As you drive to the brewery, entering Lower Township, you may notice a sign tucked to the right side of the road. It’s an easy sign to miss — it seems to have been placed by a thoughtful neighbor rather than some governmental entity –, but it proclaims Lower Township to have the best sunsets in New Jersey.
Y’all… that sign ain’t lyin’.
If you’ve never had the chance to situate yourself on the bay side of Cape May County toward the end of the day, you’re missing out on one of the finest experiences of your life.
Combine it with a delicious strawberry lemonade shandy, fortuitously bearing the name Strawberry Sunset, and you’ve got an experience to remember.
“Mother’s Day weekend is always a big weekend down the shore,” says Innovation Director Brian Hink. “Kind of like a soft-launch for Memorial Day Weekend two weeks later, so we usually target Mother’s Day weekend to get a release onto the schedule.”
Our Innovation Team was spitballing some ideas for Mother’s Day brews, and, for better or for worse, the conversation sided toward beers that are stereotypically thought of as appealing to women: fruit beers, colorful beers, and beers on the sweeter side.
“But, by the four of us bouncing different ideas off each other,” Brian says, “we wound up conceptualizing this whole package in about 10 minutes. The style of beer, the flavor combo, the name — everything came together very quickly. We had a lot of synergy coming together.”
But, like many things in the time of COVID, the best-laid plans will soon go awry. Not knowing how things were going to go, we scrapped anything that wasn’t intended for distribution, including our plans for Strawberry Sunset.
“To release this as planned,” Brian continues, “we would’ve had to commit to brewing it by the end of April, and at that point, we still weren’t certain about releasing Tasting Room-only beers.”
Luckily, things went relatively well in the Tasting Room once we were allowed to begin home delivery, so it began to seem that Tasting Room-only releases would be a good idea. It was too late in the game to get this one out by Mother’s Day, but a strawberry lemonade shandy during the summer at the shore is never a bad idea.
“It made sense to slot it in as one of our earlier releases to help kick off this program again,” Brian says. “It’s a delicious beer and I’m very happy with how it came out. It’s perfect beer-drinking weather — although I can make the argument that all weather is beer-drinking weather –, so releasing it at the beginning of June made a lot of sense.”
The name “Strawberry Sunset” is serendipitously also the name of a cocktail with many of the same flavors, but Brian tells us that the flavor combination actually came from a beverage at one of his first jobs at a coffee shop.
“We used to do a frozen strawberry lemonade that was delightfully refreshing,” he recalls. “It could easily be turned into a cocktail by adding some vodka.”
“Hey, that’s pretty fitting!”
While it may not have been inspired by the cocktail of the same name, many of the flavors are the same.
“A strawberry lemonade shandy is a flavor combination that simply sings!” Brian says.
Lab Manager Lauren Appleman agrees.
“I remember the days when I would go out to eat and get a strawberry lemonade when I was feeling ‘fancy’,” she says.
Brian is particularly enamored with the balance of sweetness and tartness in Strawberry Sunset.
“Strawberries are naturally sweet and tart and lemonade is sweet and tart,” he says and there’s a whole slew of candies out there that are designed to be sweet and tart.”
Essentially, Strawberry Sunset is all about balance.
“It’s a balance, harmony, yin-and-yang kinda thing,” Brian says. “It’s brilliantly bright and snappy, and the sweetness from the berries helps round out the acid component of the lemons.”
While Strawberry Sunset will definitely hold its own against our other shandies like The Bog and The Grove, we were going for something a little less sweet than The Bog and something a little more tart than The Grove.
“We really focused on the amount of acidity,” he explains, “using titratable acidity to measure the grams of acid per liter to establish a baseline that works in our fruit beers, and then working through a number of benchtop trials to elevate the acidity to an appropriate level while also keeping the focus on the ratio of acid to the backsweetening. I think the effort was well worth it because the result really pops.”
The result is a strawberry lemonade shandy that is sweet, tart, and ridiculously refreshing.
“This is definitely a pinky-out kind of beer that is meant for those long days hanging around the pool,” Lauren says.
And Brian agrees. He has plenty of ideas for Strawberry Sunset over the summer.
“Now that the weather has turned, this is a perfect hot sunny day beer,” he says. “A good post-bike ride beer, a good lawnmower beer, a good beer to drink on the beach. If you can picture yourself drinking a beer outside and enjoying the outdoors, you can picture yourself drinking Strawberry Sunset.
“It’s the perfect balance point between our shandies. Not too sweet, not too tart, definitely in that Goldilocks zone — just right.”
Strawberry Sunset releases in the Brewtique on Friday, $11.99+tax for a six-pack. It’ll be available for online orders beginning Thursday night in limited quantities. Don’t miss out!