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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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After climbing out of the cold water, nothing sounds better than a big pint of Cape May Stout!

Taking the Plunge!

We’re sponsoring the Cape May St. Paddy’s Day Plunge for the second year in a row, and it’s shaping up to be a great time!

Kegs and Eggs? Check!
5K? Check!
Polar Bear Plunge? Check!
Going to a good cause? Check!
Plunging with Brew Crew members? Check!

We caught up with our six plungers to find out exactly why they’re taking the plunge.

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“Usually February is the slow season, and if this is the slow season, then it’s any indication that this summer’s going to be crazy.”

Jimmy Valm on What’s On Tap

Our very own Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm sat down with Gary Monterosso and Tara Nurin at SNJToday’s What’s on Tap, discussing all of the great goings-on at Cape May Brewing Co.

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“It feels good getting out of the house and riding and being in the fresh air and getting some exercise,” Jimmy says.

Our 50-milers

The two oldest guys in the brewhouse — bambinos by our standards — are dusting off their bikes and hitting the course for BikeMS: City to Shore. Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm and Culinary Ops & Soda Guru JP Thomas are doing the one of the shortest possible distances — 50 miles — but Multiple Sclerosis research doesn’t care, and, to be completely honest, 50 miles on a bike is still quite an achievement.

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They’re only up to Episode 4, but it looks like they’re having a great time and things are really taking off.

Essential Guy Talk

Jimmy trekked up to sit down with PJ Windle and AJ Befumo at Essential Guy Talk on Monday to discuss all of the happenings at CMBC.

We met those guys at the Paradise 160 Tap Takeover at Chickie’s and Pete’s, and they asked Jimmy to be a part of their podcast.

They’re only up to Episode 4, but it looks like they’re having a great time and things are really taking off.

If you missed it on Monday, take a look and hear the guys’ thoughts on everything from Brothel Madam to those new rompers for men.

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A Salute to Homebrewing

This Sunday, May 7th, is National Homebrew Day, and, let’s face it, we owe a lot to homebrewers. If it weren’t for Hank and Ryan brewing at Mop Man’s place in Avalon, CMBC wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have made such great friends at this company, and Head Brewer Brian Hink would still be stuck at Starbucks, beardless.

But, most importantly, without the historic surge in homebrewing, craft beer itself would probably not be a thing. We’d all still be stuck drinking Swill©.

As you might imagine, a brewery attracts quite a few homebrewers, and we’re no exception. So, in honor of Homebrew Day, we decided to ask a few questions of our valiant homebrewers. Their responses are below.

How long have you been homebrewing?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

I started when I was 19 by borrowing my older brother’s kit. That was 18 years ago now.

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

First batch brewed 1/5/2011.

Brewer, Mark Graves

6 years.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

6 years.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

About 4 years.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

March 2013.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

Almost 6 years.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

Not long. I’ve brewed one time successfully and one time that was a disaster and have since taken a leave of absence.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

11 + yrs (off and on).

Brian’s very first homebrewed beer, 1/31/11

Why did you get into homebrewing?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

I got into homebrewing back in the late-90s when I was living in Seattle and craft beer was already all the rage.  I wanted to learn more about the process and what goes into making the variety of styles of beer and experiment with flavors, plus make good beer on the cheap (of course).

When I was 19, I was living with my older brother, who was 23 at the time, he got a homebrew kit to give it a go, and his first two batches tasted just awful, like mold-covered cardboard with a dash of Tylenol.  I watched him as he made his second batch and I figured out why this was the case: as he brought the wort up to a boil on the stove-top, the steam would rise up and hit the hood above the stove, which was covered in grime and grease, and Lord-knows-what. The steam would hit this, condense, and drip back down into the wort, so it was thoroughly contaminated.  He gave up after his second brew but I asked to give it a go. First I cleaned the hood, then I duct taped a towel under it so nothing would drip back into the wort.  When he saw this as I brewed my first batch he definitely had a face-palm moment.  My first batch tasted great and the rest is history!

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

I always knew I wanted to get into the brewing industry, but I needed a place to start the journey. I also love cooking and baking, so for a long time I wanted to start homebrewing to play around with different combinations of malts and hops and yeast, really let the creativity run wild on it.

Brewer, Mark Graves

Cause, beer? Haha. Love science, cooking, and craft beer, so this just seemed like the next step.

