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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company

Keg Washer: Complete

Remember when we outgrew our original, 12-gallon brewhouse, and we turned it into a keg washer? Well, it didn’t take long for us to outgrow that keg washer. This was a problem, because our kegs aren’t going to clean themselves. Thanks to Chris “Hank” Henke, our Chief Operating Officer/resident engineer, they don’t have to.

He’s been working all summer, in his spare time, on building a new and improved machine, complete with scrap parts and clever eBay purchases.

The process – which Hank says is loosely similar to that of a washing machine — works like this:

  1. Four kegs are mounted on the washer at one time.
  2. Compressed air is pushed through each in order to purge the containers of any lingering beer or yeast.
  3. The kegs are rinsed with hot water.
  4. Compressed air is pushed through each in order to purge this hot water.
  5. A non-caustic, alkaline brewery cleaner is run through all kegs.
  6. Compressed air is pushed through in order to purge this cleaner.
  7. The kegs are rinsed with hot water.
  8. Compressed air is pushed through again in order to purge this hot water.
  9. Sanitizer is pushed through.
  10. The kegs are purged again, but with CO2 – not air – this time.
  11. The kegs are pressurized with CO2. This way, oxygen is kept out of the containers, so that it won’t spoil the next batch of beer.

The fully-automated cycle lasts seven minutes. And in case you’re lucky enough to catch it in action on your next tour of the brewery (or even if you’re not), here’s your key, which will get larger if you click on it:


Cape May Brew Co Supports Wounded Vets

Erick Foster — who played football for the North Allegheny High School Tigers, enjoyed card games, and graduated with a degree in business from Duquesne University – was killed in 2007 by insurgent fire while serving the US Army as a company commander in Iraq. He was 29 years old.

Purple Heart recipient, Captain Erick Foster.
Purple Heart recipient, Captain Erick Foster.

“Erick was a fun-loving guy,” says Erick’s dear friend and Army buddy Nick Liermann. “No one worked as hard as he did, or was more passionate about being a soldier… But Erick wasn’t afraid to kick back, have a few drinks and a few laughs too. That’s one of the things about Erick that was so inspiring and contagious. He showed everyone around him that you could be intensely devoted to your career and country… and you could also have a good time doing it.”

Last year, Nick and five friends cycled from Philadelphia to Wildwood in honor of Erick. Via an informal campaign, they raised $5,000 for wounded combat veterans. The annual Captain Erick Foster Memorial Ride, or the Foster 100, was born.

Since then, the group has incorporated as a non-profit organization, and grown to be 26 riders strong. This Saturday, they’ll cover another 100 miles, this time from Philadelphia to our tasting room.

“Cape May Brewing Company is a phenomenal local organization, invested in giving back,” Nick says. “Plus, they have great beer, so it seemed appropriate.”

So far this year, the team has raised nearly $15,000 for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides financial support to wounded veterans, and to the families of injured or fallen military personnel. You can learn more — or make a contribution — by visiting fostermemorialride.com, or the official Captain Erick Foster Memorial Ride on Facebook.

Then, raise your next pint to the men and women who serve.



5 Things To Know About Oktoberfest Beer

1. Ours goes back on tap this Friday. Cape May Brew Co’s first lager, this 5.4% brew has a deep body, a dark copper color, a malty sweetness and some mild bitterness.

2. But it’s not *technically* an Oktoberfestbier. Kind of like true Champagne — which only comes from the Champagne region of France — true Oktoberfestbier is only brewed within the city of Munich. All anyone else can do is mimic the traditional style: toasty, rich, dark, medium to high alcohol content, clean finish.

3. The style can also be referred to as Marzan, meaning “March,” or the month in which this type of beer was originally brewed 500 years ago in Bavaria. Because beers made in late winter tasted better to Bavarians than beers made in the summer (cold weather killed off beer-spoiling microbes), the Oktoberfest was made in March and meant to last through summer. It was kept on ice in mountain caves and by October, ironically, medieval peeps were usually finishing off the last of it. Nineteenth-century advancements in brewing (hello, refrigeration) meant that March beers could now be made any time of year (hello, fall).

4. Annually, more than 6 million people attend the 16-day Oktoberfest beer festival held in Munich, a tradition since 1810, making this the largest beer festival in the world. Event goers drank 7.7 million liters of Oktoberfest beer at last year’s event alone (although only 6.5 million liters were reported, creating quite the scandal). Fun fact: it takes the festival’s most skilled bartenders only 1.5 seconds to fill up a stein.

