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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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Can’t Stop the Beet

Secretary Fisher and Ryan
Secretary Fisher and Ryan

We had a bit of a party on our hands at the brewery this past Friday. Not in the Tasting Room, though — that’s always a good time — instead, it was over at HQ. The guest list included Ben Menk from Farm and Fisherman restaurant in Cherry Hill, Shirl and John Formisano from Formisano Farms and Produce, Asst. NJ Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray, and NJ Secretary of Agriculture, Douglas Fisher.

The reason? Why, our second Jersey Fresh brew, Beets By May, of course!

The idea for Beets By May originally came from Farm and Fisherman restaurant in Cherry Hill. “They asked us over the winter about making a beet beer to showcase a crop that goes largely unnoticed, but is vitally important to the farmers,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink.

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Click to see SNJ Today‘s coverage of the event

We were hoping to add the brew a little earlier to the schedule, but “beets don’t come out until late May,” explains Shirl Formisano of Formisano Produce. “We really can’t make them any faster!” So, we knew we’d have the beer out by May. (Hmm. Sounds familiar….)

But why beets? Beets are a love-’em-or-leave-’em kind of vegetable. “It’s one of the main ingredients on our menu: the beet,” said General Manager Ben Menk of Farm and Fisherman. 

“The sexy fruits and vegetables get all the love,” Brian says, “but as a root vegetable beets play a vital roll. Also, New Jersey is one of the four largest providers of beets in the country, so it just feels right to give ’em some love.”

Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm agrees. “They have a distinctively earthy flavor that is impossible to replicate using malt or hops; they really are quite unique and we love making experimental beers with unique flavors.”

The Daily Journal of Vineland covers Formisano's involvement in the process. Click for story.
The Daily Journal of Vineland covers Formisano’s involvement in the process. Click for story.

The event at the brewery on May 20th was a helluva great time. Secretary Fisher got caught red-handed cutting up some beets. Representatives from Exit Zerovisitsouthjersey.com, At The Shore, SNJ Today, and Shore News Today helped us toast the new brew.

Secretary Fisher was on-hand for our previous Jersey Fresh unveiling with our Honey Porter, “Cape May Brewing Company are great supporters of Jersey Fresh,” said Secretary Fisher. “It’s a true local economy, supporting each other at every level: the farmers at the farm, on to the craft brewery, and then to the restaurants. It’s a circular flow of the economy.”

Everyone on hand got a chance to get a sneak preview of Beets By May. “Sure, most people think they don’t like beets,” Jimmy said.  “But remember when you thought you didn’t like Brussels sprouts until you had them sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and a touch of fresh cracked black pepper and it was amazing?” We totally do, Jimmy.

And amazed we all were. The general consensus was surprise: the finished brew is on the sweeter side, with the earthy hints of beet present, but not overpowering the underlying Pale Ale.

“It’s the best way to get your vegetables!” Jimmy said.

Like most things in this world, don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. Hashtag-YOLO, son.

Photos courtesy of Exit Zero

Beets By May is on tap in the Tasting Room now, and will be at better bars and restaurants throughout the area — including Farm and Fisherman — soon.

#JerseyFreshLove

Today, Douglas Fisher — New Jersey’s Secretary of Agriculture and the guy whose job it is to ensure the Garden State remains an “agricultural powerhouse” — came to CMBC as part of his #JerseyFreshLove tour.

The two-day, live-tweeted trip includes 15 stops — farms,jersey farmers’ markets, and businesses throughout the state who respect, nourish, promote and utilize Jersey’s agricultural bounty. We were honored to make the cut for several reasons, including our Jersey Fresh-designated Honey Porter, which needs 90-pounds of locally-grown honey for every 15-barrel batch.

“Holy mackerel, it’s great,” Fisher said when he saw our tasting room. Then he took a tour led by CMBC president Ryan, enjoyed a pint, and explained the goal of the day. “We’re looking to get responses from people on the ground. We’re using the #JerseyFreshLove hashtag to showcase central places, but we want others to use it as well. Show us what Jersey Fresh products and places are important to you. We’ll cross-pollinate, and we’ll get people to recognize all this state has to offer.”

Here’s a peek at some of the social media shots. Take a look and then — you heard the man — post your own…

#jerseyfresh spotted at @capemaybrewco!!! #honey #porter #beer

A post shared by Jersey Fresh (@jerseyfreshnjda) on

What Went Down At The Monday Meeting: 2/16/15

Every Monday is departmental meeting day at Cape May Brew Co, so each week, we’ll bring you the skinny on what went down, beginning with yesterday’s pre-snow powwow…

9:30: Production meeting begins! Co-owners Ryan Krill and Chris Henke are present, along with Brew Master Brian Hink and Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso. Chatter ensues about the weekend.

