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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company

Choppy is Here!

Our faithful fans know that when they come to the Tasting Room, they’re in for a treat. It’s the only place in the world that they’ll be able to get all of our current brews, placed gingerly behind the bar for your drinking pleasure.

However, our faithful Designated Drivers often ask, “Can I get a Diet Coke?”

Well. No. You can’t get a Diet Coke. Since we’re a beverage company, we’re not going to sell you something that someone else made. More importantly, we’re definitely not going to sell you a carbonated pint of high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring.

That’s why, in 2014, Mop Man had the idea of making craft sodas: ginger ale and root beer.

And our ginger ale really took off. “The unicorn of ginger ales,” he says, it’s got a flavor completely unlike commercial ginger ale. It actually tastes good.

“It’s all fresh ingredients,” he tells us. “Fresh ginger, fresh lemons, and pure cane sugar. No other ingredients or preservatives.”

You can taste the fresh ginger — there’s a spiciness to our stuff that you’re not going to find in commercially-available ginger ales.

“When you drink it, there’s a slight burn to it,” Mop Man says, “which is how fresh ginger ale should taste. Not that bubbly sweet water. It’s an old-time ginger ale like people used to get.”

Furthermore, when you look at the ingredient label for one of the big guys, the first ingredient is usually water, then the next four are preservatives, colorings, high fructose corn syrup, and ginger extract.

Yeah. We don’t play that at CMBC. We don’t play that with our beers; we’re not going to do it with our sodas. We have a commitment to quality here at CMBC that we take very seriously.

“The ginger ale’s been very popular,” Mop Man says.

So that’s why we’ve decided to start bottling it. Welcome “Choppy” to CMBC’s lineup!

Available Friday, April 27th in the Brewtique, Choppy will be available in $7 four-packs and $40 cases. No more growler fills, but our faithful Designated Drivers can still get pints at the bar.

For now, Choppy will only be available at the Tasting Room, but over the next few weeks we’ll be distributing it to some of our local accounts. How great would it be to be able to get a Moscow Mule or a Dark and Stormy at your favorite bar made with Choppy instead of one of those ginger ales that comes out of a big, plastic bottle?

“But we’re gearing up,” Mop Man says. “Remember, when we opened the brewery five years ago, we only made 12 gallons of beer at a time. Once we get bigger with the sales and see what demand is, we’ll increase production.”

That would require quite a bit of investment in terms of infrastructure at the brewery. We’d need large kettles to add all of the ingredients — and with whole, fresh ginger and fresh lemons, we’d need somewhere to put all of them. We’d need dedicated tanks to cool and carbonate the product. We’d need another truck and driver to deliver it. 

Furthermore, Choppy is the very definition of “handcrafted.” We’re chopping the ginger ourselves. We’re juicing the lemons ourselves. This isn’t mass-produced ginger ale: this is honest to goodness craft soda. We’d need to hire a phalanx of choppers to get Choppy at a level where we can distribute it on par with our beers.

But… you never know.

In the meantime, you’ll be able to get your fill of Choppy at the Tasting Room and bottles in the Brewtique. Swing down and pick up some!

King Porter Stomp in Bottles!

Any musicians out there? Believe it or not, there’s music coming from the brewery all the time. Not only from Brian’s latest Pandora playlist, but the rhythm of the bottler is practically toe-tapping.

Was Jelly Roll Morton listening to a brewery when he wrote King Porter Stomp? Probably not, but maybe he should have.

Either way, this killer brew named after a killer tune is — for the first killer time — in killer bottles with killer artwork from Killer Courtney Rosenberg.

Stomp on down to the brewery on Saturday to pick up a six!

Ship in a Bottle

Deciding when to bottle a beer is some serious business. Homebrewers have the luxury of sitting on a brew for as long as they want, letting the flavors settle and the fermentations run their course. However, we want to get it out to you as soon as we can. Yet, if we bottle it too early, not only is the beer not the best it could possibly be, but we run the risk of having several hundred cases of slowly-ticking timebombs. No one wants pieces of glass shrapnel getting embedded into their eyes.

So we asked Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm how he knew when to bottle The Keel.

“The only way to know when something like The Keel is ready to be bottled is to taste it,” he says. “Each beer in our sour program has a desired flavor profile; the balance between the tart sour notes, the level of the woodsy compounds or of any fruit added, the kind of acidity coming through from the lactic and acetic acids being produced, and any funk from Brettanomyces yeast that may be present.  We taste these beers often to gauge their progress and keep detailed notes on each barrel.”

In the case of The Keel, that process took about eight months.

“We have a general idea of how long a batch of sour beer should take,” Jimmy says, “but in the end we let the beer tell us when it’s almost ready.  We take note when a select batch of barrels begins to approach the flavor profile we want, inform the rest of the company, and plan out a release schedule.”

