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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company

Expansion Update

In outer space, one side of a satellite is exposed to a temperature of absolute zero, or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. The other side, facing the sun, is burning up with no atmosphere to protect it. Thermal satellite engineers are tasked with finding and maintaining a satellite’s temperature equilibrium so that it doesn’t feeze/combust, all the while dealing with a host of challenges… orbit can be a pesky thing. Why is this relevant? CMBC’s Chief Operating Officer Chris “Hank” Henke worked as one such engineer in a past life, and we’ve been relying on his knowledge of thermodynamics around the brewhouse this week.


Adjacent to our tasting room is our new sour brewery, which is VIR (very important real estate) at CMBC, since this is where our experimental beers, like the Stow Away Reserve Series, will come to fruition. Hank has been working alongside Facility Technician Carl Hudson this week to install a glycol chilling network. First, the guys ripped out the old system, which was a three-day process. Then, they spent a full day hooking up the new system (well, the new old system, since what they’re firing up is actually CMBC’s original chiller from 2011. It’s smaller and, therefore, better-suited for an experimental brewery. Plus, it frees up some space outside for a new beer garden one day…)

The final setup includes a black chiller (see picture) that lives behind our fermenting tank and keeps a 30-gallon reservoir of propylene glycol chilled at 32 degrees. It then pumps this cool glycol — essentially food-grade antifreeze — into the fermenting jacket that surrounds our tank. Once here, the glycol extracts heat from the beer inside the tank before making its way back to the start where it can be chilled and used again, in one continuous loop.

“I prefer maintaining the temperature of beer over maintaining the temperature of satellites,” Chris says. “There are too many variables in deep space.”

How to know if it’s working? On your next tour, if you see condensation on the door of our fermenter, you’ll know the beer chilling process is underway.

Dismantling the walk-in
Dismantling the walk-in

Meanwhile, over at HQ, we’re in the midst of a cooler renovation. If you remember, up until the beginning of 2015, our cooling system consisted of a used Quizno fridge that still smelled like Italian hoagie, and a 4-by-20-foot box made from hand-me-down insulated panels that were bolted to palette racking. Both units were operational only because we tricked them out with home air conditioners. The third CMBC fridge was ripped out from a Weiss Supermarket (yes, with permission) by our President Ryan Krill. Altogether, this amounted to 200 square feet of storage space – and not nearly enough room for beer.

So, before taking over our headquarters at Cape May Airport, a section of the new warehouse building was earmarked for a walk-in refrigeration unit that was purchased secondhand, this time from a MidWest supplier. Local builder John Thomas installed the 1,000-square-foot box, complete with an opening large enough for a forklift and a door that weighs close to 1,000 pounds. It took four people just to lift. The finished fridge held about 300 kegs at once. In the first three months the cooler was operational, we added 60 new accounts.

But now we’ve outgrown this fridge.

The solution? We’re selling that walk-in to a good home, and turning about one-fifth of our warehouse into a megacooler. The new, very cold space will be 2,500 square feet, and will hold double the amount of beer, thanks in large part to the increased ceiling height. (We’ve gone from 12 to 15 feet.) The flavor-stabilizing, 38-degree room will eliminate a bottleneck — you can’t brew beer if you have nowhere to store it). Up next: insulating the walls. In the meantime, remember why we’re so fanatical about keeping our beer cold.

As for Unit 8, the recently acquired space next to our tasting room that we’ve been turning into a merchandise store, we’ve got exciting news. The automated growler fill station that will be stationed here – you know, the one that fills to capacity without spillage while reducing the amount of oxygen in your beer – shipped from Austria, where it was built, today. In addition to increasing shelf-life, the system will free up our beertenders for pouring, which means your CMBC experience is about to get an upgrade.

“It’s going to make the beer in your growler taste that much better,” Ryan says. “And it’s going to provide more space for everybody in the tasting room. Folks aren’t crazy about frequenting busy places in the summertime, but this will make it a lot easier to come in, get your beer, and get out as quickly as you need.”

We can’t wait for you to see all of our makeovers, all complete by mid-April.

We’re Building A Sour Brewery

Recently, we told you that that we put our 15-barrel brewhouse (the fourth of five brew system upgrades at CMBC) up for sale. What we didn’t tell you? WHY we’re so keen on unloading this equipment.

Our 15-bbl system, on its way to its new home, complete with brewhouse, boiler, auger and mill.
Our 15-bbl system, on its way to its new home, complete with brewhouse, boiler, auger and mill.