Brian racking his first spontaneously fermented beer to a carboy after cooling down overnight.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

Something to do with friends…interest in creating new types of beer…cheaper beer.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

Brewing is a lot like cooking and I love seeing how different ingredients react with each other.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

A friend of mine, In Elizabeth City, NC, hosted a party at which he was brewing a 5-gallon batch in the back yard. Brewing that beer under his tutelage, while enjoying some of his previous creations, I done got bit by the home-brew bug.

And beer is awesome.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

Just trying craft beer, brewing what I want to drink, and thinking I could save money if I brew it myself. So far I’ve saved negative dollars.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

Working at the brewery.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

I love beer and at the time, craft beer selection was A LOT different than today.

Mark

What does your brew system look like?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

I have a 5 gal. system that consists of a hot liquor tank with an internal element and thermometer to dial in the proper temperature, a converted cooler for a Mash Tun with a spinning sparge arm for proper sparging during the lauter, a second tank with internal element I use as a wort kettle with a copper immersion chiller, and two 6 gal. glass carboys and two 5 gal. glass carboys for fermenters and conditioning tanks.

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

I still use the same 5 gallon pot I started with. I live in a condo so I never had the luxury of going out to the garage or driveway or whatever and brew with the 10 gallon converted Igloo cooler, or even better the two stage burner cart some homebrewers use. I do a partial mash/brew in a bag hybrid mash, usually throwing in a couple pounds of DME to boost up the gravity a touch. “Extract brewers” get a really bad stigma in homebrew circles, but I think that’s a load of crap and have always been a vocal supporter of extract brewing.

Brewer, Mark Graves

10 gallon Igloo cooler mash tun and 8 gallon pot for a kettle.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

2 tiered burner with 2 – 15 gallon pots, 10 gallon igloo cooler mash tun and a single burner with a single 15 gallon pot.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

German-built, fully automatic, 100BBL State of the Art brewhouse with all the bells and whistles. Yeah right! I use a 10 gallon igloo cooler as a mash tun and a 15 gallon keg as my kettle.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

A campsite inhabited by back-woods moonshiners.

The mash tun is my late grandfather’s 25+ year old Coleman cooler, retrofitted with hardware, valves, and a metal-braided washing machine line stripped of its rubber innards to act as the false bottom. The hot liquor tank and boil kettle are one in the same. A re-purposed turkey frying pot with “nicely” welded fittings for a thermometer and valves. The heat source is a propane-fueled turkey frying stand. The wort chiller is immersion-type. A length of copper tubing, formed around a five-gallon bucket with inlet and outlet fittings. Fermenters are food-grade 5-gallon buckets with a rubber sealing lid and grommets in said lid for the air locks to live and work.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

5 gallon system with a propane burner, 10 gallon cooler mash tun, and 15 gallon boil kettle. Ferment in 6 gallon plastic carboys. And serve in a two tap kegerator.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

Classic one gallon system bought at the local homebrew store, Eastern Homebrew.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

A special custom-built 3 gallon pot to use on the stove-top. I never really brew more than 1.5 gallons at a time.

What’s your favorite beer to brew and why?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

I love brewing IPAs with new hop varieties as well as spiced Winter Warmers during the cooler months.

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

These days I’m usually brewing 4-5% hop-bombs, but I also have a ton of sours going. Currently I have 6 carboys of sours going, a sour wine going, and about 20 cases of sour beers bottled from last year in different points of aging/cellaring.

Brewer, Mark Graves

Mixed culture saisons and sours, because that’s what I love to drink.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

IPAs or Saisons…mainly because you can tweak so many different ingredients to the recipe.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

Recently, I’ve been into fruited mixed culture saisons and super hop-forward pale ales.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

My favorite brew was a 4.7% Session IPA. It was refreshing and crushable.    …If only I hadn’t brewed it in February.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

Pale Ales. I brew for me, and I can have between 5 and 10 gallons of beer on tap, so I better like it. Also, the low ABV of pale ales keeps the beer sessionable and me out of trouble.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

Whichever one is successful.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

Coconut IPAs and Pale Ales.

Do you bottle or keg and why?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

Bottle, always bottle.  It’s easier to share with friends and family and to take some around to parties or camping trips or what have you.

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

I bottle my sours for extended aging and keg the hoppy beers to maximize the hop aroma. Hoppy beers are designed to be consumed quickly and are ideally kept cold and away any and all sources of oxygen, so bottling hoppy beers isn’t really a great idea – unless they’re dry-hopped sours of course!

