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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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Hot Riffs And Cold Beer: CMBC Sponsors The Exit Zero International Jazz Festival

It’s arguably the greatest Jersey musical event of the year (and we’re not just saying that because we’re sponsoring it for the third year running). In case you aren’t familiar with the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, here’s the rundown:

In 2010 the Cape May Jazz Festival, which ran for 17 years, came to an end, and people were — to put it lightly — pissed. Especially Michael Kline.

Dr John of Dr John and the Nite Trippers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will headline this year's festival.
Dr John of Dr John and the Nite Trippers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will headline this year’s festival.

A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Michael had fallen in love with Cape May on family vacations as a kid, so he moved here after college in ’92. But nine years later, his heart would lead him to the the Big Easy… he’d developed such a passion for jazz, New Orleans simply called his name. There, Micheal got involved with WWOZ radio, managing their underwriting and sponsorship departments, and eventually became a booking agent for the likes of Charlie Haden, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. In a short amount of time, Michael had won entry into an impressive inner circle. (He can tell you what it’s like to chat with Ray Charles, or about the bowling scores of Irma Thomas — the Aretha Franklin of New Orleans.)

And then: Hurricane Katrina.

Michael moved back to Cape May where, in 2006, he launched his own boutique international booking agency, Michael Kline Artists, and that job has taken him all over the world. Traveling throughout Europe, South America and Asia, he’s learned what makes for the world’s best jazz festivals. Four years ago, Cape May benefited from Michael’s expertise when he relaunched the now-defunct Cape May fest, this time as the Exit Zero International Jazz Festival.

We caught up with the musical guru to ask about this year’s event , happening May 28-30, which features such big name headliners as Dr John, six-time Grammy award winner, and Joey Alexander, 11-year-old piano prodigy.

Here’s what he had to say about the weekend, and about CMBC’s role:

The festival has many big name sponsors, including Xerox. Why are you excited to count CMBC among them?  How many reasons do you want? We pride ourselves on accentuating what Cape May and South Jersey do best, so this is an ideal collaboration. And the music happening on the Cape May Brewery stage [at Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill] is going to blow the roof off. It’s a really great fit for the brewery.

How so? Let’s see… there’s the Rebirth Brass Band straight out of New Orleans playing there on Saturday evening. To me, this is the greatest party band in the world, but I’m not the only one who thinks it. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers tweets it all the time, saying these guys are the best band he’s ever seen live. They’ve got a funky, explosive sound… they’re going to blow the roof off. Then there’s The Lost Bayou Ramblers on Sunday. They’re also from New Orleans but with a whole different sound. We’re pairing that performance with a real Louisiana crawfish boil — between that and the music and the beer, it’s going to be one hell of a party. Joe Keys and the Late Bloomer Band are also on the CMBC stage — they’re another horn-predominating group, funkadelic, and they’ll have people on the dance floor all night long.

How many musicians are we talking about total, throughout the city? Over 100.

What makes this year’s festival cooler than  year’s past? Our goal was to have as much music outdoors as possible, and we’ve worked hard to fulfill that. There’s Jazz at the Estate, happening on the lawn of the Emlen Physick Estate. Then there’s the pier at the Lobster House restaurant, and there’s going to be a tent on Diamond Beach where we’ll host two Havana nights. I’m not really doing it justice, calling it a tent; this is a semi-permanent structure that fits 400 people, and I’m really excited about the incredible Cuban music that will be happening there. Basically, from Friday at 9pm until Sunday at 5pm, there’s going to be music all over the place.

Where can people get CMBC beer? At all of the venues. And Cape May’s is the exclusive beer available at Convention Hall for the headliner performances, and at Jazz at the Estate.

Why is it that craft beer and jazz go so well together? Neither are the kind of thing you can get just anywhere; you have to work a little bit harder to seek them out. Both are for people who want something just a little bit above the norm… they’re for people who want something better.

For more information on times, tickets and musicians, visit exit0jazzfest.com.

What The Hell Is A Beach Plum, And Why Do You Want It In Your Beer?

Sales Rep Justin Vitti won’t be the only tasty-looking thing hanging on the beach this summer, catching some rays…

Because it grows wild on natural dunes from Maine to North Carolina, the Beach Plum tree withstands seriously depleted soil and harsh gusts of salty air… and it looks that way. Gnarled and windblown, this isn’t the cutest shrub you’ll ever see. But for those who’ve gotten a taste of the sweet, tart fruits that bloom on these cherry tree-like branches every April, the plant is a thing of beauty.