There are up to three more brews currently planned for the original batch of sour inoculant that became The Keel, but the release schedule isn’t set in stone. We have a general idea of when we’d like to get them out, but “these are the kinds of beers that will ruin any best laid plans if you’re not careful. The best way to prevent that is to let it just do its thing and release it in its own time,” Jimmy says.

“It took a lot of us a lot of time,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink about the bottling process. It was the first run using our fancy new bottler, “so we were working the kinks out along the way.” It took four of the brewers working a twelve-hour day, with six others jumping in for up to eleven hours each.

Check out the video below. (With some epic-as-hell pirate music by Ross Bugden.)

Odds And Ends In One… Two… Three…

ONE: As in this week’s one-off, on tap now. Picture this — Cape May Stout infused with a little bit of chocolate, a dusting of cinnamon, a hint of rum flavoring and the strong taste of coffee. We condition the beer for 24 hours on grounds from Avalon Coffee, rather than brewing with actual java, which would dilute the final product. The end result: Faux Tiramisu. The verdict: worth cheating on the New Year’s resolution for.

One-Off Wednesday is going strong.
One-Off Wednesday is going strong.

TWO: As in two back-to-back bottling runs, a first for CMBC, happening this week. First up is Mop Water, our five-spiced ale. It’s the last run of the season for this warm-you-up brew, so be sure to grab a six-pack when you see it on liquor store shelves. “It tastes so much better than it sounds,” says resident Mop Man Bob Krill.

Andrew, hard at work.

THREE: As in everybody smile on the count of three… We’ve got ourselves a photo booth. Take a picture of you and your friends enjoying your time in our tasting room, and share it directly to your social media pages. Because Instagramming dinner is so last year.

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What You Need In Order To Bottle Like CMBC

Part of our ongoing expansion is the incorporation of a bottling line that we’ve been putting together for two years, thanks in great part to the mad engineering skills of our guy Chris. First, he designed the line’s layout in a circa 1999 AutoCAD program (hey, it’s vintage), and then we purchased the system in retro parts. “We were so excited when we got it, because we got it for scrap value,” Chris says. “But then we realized why it’s that way. I’ve spent a lot of time repairing pieces, and figuring out how to connect them all.”Bottling Devil's Reach

When it’s totally complete and set up in HQ, the action-filled process will look like this:

Bottles start on a depalletizer, or a machine that removes layers of containers from a pallet. (Ours is a circa-1960s “tank.”) From there, they’ll move onto a conveyor belt, then to a labeler, then to a twist rinser (another old-school piece) that sanitizes and removes any cardboard dust, and then to an actual bottler from a now-defunct brewery in Ohio. Here, they’ll be filled, capped, rinsed and moved to another feeder where they’ll be distributed into six packs. The system will be manned by two men.

In the meantime, getting bottles from one station to the next is a manual job. So, until we’re fully up and running (watch this space for updates), here’s what you need in order to bottle like Cape May Brewing Co:

  1. Bathroom breaks, before the process begins. “It’s like road tripping,” says Chris. “You go before you start.”
  2. Six hours. That’s how long it takes to get through 4,400 bottles, which is usually around the target goal. (Although the most ever completed by us in one shot was 8,800.)
  3. Six men. Four with beards. Three with (visible) tattoos, all of them nautical.
  4. Meta clothing. Our guy Chris is sporting a tee-shirt with the image of a fallen bottle on the front. (It’s from Base Camp Brewing Company.) Brian is wearing a CMBC hat with a green and red puff on top, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. Music. “The groovier and jammier the better,” says Brian. On Pandora today? Creedance Clearwater Revival. Fun fact: For their 1977 concert in Moscow before 80,000 fans, CCR sang all songs in Russian.
  6. Protective eyewear.
  7. A high tolerance for noise. The bottling machine’s actions (including pressing bottles with CO2 to keep air out) are loud, and the guys get to know them — and their order — very well. When something sounds off, “Duck!” says Bob.
  8. A high tolerance for aches and pains. “At the end of the day, your lower back is dead,” says Brian.
  9. A competitive spirit. Since bottles are currently being dried by hand, Andrew says: “I’m fastest. I keep track. I dry 11 bottles per case.” Brian counters with: “I only take 3.5 seconds per bottle!” Now, now, boys.
  10. Good conversation. “Doing this together all day is actually a good chance to catch up,” says Andrew.
  11. A sense of humor. “When the bottling line is complete, we’ll be able to lay off Jake,” says Chris. Twenty minutes later, Ryan enters and says. “When the bottling line is complete, we’ll be able to lay off Jake!” So we might need new material…

    Men Bottling
    It takes six hours, six men, and some serious stamina to bottle 4,400 bottles of Devil’s Reach

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