Now that we’ve struck a deal and officially kissed the brewhouse goodbye — it left on Monday to join Locust Lane Brewing in the Malvern area of Pennsylvania — we’ll come clean (or dirty, in this particular case).  We’re turning  her space, the 3,000-square-foot area attached to our tasting room, into a sour-only brewery.

Our production team will be the first tell you: sour beers are the new frontier in craft. Ryan believes they’re going to be the new IPA –meaning this style is on the cusp of a mega surge. It’s a surprising theory to some brewers, considering sour beers are made with hard-to-control bacteria strains that can easily contaminate beers not meant to be sour (and not meant to acquire that signature acidic flavor reminiscent of sour cherries or balsamic vinegar).

But having a space completely separate from our brewing headquaters to make these beers — coupled with our neurotic attention to cleanliness — allows us the freedom to brew without fear. And it allows visitors the opportunity to see the process up close. On a tour, you’ll get within inches of our equipment.

While Chris, predictably, has “no comment” (his enthusiasm is the understated kind), Ryan says he “couldn’t be more excited to make this happen, and to take Cape May’s production to the next level.”

Right now, we’re under construction, ripping out our concrete floors in order to install a new trench drain (thank you, Chris Archbold of Cape Concrete Designs). We’re moving out the cooler and dry goods that once resided here — they’ll be moving into a recently acquired unit, which we wrote about here — and we’re moving in four 15-barrel fermenting tanks. We’re also setting up 60 French oak wine barrels, which will be used to age our sour beers, and a one-barrel pilot brew system, which members of our staff will use to make experimental brews.

We’ll also be unveiling a new entrance to the brewery, which will mark the beginning of a self-guided tour in order to “elevate the whole customer experience,” says Ryan. No longer will you need to enter through the tasting room, THEN take a self-guided tour of the brewing space, only to return to the tasting room.

Of course, we’ll continue our regularly-scheduled brewing program in our 30-barrel brewhouse just across the way at Cape May Airport.

We’re expecting the whole operation to be complete within one month’s time… which means our New Year’s Resolution is all set: to bring you the best and most exciting beer possible. In the meantime, pardon our appearance.


If You Build It, They Will Clean

Remember when fearless leader Hank used the engineering skills he’d honed in his previous life in order to build our original 12-gallon brewhouse out of scrap material? And remember how, when we outgrew it, he turned that brewhouse into a keg washer?

Well, now we’ve outgrown the keg washer.

The system could only sanitize two containers at a time, and it took about eight minutes to go through one cycle. So Hank is busy fashioning us a new one out of stainless steel that will handle four kegs at once and take only four to five minutes per shot. Perhaps most exciting for our cellarmen? It’s about a foot lower to the ground, meaning they’ll expend less effort when lifting the 40-pound casks into place.

The project should take a couple of months to complete, since Hank is working on it when he’s not busy, you know, co-running a brewery. In the meantime, onwards and upwards…

Mopman sitting at our original brewhouse turned keg washer turned parts for new keg washer.
Mopman sitting at our original brewhouse turned keg washer turned parts for new keg washer.

CMBC On Video

Jeff Likous of Beer-Stained Letter fame has put together a cool CMBC video that covers our latest expansion into a new building at Cape May Airport. Here’s what Jeff had to say about his process… and why he felt so inspired:

It became a better story because Ryan and Chris decided to keep the original CMBC location going for specialty beers. No one’s done that. Most of the situations involving moving into a new space have meant just that, moving out of the old. So this, as far as New Jersey craft brewing goes, was a new dimension.

All of the shooting was done over three days.

I don’t know if I was surprised, more like excited to watch CMBC. It’s not so much that the brewery grew, but how they managed the leaps. In a way, they kind of made it look easy, but there was plenty of hard work.

I spent probably 16 hours editing.

Cape May Brewery inspired some others to pursue brewing, because they demonstrated a path for opening on such a small scale and swiftly growing from there. Having a front seat to that has been a great pleasure for me.

I look for Cape May to be among the New Jersey breweries that people elsewhere in the country think of when they think of East Coast beers, in the same way, for example, Stone is synonymous with San Diego, or Anderson Valley/Lagunitas/Bear Republic are with Northern California.  There’s been a gush of start-ups in New Jersey, and that has been the headline here for a while. But I think the next level for Jersey craft beer is how Jersey breweries will shape the state’s identity. A limelight that will shine on a lot of great beers, and I look for CMBC’s to be among them. – Jeff Linkous of Beer-Stained Letter. Read more from Jeff and see his cool Cape May Brewery video here.