The nickel-sized fruit can be deep blue, purple, rosy or yellow. Image via spectacularlydelicious.com.
The nickel-sized fruit can be deep blue, purple, rosy or yellow. Image via spectacularlydelicious.com.

Fanatical hunters won’t give away their favorite spots; beach plum hunting is a practice nearly as secretive as truffle hunting, especially since development on Jersey’s barrier islands has depleted the species. But since 2010, when the beach plum was named the official fruit of Cape May County, keeping hot spots under wraps has been difficult.

David Van Vorst, president of the CMC Beach Plum Association (yes, there is such a thing), says that for this “treasure hunt,” it’s best to look on the coastal plain. Hunters will have the best luck on the secondary dune, or the side facing away from the water. While the fruit grows on the entire peninsula — including Cape May Point State Park and along the harbor — Higbee Beach is a goldmine. Every August, the Cape May Nature Center hosts a “What’s Yum About Beach Plums” workshop here. And Joe Alvarez, local BP guru, leads beach plum tours throughout the area sponsored by the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension.

Which is all just a long-winded way of saying: wild thing, you make our hearts sing.

The beach plum is used to make tasty cordials, cobbler, cheesecake, wine, vinaigrettes, jams, jellies, and now — ta-da! — beer.

That’s right — our Queen Street Beach Plum Ale came out last Friday, and it’s as exotic as it sounds. We made it with wild yeast found on grapes growing just outside the brewery, and infused it with pomace, the crushed skins and seeds of beach plums pressed by the Washington Inn restaurant for their own cocktails.

So, whatcha waiting for? The brew is on tap in the tasting room now. No hunting necessary.

 

 

CMBC In The News

A round-up of this week’s relevant headlines:

1. This morning, at Cape May County’s annual tourism conference, it was revealed that 2014 was a banner year. According to the Press of Atlantic City, CMC is clocking in at $5.8 billion in tourist spending, and leading the state with a 5% growth. This is due, in no small part, to what Press writer Michael Miller calls the conference “darlings:” wineries, distilleries, and one ever-expanding brewery (ahem, that’s us!).

Our president, Ryan Krill, was one of the featured speakers.

“The folks who visit [Cape May Brewery] are from all over the region,” he said. “It’s a really authentic experience, which makes it special. We don’t have regulars. We have all-unique visitors.”

Our guy Ryan (on right, beside State Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi) talks about the importance of agritourism in Cape May County.
Our guy Ryan (on right, beside State Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi) talks about the importance of agritourism in Cape May County.

2. Speaking of sexy news, it’s National Small Business Week, and in honor of the occasion, the US Chamber of Commerce held an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill honoring lawmakers for “strong voting records on critical business issues in 2014.” US Representative Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) was one of the recipients of the so called Spirit of Enterprise Award, and in his acceptance speech, he singled us out.

“As South Jersey continues to struggle with double-digit unemployment in the aftermath of the casino closures, I remain focused on pro-growth policies that will help bring new opportunities to our region and assist those residents looking for full-time work,” he said. “A critical part of our recovery will be the growth and success of small businesses, which serve as the engine of our economy like the Cape May Brewing Company. It is imperative we put forth policies that will give small businesses the confidence to hire and entrepreneurs the desire to invest. I remain committed to working with all of South Jersey’s chapters to grow our economy and am pleased to accept the Chamber’s ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ award.”

US Representative Frank LoBiondo accepts the Spirit of Enterprise Award from Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce.
US Representative Frank LoBiondo accepts the Spirit of Enterprise Award from Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce.

3. Finally, ABC ran a story on the country’s eight most adorable beach towns this week, and Cape May made the list… with a special nod to our brewery tours…

Reads the write-up: “Different from the ‘Jersey Shore’ image that MTV portrays, Cape May is an adorable beach town almost as far south as Washington, DC. It has loads of Victorian B&Bs and quaint shops selling saltwater taffy, frozen custard, and antiques. The family-friendly town is very walkable and activities range from parasailing and paddleboarding to brewery or lighthouse tours.”

We’re keeping good company – Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Kennebunkport, Maine; and Hilton Head, South Carolina also made the cut.

Our neck of the woods. Image courtesy of blendspace.com.
Our neck of the woods. Image courtesy of blendspace.com.

 

 

Geek Out 2.0!

If you haven’t yet tried the latest brain-child of Lead Brewer Brian, get thee to the tasting room. Geek Out 2.0 came out last Friday, and it’s reminiscent of the first beer Bri-guy ever concocted at CMBC on his own, the original Geek Out. That one was a Belgian Rye IPA made with white wine, the forbidden fruit yeast strain (think subdued fruitiness), and both citra and experimental hops.