5. The city of Cape May will hold its own Oktoberfest beer festival from 10am to 5pm on October 3, and we’ll be pouring. In the meantime, you may want to bone up on your German:


Pumpkin Opinions

As of yesterday, our I Know What You Did Last Shandy beer is on tap in the tasting room. The 5% brew is last year’s Pumpkin, Pumpkin Shandy reincarnated. And while it doesn’t have any actual pumpkin in it — because the gourd itself is pretty flavorless — it has the taste of pumpkin pie thanks to cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.

Ah, pumpkin. The most divisive flavoring of the craft beer world.

In one corner, we’ve got liquid pumpkin haters, who see the style as silly and superficial. We’re talking about folks like Orr Stuhul, who wrote in an article for the Washington City Paper:

“This is the one time of year when ordinary, appreciative beer drinkers devolve into squealing Starbucks fanatics, leaping at the opportunity to try the latest approximation of some misguided confectionery fantasy. How did cinnamon and nutmeg become such an invasive species of flavor? You’ve already taken our cakes, our lattes, our sweet potatoes. For God’s sake! Spare us our beer!”

In the other corner, we’ve got the pro-pumpkin peeps. They see nothing wrong with tapping into the spices of the season, as long as it’s done right. We’re talking about folks like Don Russell, who wrote in a recent Philly.com article:

“People who say they hate pumpkin beer remind me of people who say they never watch TV, as if they’re too good for something so unsophisticated. They stick up their noses and piss all over the spicy brew because it’s a gimmick, because it’s crass, because they’re oh-so-busy rereading War and Peace.”

Regardless of which you are  —  vehement derider of all things liquid pumpkin, or fanatical pumpkin brew groupie — you cannot deny the numbers. According to  Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, the release of pumpkin beers in 2013 meant that seasonal beer sales overtook IPA sales — always the front-runner — by 300,000 cases. We have no reason to believe the same won’t be true for 2015.

Until next time, happy fall.

Credit: rozis.com.
Credit: rozis.com.



Million-Dollar Mustache

Congrats to CMBC sales rep Justin Vitti — a graduate of the Coney Island Sideshow School — for his win last weekend at the 8th Annual Coney Island Beard and Mustache Competition. Approximately 300 people attended the event, and about half of those competed. Justin did Cape May Brew Co proud by besting them all — in a mustache-patterned suit, no less — for the honor of mustache “most magical.”

As for what makes it so?

“Just me… the whole persona that is Justin,” Justin says.

But don’t be fooled – this facial hair is just as much about business as it is fun.

“It gives me an advantage when selling beer… the clients don’t forget who I am.”


Beer Art

We love crabs and we love beer, which is why we really love the photos taken by local photographer/optician Christine Peck . She used a couple of brews from our tasting room and live crabs from Bud’s Bait and Tackle in the Villas (located just 3.3 miles from CMBC) to capture the images.

“I had a blast,” the artist told us. “Especially because, after I shot the photos, we ate the crabs and drank the beer!”

Christine first showed the pieces last month at Cape May’s Craft Beer and Crab Festival, where we were pouring. She’ll also be showing them at the Harbor Brew Fest happening this coming Saturday at the Emlen Physick Estate, where we’ll also be pouring. Or you can check out these and other great pieces by Christine at the Cape May Artists’ Cooperative Gallery on Sunset Boulevard, where  they’ll be exhibited until at least the end of the year, as well as on the photog’s website, urphotoshots.com.

Better hurry, we hear they’re selling like hotcakes. Or really good beer…





Making Laws and Taking Names

Trying to get a bill signed into law is like trying to conceive a baby. There are many, ahem, swimmers in the running, but most do not stand a chance.

Take the 2012 law that allowed for tasting rooms at Jersey breweries. It was a huge deal for the industry, and a major factor in our expansion from one employee to 37. But according to Eric Orlando, VP of the Kaufman Zita Group which handles lobbying for the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, the original bill had only a 4.6 percent chance of surviving the legislative process and getting an a-okay from Governor Christie.

“There are so many ways a piece of legislation can short-circuit,” Eric says. “And because the alcohol industry is so highly regulated, there’s an added layer of complication when dealing with beer-related bills.”