Going With The Grain

Our first grain delivery since the installation of our new, 30-foot silo has arrived, after a long trip from Germany (we like Germany’s product because it’s so pure). Driver George Hartley of Compatible Technology International loaded it up in Lyndonville, Vermont and drove the cargo to the CMBC headquarters, where we peppered him with questions:

Drive all night? No. Left at 8:30 in the morning yesterday and slept at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.

How much grain are you delivering, exactly? 49,990 pounds.

grainWhat’s it like driving that? After 36 years, nothing to it.

Explain how you transfer it to the silo? I have a blower on the back of my truck that blows air from a pressurized tank. The air blows the grain into a stainless steel hose that connects to the top of the silo.

What could go wrong? Not much, unless you get a clog, but that’s unlikely.

How many breweries are on your roster? Ten of us do around 70 I think, all over the eastern seaboard. We go to Miller, Yuengling and Budweiser every once in a while, but mostly it’s microbreweries.

Considering the current boom, business must be good? It hasn’t stopped. Even during the recession, people had no money, but they never stopped drinking.

Does beer taste better when you’re the one delivering a main ingredient? Sometimes I think that.

Who’s got the best beer? Harpoon, for my liking.

Have you tried ours? Not yet.

Then we’ll scratch that answer from the record. Ha!

Only kidding. Okay.

Ever have any incidents on the road? Spilled grain on the highway? No, and let’s keep it that way.

Grain guy George Hartley.
Grain guy George Hartley.

Do you get much attention en route? Once in a while. You know that thing they’re doing, the fracking? People wonder if that’s what I’m up to.

Well this is less controversial. And cleaner.

Is your truck airtight? It has to be for me to build up pressure. But I have a valve open so we don’t build up too much.

Or… the tank explodes? I don’t know if it could or not! I wouldn’t want to open up one of the hatches when it was like that.

How long does it take to unload? One hour.

Is it difficult to drive all this way for one hour, before getting right back on the road? It’ll be nice because I’m empty now.

Feels different? Lighter.

What’s your gas mileage? About 5.5 miles per gallon loaded; eight miles per gallon when I’m not.

Where you off to now? Utica, New York.

Can we take your picture? I suppose. But let me put my hat on.

The Nine Things Required To Move A CMBC Fermenter

Yesterday, the fifth and final tank was moved from Cape May Brew Co’s original location to our new space at Cape May Airport. Here’s what it took:

Photo credit: Carl Hudson
Photo credit: Carl Hudson

1. Ingenuity

Because there’s no guide book, you need some resourcefulness to rig a 13 foot, 3,000-pound tank so that it can be transported safely the quarter mile distance between our buildings.”We just figured it out,” says CMBC President Ryan Krill. “That’s sort of our motto here, whether we’re plumbing, doing electric work or, in this case, rigging. It’s trial and error.”

2. Forklifts

Two of them: Big Red and Big Yellow. Ryan uses one to pick up the tank from its eyehooks on top with the help of a boom borrowed from travelEckel’s Diesel Service, while co-owner Chris “Hank” Henke uses the other to lift from the bottom. The guys work together until the fermenter hangs suspended like a hammock between them, just a few inches from the ground, with the help of some ratchet straps. “It’s a little like dancing,” says Ryan. “One person has to take the lead and the other follows.”

3. Trust

“I still have all ten fingers,” reminds Facility Technician Carl Hudson, as he works under the suspended tank readying it for transport . “I’d like to keep it that way.”

4. Balls

And we mean brass ones, considering the fermenter costs $25,000. “Moving a tank is a lot like flying,” says Ryan. “Not a lot of room for error, and if something goes wrong, you don’t have a lot of notice.” Adds Chris: “Put a hole in this tank, and we’ve got ourselves a giant new lawn ornament.”

5. Excellent Driving Skills

Ryan may have to navigate backwards, but no worries here, he passed his driver’s test on the first go-round. “At the time, I had one of the
new VW Beetles that had just come out and I think the instructor was more interested in my car than my driving,” he says.

Photo credit: Carl Hudson
Photo credit: Carl Hudson

6. Breathable Clothing

“You’re always sweating bullets,” says Ryan. “But we haven’t dropped one yet.”

7. Precision

The forklifts are so powerful, the guys say, if you so much as “love tap” something en route, you’re going to crush it. This may or may not have happened once to the back of the CMBC minivan, which may or may not have a giant, forklift-shaped dent in the back door.

8. A Sense of Humor

“Is this fermenter street legal?” asks Chris.