“It was everything but the kitchen sink,” Brian says.

But this time around, expect a more concentrated effort, due partly to the elimination of white wine. The final product is a very dry summer beer brewed with both pale malt grain and rye grain for a slick mouthfeel. And the hops? Well, those are from a special delivery we wrote about here. The ABV is 5.4%.

“You know how a band will come out with a first album that has some hits but is a little bit all over the place?” Brian says. “Think of this as the sophomore album — the one that makes you say: ‘Damn, the band got their shit together.'”

bri guy

American Craft Beer Week

Calling all beer nerds. American Craft Beer Week — a celebration of the country’s craft beer industry and the 110,000 jobs it creates nationwide — is happening now. Newbies will discover the reasons behind the renaissance — craft beer reached 11 percent market share for the first time last year — and connoisseurs will be reminded why they love the craft community. Throughout the nation, small breweries will host events that highlight their artisanal and tasty concoctions, and we’ll be among them!

beer“Beer is steeped in American tradition,” says our Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso. “Not only does participating in this nationwide event allow us to celebrate the artistry of what we create on a daily basis, but it also allows fans to learn more about the growing craft beer industry which we support right here in Cape May.”

Here’s what’s on tap this week:

Tomorrow, CMBC will host our first ‘Sour Hour’ from 5-7pm in the tasting room. It’s the perfect time to try a pint of our popular Tower 23 — named for a local World War II Lookout Tower — because members of our team will be on site to mingle and discuss the light and refreshing Berliner Weisse. We’ll be happy to talk with you about what makes the sour style so tricky – and so rewarding – to produce, and about the 60 recently-acquired oak barrels that are about to do wonders for our sour program. Come thirsty.

On Thursday, there will be Tap Takeover at Wildwood brew pub Goodnight Irene’s, where over 90 craft beers are available. On tap will be our Foreshore Cherry Limeaide Shandy, Turtle Gut American Sour, Tripel Wreck Belgian Tripel, Honey Porter, Coastal Evacuation Double IPA, and the last of our employee series beers for the summer – Richie’s Super Rad Pale Ale. But perhaps most exciting for the beer nerds out there? The dry-hopped Corrosion Sour IPA, which kicked in our tasting room way back in March, will also be on site. Oh, and bring your thinking caps — it’s Quizzo night.

Last but not least, on Friday it’s ‘Enjoy Your Tastings With The Brewers’ from 5-7pm in the tasting room. Talk with the men behind the beer about what makes them tick (er, ferment), and what we’re is doing to push the industry envelope. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even hear about that time our fermenter exploded. Newbies and connoisseurs welcome to sip and chat.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Cape May Brewery’s Ribbon Cutting

In case you drove by CMBC last Friday and saw parked at our entrance a fully-extended scissor lift complete with a Cape May Brewery banner alerting dignitaries and members of the press where to turn, and in case you wondered what the heck was going on, we’ll break it down for you. May 8 marked the official opening of CMBC’s second brewery at Cape May Airport. With a buzzy ribbon cutting ceremony, we launched 409 Breakwater, the 15,000 square-foot warehouse that we’ve been renovating for over a year and a half, and we dedicated the 30-barrel brewhouse inside. The day, in a nutshell, was great. The day not-in-a-nutshell is below.

Presenting: the ribbon cutting in review:

The oh-shit scenario: Mere moments before go-time, we realized our ribbon was for too short, only about eight feet long, for an event like this. Thanks to Courtney for an 11th-hour run to the party store for a spare. Crisis averted!

The welcome: President Ryan Krill gave the opening remarks, explaining the condition of the building when he first took it over (spiders, animal urine, and a front door lock that needed to be picked with a knife), and how humbled he feels to be where he is now, with 30 employees and counting. The new space “allows us to give back to the community that supported us in the beginning, and what better way to do that than over a beer,” he said.

The jokes: When it was their respective turns to make a speech, both Freeholder Will Morey and the Mayor of Lower Township, Michael Beck, cracked wise about CMBC’s original brewhouse being an old washing machine. (No, it wasn’t actually a converted Maytag, but it was a homemade system.) For coming so far in such a short amount of time, “a tip of the mug to you,” Beck said.

The food: Flight Deck Diner catered the afternoon’s reception. Said owner Sean McMullen: “It was easy to do; beer drinkers tend to be innovative and up for anything.” Among the tasty menu items were roasted summer vegetable sliders complete with Devil’s Reach Belgian Strong Ale-infused mustard.