Brewer, Mark Graves

Keg, but I’m trying to do more bottles in the future.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

Started out bottling moved up to kegging.  Less to clean with the kegs…bottles are a nice gift for friends and family, also.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

Both, it depends on the style of beer. I like to keg hoppy beers due to the ability to purge out oxygen and “keg hop”.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

Predominantly keg because bottling is annoying.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

Keg FTW!  It’s convenient, takes less time, and I don’t have to store 100s of empty bottles.  Having a kegerator is nice for having half pints. If I want to share I could always fill up a growler.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

Bottle.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

Bottle – I do not have a kegerator in my home.

Zack with some homebrewed IPA

Any horror stories? What was the worst thing you’ve ever brewed?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

The only horror story I can think of for one of my beers was with one of my bottle-hopped IPAs.  I put two or three cones of whole-leaf hops into every bottle just before filling them, sort of like a homebrew version of Dogfish Head’s Randal system, except this was back in maybe 2002.  I gave a six-pack to a buddy of mine who was a fellow homebrewer, he was stoked to see how it turned out as he was thinking of trying something similar. Right after I gave him the bottles, he left for vacation for a couple of weeks, right in the middle of a heat-wave, leaving the bottles in the back of his closet. Well, as you might expect, they over-carbonated due to the heat (also due to the extra sugar content that is present in hops, although we didn’t know this at the time, and I always kept my beers in the fridge once they were done bottle-conditioning, especially IPAs), the bottles exploded in his closet, completely covering his clothes and closet walls with sticky beer and splattered hops. This probably happened about a week before he got home, too, because the smell was just rank and the hops had dried up and crusted themselves to everything they hit.  Needless to say, he didn’t give the bottle-hopped IPA system a go, and that was the last time I did one as well.

Dan’s system

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

Never really brewed anything that came out bad. Had a few that didn’t come out quite as I wanted them to, but none of the horrors of dumping batch after batch. Actually, the biggest mess I’ve ever made was the current batch I have on tap! I brewed it the day before leaving for CBC a couple weeks back and was playing around with a new technique of dry-hopping on brewday – normally you wait until fermentation is complete or nearing completion, but a lot of the great NEIPA brewers out there are experimenting with pitching yeast and dry-hops at the same time. I decided to give it a go for this batch, but when the beer was at high krausen it must’ve plugged the airlock hole with hop matter, and once some pressure was built up my fiance came home to quite a mess. I think that was on day two of CBC, but thankfully she cleaned up the mess for me got the lid back on to save the batch.

Brewer, Mark Graves

I had bad luck with the first two IPAs I brewed, this was number two. I wanted to make a nice IPA and try a new malt to me, honey malt. So I got all the ingredients and tons of Citra and (brand new at the time) Azacca hops. I was so excited!

At the same time I was constructing my kegerator made from a chest freezer. So post fermentation I wanted to crash cool the beer. Well I improperly calibrated the temperature controller and instead made a very hoppy beersicle…it had completely frozen.

So I put it on a counter with plentiful access to sunlight and threw a black trash bag over it to thaw. Well, the funny thing about that is my beagle, whenever it sees a plastic bag, thinks food. So my mischievous little doggy pulled the 5 gallons of beer off the counter, thinking it was a yummy snack, and skadoosh….beer everywhere.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

Nope…perfect brews everytime.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

The first time I brewed was pretty bad. After the boil, I put my kettle outside to cool on a snow topped table. I didn’t realize that the super hot pot and the cold snow would make a sheet of ice and cause my first batch of beer to slide off the table.

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

The first iteration of my Smoked Porter. I knew I should have only run the beer through some bourbon-soaked oak chips, but I just haaaaad to put the whole lot of them in the secondary fermenter for a week. It tasted like a forest fire.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

I’ve brewed a pumpkin beer forever ago at my parents house. I left the beer fermenting in my closet while we were on vacation. When I came home the airlock blew off due to a pressure build up and pumpkin, yeast, and beer was everywhere!  I cleaned it up and the beer was good!!

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

I didn’t really pay attention and accidentally boiled my wort away to sludge right before my last hop addition.

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

Nadda.

How long is your beard? Conversely, how long do you wish your beard was?

Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm

Long enough!  I don’t know in inches.

Head Brewer, Brian Hink

I had a baby beard back then! Probably a half inch or so off the face. Then, like now, I always wish it were a little longer, but we were all dealt the hand we were with our facial hair follicle prowess and have to live within our means on that one.

