Last night, members of our team joined 170 other people in the ballroom of Congress Hall for a tasty farm-to-table dinner – complete with pairings of donated CMB beer. It was the main fundraising event for Cape May Forum.

Fans of our brewery have likely heard of the Forum for two reasons:

First, this is who sponsored the TEDx talk given by our fearless leader, Ryan Krill, in 2013:

Second, ya’ll tend to like transformative ideas, and that’s pretty much the Cape May Forum shtick.

"Because of our belief in this community, it behooves us to partner with Cape May Brewing Company, who also have great faith in this place." - Chase Jackson, Managing Director of Cape May Forum
“Because of our belief in this community, it behooves us to partner with Cape May Brewing Company, who also have great faith in this place.” – Chase Jackson, Managing Director of Cape May Forum

Each year, this Chautauqua-modeled program brings a series of events to Cape Island — lectures, meals, concerts – which provide residents and visitors an outlet for “grappling with the social, moral and political issues of our times.”

Sure, you could use the internet for that, but… ooh, look, a cat video.

In the past, the programming has tackled themes such as: “Humor – Can it Save the World?” and “The Future of Energy.” This year, the topic is: “Wine and Oysters – Growing on the Garden State.”

While the current subject might appear more micro in scope, it’s thinking locally – like, for instance, about the importance of sustaining the aforementioned industries in Cape May County – that sets the stage for big things to happen globally, at least according to Forum President Barry Cohen.

“The challenge in a beach town is that people come here for an escape,” he told us. “So how do we get people to think about important issues when the object is retreat?”

One way, the Forum team has discovered, is through good food and booze.

Enter Derek Thomas, the farmer with surfer-boy good looks who tilled the land at Fincas del Mar and Windy Acres to cultivate the ingredients for this evening’s five-course meal. He told us a few things: 1. He has seven children. 2. One of them does ballet, so he got a big kick out of CMB’s ballet-related April Fool’s prank. 3. The evening’s chef, Jeremy Einhorn, started scoping out his produce — and planning the beer pairings — way back in December.

“This is a very exciting event for me,” Jeremy said. “There’s a certain affinity between brewers and chefs. And most people don’t think this way, but it’s actually easier to pair food with beer than with wine. Dinners like this have been happening for a decade, but they’re getting more attention as beer gains respect.”

Ryan Krill explains how CMB has come to employ 24 year-round people.
Our guy Ryan explains how CMB has come to employ 24 year-round people.

Event-goer Gary Padussis is a convert.

“Before tonight, I’d never heard of pairing beer with fine food, only pub food,” he told us, “but it works.”

And it doesn’t just work because it tastes good, but because it’s one way to get younger generations excited about employment opportunities on the Cape. That’s one of the goals of this year’s Forum, and the reason that a group of students from Lower Cape May Regional High School were invited to last night’s dinner. No, they aren’t old enough to drink, but via the evening’s speakers they still got a window into the importance of the oyster harvesting, food growing, wine making, and beer brewing businesses that thrive in this region.

“I definitely plan on coming back to Cape May after college to open a business, or maybe even more than one,” said LCMR Senior George Swoyer, adding that he’s got family in Buck’s County who make trips to Cape May specifically to visit the brewery.

“The company is a testament to the fact that small businesses really can can flourish here,” said George’s classmate Victoria Jacoby.

Aw shucks, kids.

For more information on this year’s Forum line-up, or their partnerships with Jersey universities, visit capemayforum.org.

And just for fun, here are photos of what we ate. The savory courses were paired — alongside vino from Hawk Haven and Cape May Wineries — with our Cape May Saison. And the sweet dessert went great with our Honey Porter. Big brews and big ideas really do go hand in hand…

Salad of red and dwarf romaine lettuce, baby kale and roasted sweet peppers with aged goat cheese, pickled radish and a terragon-honey vinaigrette.
Salad of red and dwarf romaine lettuce, baby kale and roasted sweet peppers with aged goat cheese, pickled radish and a terragon-honey vinaigrette.
Carrot-ginger bisque garnished with crispy kale and lemongrass espuma
Carrot-ginger bisque garnished with crispy kale and lemongrass espuma
Half cornish game hen with braised spring greens, turnip and carrot stoemp and rosemary jus
Half cornish game hen with braised spring greens, turnip and carrot stoemp and rosemary jus
Banana creme tart with caramelized bananas and chocolate chantilly in a flaky cream cheese pastry
Banana creme tart with caramelized bananas and chocolate chantilly in a flaky cream cheese pastry