The DRBA: The Executive Director of the Delaware River and Bay Authority Scott A Green said he met recently with a major local institution who also wants to move to the airport, and this institution’s president asked him: “So what do you think is leading to the rebirth of airport, if you could sum it up in one word?” Scott’s answer? Beer. “The brewery has gotten people to look behind the fence,” he said.

The presidential shout-out: Said Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi: “President Reagan always said that small businesses and entrepreneurs are responsible for almost all economic growth in this country, and that’s true, and that’s what you see here today, a company with vision, dedication and hard work…. Cheers!”

The confession: Congressman Frank LoBiondo called Cape May Brewery a great example of the American dream. Later, during the reception, he confided: “The Bog is my new favorite beer of all time. It’s got a unique taste, very refreshing. And it goes down very easy, which can be… dangerous.”

The big picture: Senator Jeff Van Drew told the crowd that this country and this state were built by people who believed they could succeed despite overwhelming odds, and that in this spirit, CMBC has taken something that was nothing, and turned it into something extraordinary. “I really believe the best is still ahead of you,” he said.

The young entrepreneurs: Among the afternoon’s honored guests were Cape May’s up-and-coming crop of culturally and business-savvy entrepreneurs. Said Jonathan Hirsch of the Montreal Inn: “People come into our restaurant and even into our liquor store requesting fresh and local. It’s wonderful to have the brewery for them here… and it helps that the beer is phenomenal.” Also in attendance? Chris Cooke from the eclectic Washington Street Mall shop called Across the Way. “The brewery draws the very demographic Cape May needs,” he said. “These are the people who will keep the town moving forward, and keep us from fading out as a Victorian resort.”

The moms: We spoke with the mothers of CMBC’s fearless leaders Ryan and Chris, who told us: “Words cannot describe how proud we are.” Although they also said that, at the beginning, they were a little shell-shocked when the guys told them they’d be going from “making beer on someone’s patio” to opening an actual, fully-fledged brewery. “The first few times we saw the hop plants they were growing, we assumed they were marijuana!”

The cut! Photo by Sandy Maloney, courtesy of Exit Zero magazine.
The cut! Photo by Sandy Maloney, courtesy of Exit Zero magazine.

 

Shark Alert!

There’s a great white named Mary Lee swimming 10(!) miles off of the Cape May coast right now, so area surfers should probably ditch plans to paddle out and hit our tasting room instead.

According to local meteorologist Dan Skeldon in The Press of Atlantic City this morning:  “The 3,456 pound female has traveled almost 20,000 miles since it was tagged off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in September of 2012. OCEARCH, a non-profit group that researches great whites, placed a tracker on Mary Lee that will emit a ping each time the shark’s dorsal fin surfaces above the ocean. Over the last month, Mary Lee has made steady progress northward up the East Coast of the United States. In early April, the 16-foot long shark was off of North and South Carolina. Earlier this week, she was lurking just off of Assateague Island off of the Delmarva Peninsula. In the last 24-hours, Mary Lee moved north, paralleling the Delaware coastline about 10 miles offshore. Then came five pings early Thursday morning, as Mary Lee zig-zagged about 10-15 miles east of Cape May and Wildwood. The current water temperature off of South Jersey is 55 degrees, just at the lower end of the shark’s preferred range.”

Follow Mary Lee on Twitter at @MaryLeeShark, or track her moves here.

 

Thoughts On The Expansion Completion

This Friday marks the ribbon cutting for the CMBC’s new location — 409 Breakwater — which means we’ll be all set up and ready to go with our new brewery in two days time. Here’s what some members of our team had to say about the milestone three-and-a-half years in the making:

Ryan Krill – CMBC President: “It’s easy to romanticize opening a brewery, but holy hell, it’s hard to make it happen. No one tells you if you’re making a mistake, either, so yea – there’s a lot of anxiety. But it’s exciting, too. We used to fantasize about this event back when the brewery was just a concept. We wondered what it would be like to have people caring about us and our expansion moves. Now that it’s come to fruition, we fantasize about taking it to the next level.”