Brewer, Mark Graves

Not long enough. It’s tough coming to work with Brian and Jimmy flaunting their burly beards.

Cellarman, Mike McGrath

My beard is about 2-3 inches…as far as my aspirations for beard length….none at the time…just trying to get by.

Cellarman, Eddie Siciliano

Currently, my beard is a mere 2mm long. My fiancé is not a fan of facial hair. Need I say more?

Tasting Room Manager, Zack Pashley

Short, but my eyebrows are kinda bushy. Does that count?

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Dan Patela

It’s a decent patchy size.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Maddie Macauley

This question is sexist. (You’re right, Maddie. Our apologies!)

Distribution Manager, Justin Vitti

No beard – MUSTACHE!! From the center of my lip/mouth approx 4.5 inches long.


How about you guys? Do you have any horror stories? What’s your favorite thing to brew? Let us know in the comments.

And, if you’re thinking about getting into homebrewing, at least one of our homebrewers are on site all the time. Stop by after 5pm — they love talking about their favorite subject!

Professor Jimmy

Looks like a classroom full of interested and engaged college students, right? Well, it’s difficult to suppress your laughter around our Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm.

Jimmy was invited to do a guest lecture at Ryan and Hank’s old stomping grounds of Villanova University last week. They’ve recently instituted a class called “Introduction to Beer and Brewing Technology” as part of the Chemical Engineering program, so Professor Michael Smith invited Jimmy to talk to the students about recipe creation.

Professor Smith had been interested in beer for awhile. During a stint at duPont, he began homebrewing.

“Over about 15 years,” he says, “I figured out what I was doing, and I made some good beers and I’d give them away to friends.”

After leaving duPont, he considered opening his own brewery, even going as far as taking the short course at Seibel. He came in a little too early to really see where the industry was going, so he opted for grad school and academia.

Craft beer’s loss is Villanova’s gain, as the students now have a knowledgeable and excited instructor teaching them about brewing. And judging from the syllabus, they’re getting a relatively decent crash course, including a chance to try their hand at the process.

We headed up on a rainy Friday to White Hall. Unfortunately, because of the rain and Jimmy’s head cold, we couldn’t really explore the rest of Villanova’s beautiful campus, but the view from room 116 of Mendel Field — the large, green expanse in the middle of Villanova’s campus — was, well…, wet.

The rain didn’t dampen Jimmy’s enthusiasm, though. Like everyone else in this business, if you get us talking about our favorite subject, it’s difficult to get us to shut up.

With a subject such as recipe development, it’s important to know how your ingredients will affect the finished product, so Jimmy had some interactive activities at the ready.

He demonstrated to the students the hot steep method recently developed by the American Society of Brewing Chemists to taste the flavors in malts: raising the temperature of water to 65 degrees Celsius and steeping the malts for fifteen minutes. The students flocked to the front of the room to sample the liquid.

“If I burn the place down,” he told the kids, “it’ll just be our little secret.”

Jimmy brought along some pelletized hops and demonstrated how he rubs the hops between his hands to extract the aromas from the oils. Honestly, it’s difficult not to fall in love with rubbing hops — the entire room was filled with the smells of Citra and El Dorado. The smells even caught the attention of one of the passing professors — in our conversations after Jimmy’s lecture, she mentioned that she grows hops at home.

He spoke on creativity — referencing Notes on Creativity by Ferran Adrià. Walking the students through Adrià’s steps of creativity, he discussed the lowest level — repetition: simply getting a recipe and following it to the letter. In this respect, the creativity is borne of the creation — you have created something that hadn’t existed previously.

The next level is tweaking that recipe: making it your own. Perhaps you’ve decided that the particular IPA recipe you’ve followed needed more Citra. Or a different malt bill. Or a different ingredient altogether. You take your basics and switch up the design a bit.

The third level of creativity is inventing a new style — which is kind of difficult when it comes to brewing. After 5,000 years of brewing, it’s more or less all been tried. These days, we get a lot of new takes on old styles, but coming up with something completely groundbreaking is next to impossible.

“You’re getting here a bit late,” Jimmy said.

The final level of creativity involves creating a new technique — and in today’s technology-driven arena, this is the aspect most ripe for innovation. For example, he referred to Dogfish Head who’d devised “The Randal,” a new method of extremely-late-in-the-process-dry-hopping — essentially keeping a stash of hops in the draft line so that the beer pours directly through a supply of hops as it’s poured.

