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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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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

Fun Times at Tap Takeover

Friday night, we hit the Rio Station in Rio Grande for our own Tap Takeover, which coincided with the release of the restaurant’s new menu. The place was jamming. “I wouldn’t pour Cape May beer unless I loved it,” head chef Rich Rutherford told us. “That would be bullshit.”

L to R: Blonde Ale, King Porter Stomp, Steve's Biscuits & Honey ESB
L to R: Blonde Ale, King Porter Stomp, Steve’s ‘Biscuits & Honey’ ESB

At the CMBC table, over a plate of tempura veggies, topics of discussion included:

  1. How CMBC sales rep Richie Rallo and Social Media manager Courtney Rosenberg went to prom together in 2005. “I got my hair cut twice that day, because the first time was awful,” says Richie.
  2. How good the warm pretzel nugget appetizer is, and we’re not just saying that because the side sauces (Devil’s Reach Sriracha! Honey Porter Mustard!) are made from our own beer.
  3. Whether “exito” is the Spanish word for exit, or success. (Consensus: success!)

Around 9pm, we knew pop rock cover band Stellar Mojo would be taking the stage soon, so we broke away from the crowd to chat with lead singer John King. He told us that he came back home for this show, the first local venue he’s played in three months because he’s been so busy with gigs in Baltimore, Philly and Boston. And, turns out, CMBC beer being on tap was a big factor in that decision.

“All of my friends love it,” he said. “We’re hoping to team up with the brewery more in the future.”

Then John told us that, if he were one of our beers, he’d be the flagship Cape May IPA because “it’s got some balls to it.”

stellar mojoSo — after he took the stage, thanked everyone for coming to watch him instead of the Fifty Shades of Gray premiere, and began singing Bruno Mars while throwing glowsticks into the crowd — we did some reconnaissance, curious about how other people see themselves in terms of beer.

“I’m a Devil’s Reach, because I’m smooth and not overly complex,” said Wildwood Crest resident Jerry Mainardi.

“Mopwater, because there’s a lot going on with it,” said Eric Bronson from “just down the street.”

“Honey Porter, because it’s perfect in every way,” said Tom Sullivan from Rio Grande. (Okay, his wife answered for him, but she wouldn’t give us her name.)

“Coastal Evacuation, because it’s smooth but dangerous, baby,” said our server Olivia Steffa.

“The Wednesday One-Off, because it’s original, a little unique, and always a special edition,” said Erika Watson from Wildwood Crest.

Around this time, a table noticed us asking so many questions, assumed we worked for the restaurant, and tried to order six Fireball shots from us, so we figured we’d better sit down. But we did so knowing that this Tap Takeover had been a great success, er, exito.

Winning!

Cape May Brewing Company is kicking ass and taking names. (Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days?) But seriously – we’ve won, we’ve won!

BOCBA

On January 24, 608 brews from 108 breweries across the nation were tested in Bend, Oregon by industry professionals in a BJCP (or Beer Judge Certification Program)-sanctioned event. Meaning? The judges here were the real deal, having qualified for their positions via exams on this 66-page(!) study guide.

In the category of Imperial IPA, our Coastal Evacuation — a Centennial-hop heavy beer that will have you evacuating your home to hit our tasting room (badum-ching!) — scored a silver medal, besting 27 other entries. “It’s a pretty cutthroat category, so we’re thrilled,” says brew master Brian.

Another winner was our light and refreshing Tower 23, which earned silver in the Berline Weisse group. Little known fact? This is the beer that almost never was. “Brian wanted to do this for so long,” says Chris. “I told him ‘no’ for about six months before I finally said, ‘OK, this is how we’ll do it.’” There’s a lesson there, kids — if at first you don’t succeed… keep trying until you get a kickass beer.

Finally, our most popular pint, Devil’s Reach, took home a bronze in the Belgian Golden Strong Ale class.

“It’s something every brewer wants to do — win awards,” says Brian. But we know that his real motivation is more warm and fuzzy than that. “To make the best product, you have to really care about it. When you’re brewing beer, it’s important that your heart be in it.”

Cheers to your favorite liquid labor of love.

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