Chris “Hank” Henke – Chief Operating Officer: “The opening feels like it’s been a long time coming. When you’re in the thick of it — installing the boiler, the glycol system, the steam lines and everything else — it feels like it’s dragging. You’re cursing and busting knuckles. But now, it’s bittersweet. When it’s done, and there’s nothing left to work on, you miss it. What do you do when it’s all done? I guess you start looking to build the next thing…”

Brian Hink – Lead Brewer: “I remember when Ryan first showed me the new building. It was creepy as hell, full of wooden tables that looked like they belonged in a 1980s pizza joint, and there were these low-hanging, flickering lights. There wasn’t even a key to get inside; we had to pick the lock with a knife. Ryan said we’d be brewing here within two years, and I thought to myself ‘Get the fuck out.’ Most people say they’re going to do something and maybe it happens. But Ryan operates on a different timeline. He’s a doer, and there’s never a dull moment.”

Bob Krill – Chief Mopman: To me, it was pretty quick to go from a 12-gallon can for making beer to what you see today. If you think about it from that perspective… in three-and-a-half years we’ve gone from a 12-gallon system to the monster we have now. It’s a game-changer, pretty phenomenal. Chris and Ryan deserve a lot of credit, as well as the whole conglameration of people from the Delaware River and Bay Authority — it took a lot of people juggling a lot of different balls to make this happen. So really, it’s amazing how fast it all happened. We’re witnessing the birth of a brewery. Up until this point, we’ve been micro, micro… and now we have this beast that’s going to produce a river of beer. It’s so exciting to to be a part of.  I feel like I’m freefalling, parachuting or something. Every second, I’m just enjoying the ride.

dirt

 

 

 

Eleventh-Hour Prep

Things may be business as usual at CMBC — we’re still mashing in, serving tasty beer, and attending very important meetings. Just yesterday, President Ryan Krill headed to Cherry Hill for an executive briefing with Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno on ways to spur investment and job creation in New Jersey.

But there’s also been a greater-than-normal flurry of activity at our headquarters this past week. That’s because the long-anticipated ribbon cutting for our new building is this Friday. In just two days, state senators, congressmen, assemblymen, local entrepreneurs and other VIPs will descend upon 409 Breakwater to see what we’ve done with the place and help us to officially launch it.

Here are the finishing touches:

1. Sprucing up with some flowers:

This is the ‘before’ picture, taken just outside of our offices; we’ll be sure to post the ‘after’ shot, too, once it’s all complete. Expect some “colorful shit” (the landscaper’s words, not ours).

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2. Fixing that roof

When we first moved into this space over a year ago, the roof leaked from all four corners. We patched it and patched it some more, but now it’s finally getting redone. Our tireless team of seven (there’s one guy missing from this shot) began the job last Thursday, and they’ve worked every day since for eight-hour stretches in order to meet the Friday deadline. We asked Cody Short — third from the right — if he’s looking forward to a nice cold beer when this is all complete. “I’m too young to drink!” he told us. Here’s hoping he’s a rule-follower while roofing, too…

roof

 

3. Amping up the electric…

In order to power our new 30-barrel brewhouse and all of our new equipment — and thanks to five box trucks and 11 skilled technicians — we’ve upgraded our electric to 800 amps. For perspective, a large home (four bedrooms, garage, a few bathrooms) runs on a 200-0r-s0 amp system. So yea, that’s a lot of volts.

We asked CMBC’s Facility Tech Hot Carl, who worked as a lineman for the Navy in a past life, how dangerous this type of work is.

“Let’s just say those guys doing the roofing should stay away from the wires,” he said. “You can definitely get fried.”

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wire 3

 

 

(People Drinking) Blondes Have More Fun

Seagulls are squawking. It’s close to 80 degrees. And Sales Rep Richie came to work looking like a lobster. All of this amounts to one thing: summer is a-coming. Further proof? Our seasonal menu. Out today is — drum roll, please — The Blonde!

We hope we aren’t misleading you here. Despite its name, this beer doesn’t really fit the blonde category. You see, blonde usually refers to a style of “entry-level” craft beers — beverages with a malty aroma whose original purpose was to provide a  gentle transition for Coors-loving Americans.

But ours isn’t just a drink for people on the verge of a mass-market-to-artisanally-produced leap. It’s got enough character for those who jumped a long time ago.

The Blonde is part Kolsh-style, part Czech Pilsner-style, and entirely flavorful. Its brewed with a distinctive German yeast and noble hops that lend a soft, clean, grassy sort of bitterness. You’ll notice them, but you “won’t feel like you’re chewing on them,” says Lead Brewer Brian, adding that’s this is an ideal brew for after a hot summer activity. “At first we wanted to call it Lawnmower Ale because it tastes so great after something like yardwork, but DogFish Head already had the name.”

Come to the tasting room to see if you agree with Briguy. And in the meantime: SPF, guys, SPF.

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