The talk turned to Jimmy’s own method of recipe development, from the initial idea to the final brew. To design a recipe — for example, Jimmy’s favorite of Summer Catch — he sits down and says, “Okay, I’d like it to have these flavors,” — delineating an initial concept of what he wants the finished product to be.

Then, he gets into the process details: “How do I get those flavors that I want in Summer Catch into the beer?” Using his wealth of knowledge of ingredients — and the two processes he demonstrated for the students — Jimmy can identify what his malt bill will look like and which hops he wants to use.

Once he identifies which ingredients will supply which flavors, he gets into specifics, determining the ratios of ingredients and what parameters he’ll be using.

Then — brew it! That’s the only really way to test a recipe, and at our level, he’s got to brew up a 30-barrel batch that may or may not come out to be what he’d had in his head.

One of the things we’d always wondered is why the guys don’t try new recipes out on our little 1-barrel pilot system. It seems like you could brew something on a small system then scale it up to our 30-barrel system. However, Jimmy explained, this won’t work because the equipment is quite different. For example, temperature controls on small fermenters are crazy expensive, and, since fermentation creates heat, the process is going to be warmer in a smaller fermenter, creating more esters and phenols than there would be in our larger system. And, as Professor Smith frequently tells his students, “the devil is in the details!”

So, once he’s got a finished product, Jimmy asks himself, “Did this come out as I expected?” If the answer is yes — like with Summer Catch — then he does a little happy dance and goes on his way. More times than not, though, the answer is something less than yes.

It may not be that the beer didn’t come out as we expected, but we’re always looking for ways to improve our product. For example, White Caps: the beer came out great last year, but we found ways to improve it. This time around, the brew is juicier, smoother, and more drinkable — and what more could one possibly want?

Question time — and, of course, at Villanova University, they all had questions about Demisemi.

“Where did the inspiration for the Villanova beer come from?”

Jimmy told the class that the inspiration came from the name: once he learned that a 175th anniversary was the Demisemiseptcentennial, it became pretty clear that Centennial hops needed to dominate the hops bill. From there, they sought to balance the hops presence with a strong malt bill, with pilsner malts filling the need nicely.

After the class period was over, Jimmy was kind enough to bring some Cape May IPA for the students — all seniors and over 21 — to sample. That’s where the real discussion began. Beer brings people together — whether it’s strangers sitting at a bar or a professional regaling students, that’s why we do what we do.

And drinking after a class at Villanova is quite a change from when Ryan and Hank were in attendance!

Throughout the course of the day, we met a few students who are interested in our summer internships! One young lady had zero interest in brewing before she took the class, but now she’s hooked… and we don’t blame her. Brewing is interesting. It’s artistry and science and craft and knowledge all rolled into one delicious beverage.

Hopefully the class at Villanova is helping to brew some potential brewers, whether they end up having a love for homebrewing or working for CMBC or opening their own independent craft brewery. Doesn’t matter to us. New, young blood in the game is always a welcome addition.

A Year with Jimmy Valm

“Towards the end of last summer, it was the swell from Hurricane Hermine, and it was awesome! It was down at The Cove, and these waves were boomin’. They were head-high.”

Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm tells us about his best day surfing in Cape May — he’d already caught the best wave of the day.

“Head high the whole way, and I’m up on the nose, just going down the wave, right up on the nose of my board, and it went like two hundred yards down the face of this wave.

“I get back, and there’s another one coming, and it’s me and this guy Mike — he’s a Cape May native — and him and me are both going for it. And we both get up on the wave, and I’m in front and he’s behind me and I hear him yell something.

“I didn’t know if he said ‘Pick it up’ or if he said ‘Kick out’, because I kinda snaked him. He was on the wave first. So, I kicked out. I just went up and over the back of the wave and just gave him the wave.

“He gets back from the wave — and it was another killer, awesome wave — and he was like, ‘Dude, you didn’t have to kick out! I said “Pick it up!””

“I was like, ‘I really couldn’t quite hear ya, if you said ‘pick it up’ or ‘kick out’….

“And he just looks at me and says, ‘Dude. I would never tell you to get off a wave. I would never tell you to get off a wave, man. There’s plenty to go around.’”

The vibe out on the Atlantic that day sums up everything Jimmy loves about Cape May.