9:32: Brew schedule discussion commences. Up first is Honey Porter because we are “desperately low” in the tasting room, says Chris — news about the beer’s Jersey Fresh label must be getting out. After that, Coastal Evacuation is on deck. It all has to happen before Wednesday morning, because that’s when Brew Master Brian flies out for Colorado, where he’ll visit with his big brother tasting room exterior in icy conditions(who teaches “English, literature, new media studies or something way over my head” at the University of Colorado). He’ll also see rock band Dr Dog perform live in Boulder. Today, he is even sporting a Dr. Dog hat, complete with orange puff-ball on top.

9:34: If the snow is a-coming, as the forecasters predict, Brian says he is prepared to spend the night on the brewery couch. (But he wishes the blinds on the window overlooking said couch had not been removed. “They were bothering me,” says Chris.) Otherwise, he’ll shoot to arrive for work at 3am — a pretty typical clock-in time for a 14-hour day of double-batch brewing.

9:36: A UPS truck arrives to drop off a skid. “At a brewery, it’s like Christmas every day,” says Ryan.

9:39: Conversation jumps ahead to three weeks out, when we’ll be making Concrete Ship, a malt-forward” brew for the tasting room that will make a good “entry-level” beverage for craft beer scene newbies. Fun fact: Cape May’s own concrete ship — all 3,000 algae-covered, half-sunk tons of it — is the most famous World War I-era prototype of its kind. Although wind and swell have beaten down the barbs of its skeleton, a part of the stern is still visible from Sunset Beach at high tide.

9:40: New brew house update! Drum roll, please… it’s possible the whole system will be installed and up and running by April 1st – stay tuned.

9:42: It’s crunch time. Keg crunch time, that is. There’s a bit of a bottle-neck happening, explains Ryan, meaning we’ve got more beer than kegs to put it in. (Sometimes, people steal them to sell for scrap, since they’re made of stainless steal — tsk, tsk — or they keep them as a weird keepsake… it’s the reason leasing kegs is a hot new business; they cost $100 a piece.) Luckily, it’s been so busy at CMB, a lot of empty kegs came out of the tasting room last weekend alone. “But that was President’s Weekend, and it’s going to slow down now,” says Brian. “But we always joke about that and it never happens,” adds Chris, “It’s Going to Slow Down could be the title of our biography.” Case in point: the current production schedule is on par with summer-time numbers.

9:59: The beer for One-off Wednesday this week is Corrosion Lemondrop, says Brian, explaining that this is CMB’s Corrosion sour beer with lemonade shandy added to it. “It’s absolutely delicious.” And next week? Devil’s Gone Wild, a wine-like brew for which wild grapes are a main ingredient. Fair warning: the latter has an 8% ABV. “Any more than a couple of those, and you’re pretty sauced,” says Brian.

10:02: A discussion about the government-imposed rules for naming one-off beers ensues. “The system is not set up for fun,” says Chris.

10:03: Chris, who splits time between Cape May and Philadelphia on the weekends, voices displeasure over the fact that he has not been in the City of Brotherly Love since two bars in his Philly neighborhood started carrying CMB brews. Ryan says he’d like to crash at Chris’ city pad the night of February 23rd for Beats, Brews and BBQ at World Café Life. Still need your own tickets? Grab them here.

case of mondays10:31: Full staff meeting begins in the HQ conference room. Chris is late… again.

10:32: Sales Rep extraordinaires Richie Rallo and Justin Vitti update everyone on new accounts, including PJ Whelihan’s in Cherry Hill, which is now selling the Corrosion, and the Alden Café in Maple Shade, which is now carrying Devil’s Reach.

10:35: Logistics guy Andrew Ewing asks when we’ll be updating CMBC’s tap handles. The answer is “around June.” Fun fact: they’re handmade by our Chief Mop Man, Bob Krill.

10:39: Chris asks that he be told when taps in the tasting room are flowing too quickly. (No, fast beer flow doesn’t sound like a problem, but trust us.) Chris then gives the run-down of inventory, and what happened during today’s production meeting.

10:44: Richie updates everyone on past events. Last Friday’s Tap Takeover at Rio Station was “a pretty huge success,” with a sixtel of our Blonde being kicked by 9pm. Now, The Ugly Mug, “wants a piece of that action,” so look for a Tap Takeover there on March 12. Justin adds that our keg at Philadelphia’s Grey Lodge Pub for their Friday the Firkenteenth event was kicked in under an hour, and the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill opening in Atlantic City went great, too. “There was a line for the bar by 8pm,” he says. Watch this space for info on upcoming events, including a collaborative Tap Takeover with Flying Fish at the “rustic-chic” alehouse called Bru in Center City on June 1st.

