bring back, this desserty beer is going on tap tomorrow, beginning at noon. Our 10th grade science teachers would be proud.