“Beyond surfing, Cape May is a really tight-knit community,” he tells us. “People are very friendly and very chill. Part of that comes from surfing and from the brewery, but that vibe permeates most everything down here,” he continues. “You go to the Mad Batter or you go to Five West or you go to Cabanas, and you know the people. You know the guys behind the bar and they know you.

“It’s really, really cool.”

He’s been here a year, now, and we caught up with him to get his thoughts on his first year in the small town with big brews.

Born in Brooklyn, Jimmy grew up outside of Seattle, then moved to Scotland for a degree in Brewing & Distilling from Heriot Watt University. From there, he moved to Manchester, England, as a Brewing Shift Manager for Heineken UK, then back to his roots in Brooklyn with a desk next to Garrett Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery.

How does a guy like that, who’s literally brewed beer all over the world, end up in Cape May, New Jersey? Well… it certainly wasn’t for a love of the Phillies.

“I know it’s just preseason, but Marlins beat the Mets. Dammit!” he exclaims, checking his phone. (We allow him that one character flaw.)

Even though he’d grown up in cities, he’d had plenty of experience in small towns, with family in “Middle of Nowhere, South Dakota,” so he knew what to expect, and it was exactly what he’d been looking for.

He’d been considering a brewmaster position at a “smallish brewery that’s looking to grow.” Luckily, he found that at CMBC.

“I never wanted to open my own brewery,” he tells us. “I’ve heard people say, ‘If you want to brew beer, don’t start your own brewery, because you’ll end up running a business and not brewing beer.’ I don’t want to run a business. I want to brew beer.”

An organization he could grow with — preferably one on the Atlantic with good surf nearby — had always been his endgame. He just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

“I always thought it would be ten, fifteen years down the road that I’d be able to do that,” he says. “But I thought, ‘Well, why wait?’”

Since we don’t distribute in Brooklyn, Jimmy’d never really heard of Cape May Brew Co. before he’d heard about the position.

“Until moving down here, the only time I’d really spent in Jersey was to go to Newark Airport,” he says. “Or getting through Jersey to get to Philadelphia or DC on the train.”

That’s New Jersey’s lot in life — a place most people suffer through on their way to more interesting locales. That is, until they realize we’ve got some pretty killer beaches, top-notch arts and culture, and a primo brewery tucked away on the southern-most reaches of the Parkway.

Once he’d heard about the position and started doing some research, he realized that CMBC had the keys to success: two involved owners, one with the necessary brewing and engineering background and one with the pertinent business background. (And, of course, Mop Man whistling while pushing a mop.)

He realized — much like Ryan and Hank did — that our guys’ knowledge and know-how was enough to get them to the point where we’d be seeing some real growth. He wanted to be the guy that would help them marshall that growth to the next level.

Nonetheless, Jimmy was a little wary about the “Jersey Shore”. MTV has done us no favors. They deified Snookie and The Situation — seriously, who decides to refer to themselves by a random noun with no real meaning? — and made us all look like fools.

But, thankfully, Cape May is the Jersey Shore’s hidden jem.

“I very quickly realized that Cape May isn’t like the Jersey Shore,” he tells. “The whole Victorian aspect, and its off-season events like the Jazz Festival” keep us from veering too close to fake tans and extreme gym sessions.

On his trip down to the interview, he came down early to check out the town. Even though it was the dead of winter, he and fiancee Margarete walked down Washington Street Mall and found a few places that were still open. They were both charmed by the Victorian whimsy of Cape May.

Then they stopped down to the brewery and had a flight.

“This was me sort of taste-testing the brewery,” he says. “‘How are they doing so far?’”

After sipping Turtle Gut, Tripel Wreck, Mop Water, and our flagship IPA, he was sold.

During the interview with Ryan, Hank, and Mop Man, they discussed how we’d gotten to where we are and what their plans are for the future. Jimmy recognized the opportunities there were to expand.

“There were a lot of opportunities to use my knowledge and experience,” he says, “but also to expand on it. This wasn’t a position for me to come in and sit on my laurels, but also to learn even more and expand my brewing knowledge further.”

One of the gaps in Jimmy’s knowledge was souring. He’d had quite a bit of experience with barrel aging at Brooklyn, but sours were just outside his wheelhouse. After sampling Turtle Gut and seeing our sour facility, he knew that he’d get the chance to expand on his already-substantial knowledge.

During the interview, he wasted no time getting to work.