10:51: Bartender Jim Zolna updates everyone on the weekend at the tasting room, calling it a “pretty busy” couple of days, even on Valentine’s Day. “This is where the husbands who forgot to make reservations ended up,” jokes Chris. Taproom coordinator Ashley Sundstrom adds that CMBC mugs are selling quickly — buy ‘em up! — and that CMBC has made some new hires, including two event workers and a new tour guide.

10:54: Meeting dismissed. Cheers!

Five Things We’re Excited About in 2015

Ah, the beginning of a new year. It’s a time to reflect — perhaps over a Honey Porter — on events past. At Cape May Brewing Company, a lot’s gone down.

We launched in July of 2011 with an airport hangar, a used Quizno fridge that smelled of deli meat, and a 12-gallon pilot brew system concocted from scrapyard keg shells, hot water heaters found on eBay, and stainless steel tanks dug out of Jersey recycling plants. To our, ahem, one client, we delivered beer in a hand-me-down Mazda MVP. (Yea, that’s a minivan alright.)

But since then, Ryan Krill and Chris “Hank” Henke, our intrepid owners/good booze

Ryan Krill & Chris "Hank" Henke (photo credit Frank Weiss, courtesy Exit Zero Magazine)
Co-founders Ryan Krill & Chris “Hank” Henke (photo credit Frank Weiss, courtesy Exit Zero Magazine)

ambassadors, have taken steps – like adding a tasting room, updating equipment, and landing a distributor — to prime this beachside brewery for world domination. Or, at least, putting south Jersey’s craft beer scene on the map.

Other brewers told us it couldn’t be done. They said everyone “down the shore” drinks bottled lite beer only. But we’ve forgiven them — after all, not everyone knows how good an IPA tastes in a place with salty ocean breezes.

Now, we’ve got upwards of 200 clients (not counting that random guy who drove a CMB keg to North Carolina before serving it illegally) and over 40 recipes on our docket. But we’re only getting bigger.

Here’s what’s on tap (womp, womp) for 2015:

  1. Expansion: Our current tasting room may be the largest of its kind in the state, and we may be able to brew 500 gallons of beer at one time with our current setup, but it’s not enough. So we took over another section of the Cape May Airport’s industrial complex – the 15,000 square-foot building formerly owned by the Tomwar wallpaper company. When we started our renovation a little more than a year ago, the space smelled of sewage gas, having sat vacant for over a decade. “You could have filmed a murder movie here,” Ryan says. But we did some sprucing, and are now in the process of moving 14 tanks into position for a three-vessel brew house capable of producing 15,000 barrels a year. Quite the far cry from our original pilot apparatus, eh? For 2016, we’re looking into a second tap room and an outdoor beer garden in the spirit of Brooklyn’s DeKalb market. We do have a thing for shipping containers…
  2. Bottling: We’re now home to the little bottling line that could — part handmade (thanks to Hank’s engineering skills), and part kickass, industrial mechanism that cost a bloody fortune. That’s right, expect to see our brews coming at you in six-pack form in the very near future.
  3. Homemade Soda: We’ve been inspired by Hotlips. (We know — isn’t everyone?) But we actually mean the Portland pizza company that makes pop from all-natural ingredients. Think pure cane sugar, organic lemon juice, sparkling water, and straight-from-the-ground fruit. We’ve been experimenting with a few flavors (watermelon mint, gingerale and rootbeer) but we’ve got more cool carbonations coming. So far, we’re the only ones in Jersey doing it, and it all feels very full-circle — back when we were more hobby-business than business-business, our first batches of beer were delivered in repurposed soda kegs. Says Ryan: “Unlike with beer, soda production is rarely a transparent process. Our goal is to change that.”
  4. Malt Vinegar: The word ‘artisanal’ is sure having a moment in the sun, isn’t it? We’re exjersey fresh logocited to compound the sustainability fad by introducing homemade malt vinegar. Did you know the condiment is actually just beer, with a bacteria introduced to eat off all the alcohol? Quick — grab some fish and chips!
  5. Jersey Fresh: Now for some very sweet news — the New Jersey Department of Agriculture offers a “Jersey Fresh” label to products made from local agricultural ingredients of the highest quality. After much paperwork and several USDA inspections, our honey porter passed the test, thanks to the 90 pounds of homegrown honey used in every 15 barrels of brew.

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