For many of us, knowledge about the legislative process comes largely from watching House of Cards. And while “there are definitely elements of that show that are true,” Eric says, Netflix fails at providing us with a clear idea of logistics. We’re talking about the step-by-steps of the law-making process we first heard about via Schoolhouse Rock.

Given the three bills sponsored by Senators Kean and Barnes and Assemblymen Coughlin and O’Scanion —  the ones that would allow, respectively, for the sale of food at Jersey’s tasting rooms, the sale of beer at farmers’ markets, and the ability of brewpubs to self-distribute their product — we thought we’d put together a flowchart that explains the timeline. Keep in mind, the meat of the process detailed below can take anywhere from one week to several years.

Presenting: how a bill becomes a law in New Jersey, because it’s not as simple as you think…

(Our nifty chart will get bigger if you click on it.)


News From The Guild

America’s best-known beer writer, Don Russell, will become first Executive Director of the Garden State Craft Brewers GuildGarden State Brewers Guild Logo this month.

Just in case you need a refresher: the not-for-profit association that advocates on behalf of Jersey’s artisanal beer makers started out in 1996 as a small collection of passionate volunteers. “There was a time,” says leader/CMBC President Ryan Krill, “when the entire group could fit around a single restaurant booth.” But as the industry has boomed – it now pumps $776.9 million into the local economy annually — the Guild has expanded, too.

“Our board has always done an excellent job of steering the ship,” Ryan says. “But they’re also busy running their own breweries. With a membership that’s more than tripled in the last couple of years, it’s become clear: we need a captain. Don will help bring Jersey craft beer to the next level through advocacy and education, and we’re thrilled to have him on board.”

sixpack-mugshotRussell brings with him 40 years of experience as an award-winning newspaper reporter, including 20 years as Joe Sixpack, beer columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. He’s the founder and creator of Philly Beer Week, America’s first city-wide beer festival, and the author of three books, including Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide: A Reporter’s Notes on the Best Beer-Drinking City in America; Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest Most Unusual Beers of Christmas; and What the Hell am I Drinking? He’s also worked as a traveling ambassador on behalf of the US Department of State, and as a brewery tour guide throughout Europe and America.

But, Don says, he couldn’t be happier about landing this position in Jersey.

“The state’s been the punchline of many jokes,” he says. “But Jersey Fresh is one of the great slogans. The concept has become institutionalized, and it applies to the beer. That reputation is a source of pride for the craft drinkers here. We’re at the beginning of an explosive growth, and I love being on the cusp of that surge.”

Don says his goals include bolstering the Guild’s presence not just amongst brewers but within the beer-drinking community, spreading the good word about the positive effects of craft beer on the state’s economy and tourism industry, and growing a brand that’s separate from the influence of Philadelphia and New York.

But first thing’s first.

“My initial order of business,” he says, “is to crack open a Jersey beer.”


Talking ‘Bout Brett

Brettanomyces. It’s the biggest and baddest of the wild yeast strains.

Way back when, all beers were a little bit sour, meaning they were fermented with whatever wild yeast strain happened to be floating by atbrettanomyces the time — totally unbeknownst to early brewers. But then, circa 1857, humans got a little more science savvy. We learned what yeast is (a microscopic fungus comprised of more than 500 species) and what role it plays in the brewing process (converting sugar to ethanol and CO2).

Let’s just say you can blame it on the yeast the next time you send your ex a string of texts at 3am.

Of course, once we learned what yeast is, we wanted to harness its power, and that’s exactly what we did. We domesticated certain strains, and reveled in the consistency of brews made with these mild-mannered types. We shunned the funkier, sometimes acidic flavors lent by hard-to-control strains like Brett – which can easily contaminate other batches in a production facility — and went on our merry way.

Fast forward to today and… hello, renaissance.

Sour beers and, ipso facto, wild yeast strains are having a bit of a moment, with experimental brewers drawing inspiration from the beers of yore. Brett, largely considered the most untamable of the wild yeast gang, has stolen the spotlight. When it mingles with acid-producing bacteria, it can yield a final product reminiscent of sour cherries and balsamic vinegar.

According to late beer author Michael Jackson, Brett is similar to a cat. “It’s going to do its own thing; it’s not going to come when you call it and sit when you say ‘sit.’ If you can respect its individuality and suggest rather than dictate what it does in your fermentation, it can reward the brewer and the drinker.”

This week, we’ve been brewing up a batch of our Turtle Gut, made with Bretannomyces. We’ll keep you posted on when it’s ready for sipping.

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