9. Thick Skin

Moving the last tank is just a little bittersweet. “I am sad to be moving out,” Ryan says. “We really broke our backs building the original brewery. At the same time, it’s exciting to be expanding because it wasn’t that long ago I was working in finance, and I wanted to be here but I didn’t have the balls to make it happen. Finally, I said ‘fuck it’ and pulled the trigger. When I think about that… moving tanks is the highlight of my day.”


Brew In Review

Last week, we brewed for the first time in our new location — and in our new, 30-barrel brewhouse — and what a ride it was. We began on Tuesday… with a 13-hour day. Then came two 11-hour days on Wednesday and Thursday, and a 10-hour day on Friday. It’s a good thing lead brewer BrianHink likes coffee.

“Getting comfortable with the new equipment has been a lot like making the move from a PC to a MAC,” he says. “The job is the same, but not quite.”

Of course, there are kinks to be worked out, too, which is to be expected in a building that’s still receiving her finishing touches. Facility technician Carl Hudson spent some time last week balancing precariously over a 120-degree boil kettle in order to finish off work on the glycol piping above.

And then there’s COO Chris “Hank” Henke…

“I’ve been spending time fixing tiny leaks here and there,” he says, adding that he’ll taste whatever fluid he sees to get an idea of what, exactly, it is. “If it’s bitter, it’s the glycol… but don’t worry, it’s food-grade glycol.”

As the guys busy themselves, uh, licking various pieces of equipment, we’ll lay out the plan for brewing from here on out:

120 barrels per week at the new location (which is double what we produced last year)

15 barrels per week at the original building

6,000 barrels per year total, maybe a little over

“This schedule doesn’t mean we’re at capacity,” Brian says. “It means we have room to brew extra, one-off beers as they arise.”

One such recipe will be a special papal-themed beverage out for Pope Francis’ visit to Philly this September.

We’ll keep you posted on that and, in the meantime, check out this cool video of our fermenter tank being moved across the airport last week, from our original building to our new warehouse space.

“It took two forklifts, one to grab the eyehooks on top and lift, and one to grab from the bottom,” says Brian. “It came over like a hammock, hung between the two.”

Sales rep Richie Rallo shot the footage, and he was so thorough, he even got the roadkill en route.


The Brewhouse Has Landed!

Around 11:42am, our brewhouse came rolling into Cape May Brewery, her tanks a-gleaming, after completing her 2,800-mile journey from California.

“People asked me some strange questions along the way,” said driver David Cook of the trip. “The weirdest was: ‘What’s a brewery?’ I just walked away from those folks. It ain’t for making popcorn!”

That, it ain’t.

Our three-vessel system is comprised of a mash tun (where malted barley is mixed with hot water), a boil kettle (where hops are added for aroma and flavor), and a whirlpool (to help clarify the resulting brew). The latter is not a necessary piece for making beer… just an exciting one. It will allow us to begin work on a new batch before the previous one has finished brewing, which means we’ll keep churning out one tasty recipe after another.

Here is the morning, in pictoral review:

Cellarman Paul Nease and sales rep Justin Vitti anxiously await the arrival of the BH:


The brewhouse backs up into position:

backing up

Chief Operating Officer Chris “Hank” Henke, Justin, and Brew Master Brian Hink watch the BH backing in:


The brewhouse in position!

in position

Brewhouse driver David Cook and CMB President Ryan Krill, checking out the cargo:

looking up

Ryan, peeking through the tanks:

peeking through

A back-end view:

back end

Brian checks out the bottom. “It won’t be my first time under here,” he says.


Ryan removes the equipment, piece by piece, with the trusty forklift:


Trusty forklift stalls and the CMB team looks under the hood:


Chris helps guide the mash tun into the brewery, tight fit!


Ryan’s happy — we’re in!


Chris transports the control panel after removing it from the truck:

forklift 2

Paul gives the heat exchanger a thumbs up. “It’s a marvel of modern engineering,” he says.


A job well done!




Brewhouse Update 7!

Our BH is now heading through Wheeling, West Virginia, located along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. David Cook’s windshield is looking in need of a good clean-up, and we’re betting after a long day on the road, David probably is, too. But he won’t be stopping for the night until he hits Carlile, Pennsylvania in another 230 miles. Go, David, go.

Wild and wonderful... kind of like our new brew house...
Wild and wonderful… kind of like our new brew house…


Brewhouse Update 6!

Driver David Cook takes his mandatory, 30-minute break in London, Ohio, 25 miles southwest of Columbus. It’s currently 42 degrees there, with winds at two miles per hour.  “I’m eating lunch — ham and cheese sandwich, Doritos and Moutain Dew —  and relaxing,” he says.


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