“I remember going through Headquarters, and immediately started working on ideas,” he tells us. “Mainly with yeast husbandry. They were telling me about the cone-to-cone pitching, but they had a yeast storage tank.”

He immediately had ideas on how to improve our yeast husbandry. Cone-to-cone pitching involves directly transferring the yeast pitch from one fermenter to another. You really have no way of knowing what the cell count and viability is, so it’s a bit of a guessing game. He had a few ideas on how to improve and standardize our harvesting yields.

“All we needed to do was get some way to measure how much yeast we’re harvesting and how much we’re pitching and get an agitator to make a homogenized solution, and then I would love to get some sort of cell counter, and that would really, really improve how we make our beer.”

Since then, we’ve put all of those ideas into practice, having brought on our Cellometer, Ceelo, late last year. Now, the yeast goes through a flow meter so we can tell how much we have, and samples are put into Ceelo to check the viability.

“Those projects — the agitator, the second yeast tank, the mass flow meter, and the Cellometer — I like to say that I’ve been working on those projects since I came down for my interview,” he jokes.

Proper yeast husbandry allows us to brew an ale in four or five days, and it’s always four or five days. With some sort of standardized process in place, it allows us to plan production a little more closely, and, in turn, expand production.

“I wanted to improve the process in a way that would improve the beer.”

He was particularly excited about being in a position where he’d be able to design his own recipes, as well. At Heineken and Brooklyn, he was mainly a facilitator for other people’s recipes, with few opportunities to design his own brews. Now, at CMBC, he gets to design them in conjunction with our Head Brewer, Brian Hink.

“Designing new beers and seeing them come out,” he says. “That’s unbelievably fun.”

His first brew in Cape May was an overwhelming success. Summer Catch — a crushable summer ale — is still the favorite thing he’s brewed since he’s been here.

“Summer Catch. I immediately say that’s my favorite.”

Designing beers is a bit of a crapshoot. Through knowledge and experience, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how things will turn out, but there are so many uncontrollable variables involved that things will sometimes change from concept to draw box. Not huge things — it’s not as if we intend to brew a pale ale and end up with a stout — but minor variations between expectation and reality. Much like life, itself.

Not so with Summer Catch.

“It was the first time I designed a beer that the beer came out exactly what I had in my head,” he tells us. “I could almost taste it in my mouth: this is what I want this beer to taste like. Summer Catch is exactly that. I remember taking the first sip out of the bright tank, I was jumping up and down, I was so excited.”

Summer Catch re-releases on April 20th, so if you missed it last year, you’ll get another chance to find out why Jimmy’s so thrilled with how it came out.

He’s got more up his sleeve that he hasn’t yet accomplished. Jimmy’s very proud of the work he’s done thus far — he points to standardizing our safety program and our standard operating procedures as a few things that are still in the works, close to being complete. Standardization across the board — from yeast husbandry to cleaning the tanks — is going to produce a more consistent product, and your taste buds will thank us.

But as for what the future holds, he plays things close to the vest. He’s been pretty busy since he’s gotten here, attending to things that need to be done now. But now that’s behind him, he can start looking into the future. He mentions things like firming up our quality control and bringing in a lab tech, but as for specific brews, he’s not saying.

“I want to come out with some new recipes,” he says, “but we’ve already got a massive, massive portfolio, and we can always resurrect old ones.

“Let’s just say it’ll be a surprise. I’ve got a bunch of ideas, but it’ll be a surprise.”

Looking back on his first year, Jimmy’s definitely happy with how it’s gone. He’s working hard, but his stress level is practically nonexistent compared to what it was previously, living in New York.

“It’s fantabulous. It’s been everything I was hoping for, and then some. I’ve got no intentions to go anywhere at all.”

Good news for all of us.

Jimmy Valm Beard Balm

Look at those streaming locks of pure gloriousness!
Look at those streaming locks of pure gloriousness!

Beards and brews go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like macaroni and cheese. Like peaches and cream. (Why are we hungry all of a sudden?)

It should come as no surprise that our Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm — along with four other “beardos” — has been working with a company down in Virginia to help develop a line of beard balm.

Because, apparently, beard balm is a thing.

Jimmy tells us that “it’s a balm that you add to your beard generally first thing in the morning when you get out of the shower and your pores are open and your beard is still a little bit wet. It moisturizes your beard and the skin underneath your beard, and it also helps keep the beard shiny and healthy and conditioned. It also — the balm that I use because I have a thick and heavy beard and kind of curly — adds a little hold, as well, so it doesn’t frizz out on humid days like we’ve been having.”

Oh. So it’s the guardian against beard frizz and itch. Hm.

Jimmy’d been using beard balm since he’d started growing out his thick, lustrous fly-brushes. He’d been trimming it back when it started to get too itchy, but his younger brother turned him on to the balm. He’s been happily using oils and balms for about two years now and hasn’t looked back.

A mutual friend connected Jimmy with John Klapperich of Sweet Sophia. John’s been producing honey- and beeswax-based products from his home outside of DC for a little over a year. He has a full line of food products as well as lip balms, sunscreens, candles, soaps, and creams.

However, John is one of those disadvantaged beardless folk, so he’d never heard of beard balm, either. People had been asking for it, and when he started researching it, he’d noticed that much of it was beeswax-based. “Hey, this is right up our alley!” he thought. He spent much of his time marketing his other products at craft fairs, and “the people who tend to go to craft fairs and like bees or follow nature are kinda hippies and they all have beards, so I thought, ‘Hey, this is an untapped market!'”

But, being beardless, he couldn’t test his own product on himself, so that mutual friend connected him with Jimmy’s glorious plantations of facial hair. As a surfer, John says that Jimmy brought a unique perspective to the process.

“I’ve been hitting the surf a lot and the sun and the salt water really dries out my beard,” Jimmy says. He found that he had to use a lot more of his previous, inferior balm.

Jimmy helped John with the formulation of the balm, trying to find an iteration that would hold up under the Cape May surf. “He would help me with the various scents — I told all the testers right up front for helping me out they could have a major role in what they wanted it to smell like, and he was saying he liked the idea of a hoppy scent.”

John made the Brewmaster’s Balm with shea butter, beeswax, jojoba oil, hemp oil, tea tree oil, sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver. “It smells really nice,” Jimmy says. “It’s really nice on my beard and on my skin when it’s extra dry because of the hot weather and going surfing four or five times a week.”

So… are we going to be using any of these ingredients in a beer? “No. I would laugh if anyone made a patchouli beer,” Jimmy says. “I’m sure there are people out there looking for hemp oil, but we won’t go there.”

Smart. However, we will be in Colorado in a few months for the Great American Beer Festival. We’ll report back.

“A lot of people will poke fun at me when I tell them that I use beard balm and I use it every morning,” Jimmy says. “It takes a couple of minutes: I probably spend more time grooming my facial hair than when I shaved. It’s an intense process. It takes a good five, ten minutes every morning to really groom my beard. And people tease me and make fun of me for that sometimes — people are jerks! The balm really, really helps. I cannot recommend enough for people to use natural balms and oils in their beards to help with frizz and beard itch and make their beards look shiny and healthy and nice, as opposed to a ratty mess. Even if you have just a short beard, you really should be using beard balm.”

When you decide to take the plunge into the wonderful world of beard balms, check out Sweet Sophia‘s line.

Checking In With Jimmy

Our new Director of Brewing Operations, Jimmy Valm, has completed his first week on the job. Has he fallen in love with all things CMBC, or is he hightailing it back to Brooklyn? We caught up with him between mash-ins to find out…

How’s it going so far? It’s been great! I’m really impressed with the knowledge of everyone here, and their commitment to making awesome beer. Everyone is super gung-ho, and ready to jump on any task. It’s fantastic. I’m really excited to be joining the team.

Now that you’ve had a week to settle in, what are you most excited about? Pushing our sour program and the barrel-aged beers. I just saw mockups for the labels of The Keel, and I really dig them. It’s going to be a fantastic beer, branded well. I’m looking forward to coming up with more of those.

Biggest surprise about the brewery so far? It came today, with how extensive this tiny little bottling line is. It hits all the right notes for quality control. Turns out, this little Meheen machine is a workhorse.

How about your biggest surprise about Cape May in general? How nice and friendly everyone is. I’ve spent very little time in New Jersey and I don’t know it that well except for what everyone else says about it. I was hoping it would be like this here, being a small beach town and all, but it’s still a very happy surprise.

Any funny stories from the last seven days we should know about? There’s been some joking and joshing around in the brehwouse already. There’s good energy here.

Now that you’ve had a chance to try more of them, which CMBC beer would you be and why? Corrosion IPA. It’s easy going but a little hyper, a blend of various styles, and goes well with summer.

jimmy

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