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“If we had dropped the ABV a smidge this would be an all-day drinking beer, but I could still put down a few without getting tired of it or blowing out my palate.”

Two Versions of Me Releases on Friday!

It’s always exciting to debut a new collaboration beer, and Two Versions of Me is no exception. 

Our West Coast IPA brewed in cahoots with Tonewood Brewing Company in Oaklyn, NJ, releases in our Tasting Room this Friday, with distribution throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania to follow the following week.

“Tonewood employs some great people,” says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. “In the month or two prior to COVID, we were lucky enough to be hosted by their crew on a production outing. We all had a blast drinking some of their incredible beers. I think it only makes sense for us to collaborate.”

There are a few reasons why we love doing collaborations: getting some fresh ideas from people we respect and admire, getting to hang out with people we respect and admire, getting to share a beer with people we respect and admire… but, of course….

COOOOOOVVVVVIIIIIDDDDDD!!!!

“In the Before Times,” says Special Projects and Production Planning Manager Brian Hink, looking wistful and forlorn, “I would’ve seen this playing out as having some beers with Eli, the co-owner and Head Brewer at Tonewood, in one of our tasting rooms, waxing poetic about the beers of yesteryear before the days when haze ruled the world. We would’ve been crushing crispy bois and milds — you know, the esoteric styles that we brewers want to crush after a long day of sweating our asses off on the brewhouse, and we would’ve been spitballing ideas that would make a fun collaboration.”

However, since this is the new normal, this collaboration happened over the phone.

“So, it was a little more strategic and a lot less off the cuff, shooting the shit over some beers,” Brian says. “It was still great bouncing ideas back and forth with Eli and coming up with the beer, but it would’ve been a lot more fun designing it in person.”

Brian thinks that, regardless of the problems that COVID has presented, they probably would have decided on an IPA.

“But doing just another hazy IPA would be boring, so what can we do to have some fun with it and make a beer we want to drink? Let’s do a classic throwback West Coast IPA!”

Lauren was certainly happy to see a West Coast IPA come out of the collaboration.

“I was pretty pumped to be doing a West Coast IPA,” she says. “It feels kind of like a throwback style of beer nowadays, but it’s a style that really helped me get into beer. Call me old fashioned, but I miss clear IPAs. This beer is beautifully clear with classic West Coast IPA aromas but with an added light tropical aroma in the background.”  

While we may love doing some crazy, off-the-wall things — for example, our upcoming Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA –, as far as the world of craft beer is concerned, IPA is still king.

But… a West Coast IPA?!? They’re not exactly cutting-edge.

“So? We thought it would be fun to play around with this classic throwback kind of beer,” Brian says. “New England IPAs and milkshakes and fruited IPAs are all the rage, so doing a supremely crushable, crisp, slightly bitter, slightly dry IPA of yesteryear sounded like fun.”

And, since it’s a collaboration between Cape May and Tonewood, maybe it’s a bit of hubris to believe that the two of us could get away with doing a bit of a niche style beer like a West Coast IPA, but… as long as we’re not angering any Greek gods, we think we’ll be okay.

The name of this beer is definitely a nod to Tonewood’s branding — while this writer is listening to Phish as he writes this blog, there’s not a chance Cape May Brewing Company would adopt the name of a Phish song for a beer unless Tonewood was involved.

Two Versions of Me is the name of a Phish 2.0 tune: post-hiatus, pre-breakup, in an era that many fans would prefer to forget happened. It’s a song that, while beautiful, never really found its place — the band has only played it live seven times, only once since they re-formed back in 2009. However, along with many songs of the 2.0 era, Two Versions of Me marks the beginning of a shift toward more introspective music, with slower tempos and lyrics that actually made sense. 

“I’m not a Phish phan at all,” Brian says, “in fact, you could go as far as saying I downright dislike them –”

He hates them.

“–, but I love this name for the beer and I love that we were able to get a music reference in. Most of Tonewood’s beers are named after songs or types of guitars, and almost always music-related, and, as a huge music nerd, I love that about their beer names. It’s not an avenue we typically explore, so it was fun tapping into that well for inspiration on this one.” 

And we were able to tap into the 70s hippie counterculture styling for the can design.

“The artwork is downright brilliant!” Brian says. “The crew over at Canales & Co. did a beautiful job conceptualizing this and bringing all the great elements Tonewood’s art director John Falco brought to the table.”

Eli and Brian switched up the malt bill from what one might expect in a West Coast IPA just a bit, using pilsner, carafoam, and C45.

“If we were going 100% textbook West Coast IPA,” Brian says, “we’d’ve used pale two-row malt for the base grain, but our bulk silo is filled with pilsner so we used that as the base malt. Honestly, that doesn’t make too big of a difference in the final beer, but in case any purist beer nerds out there want to call us out for not being 100% true to the history books, I apologize in advance.” 

The touch of carafoam helps to keep the beer from getting too dried out.

“And C45 because what good classic West Coast IPA doesn’t have a little crystal malt to help round things out?” Brian says.

The hops lend toward the spicy or piney side, with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Chinook rounding out the hops bill.

“It’s weird to say this now,” Brian says, “but Simcoe and Amarillo are now considered classic American hops. For context, for the first few years of CMBC’s existence, these hops — along with Citra — were unobtainable without paying exorbitant prices for them, and good luck getting them on contract.”

At one point in time, these were the sexiest of sexy hops, the ones everyone wanted but had a rough time getting. However, now they’re a little more classic and distinctive.

“And Chinook is a classic amongst the classic C hops — Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook,” Brian says. “They all were the forefathers of the American craft beer scene, so playing with the new classics and an old classic was nice.”

To really make this an old-school brew, we went a little old-school with the yeast, as well, breaking out our old House Ale yeast, American Ale II. It used to be used in the majority of our beers, but, over the years, it’s begun playing second fiddle to our London Ale III.

“London Ale III is a yeast much better suited for New England IPAs,” says Brian, “with a softer finish and more distinctive ester profile, whereas American Ale II is very neutral and clean.”

Since West Coast IPAs have very little yeast presence, focusing instead on the hops, it made sense to bring it back.

“Once we decided on a West Coast IPA for this beer I knew that we’d be bringing back our old House Ale yeast for a change-up to keep this beer truer to style.”

Lauren was pretty excited to see us break out American Ale II, as well.

“It was fun to dust off the cobwebs and use American Ale II again,” she says. “Every yeast strain brings something a little different to the table. This strain used to be our workhorse before switching over to the more expressive London Ale III, but American Ale still produces a highly consistent product. Luckily, American Ale is very predictable and looks very similar to our house London, so it was very easy to adjust our methods in the lab.”

The yeast, malt, and hops come together to create a clear, slightly bitter, and highly aromatic brew, bursting with notes of pine, resin, and zesty grapefruit.

“It’s refreshing, crisp, and crushable despite being 7.5%,” Brian says, “and the perfect balance of zesty grapefruit and pine on the nose from the Simcoe and Amarillo, with a resinous background note thanks to the high oil content of our Chinook.”

Lauren’s a big fan, too.

“If we had dropped the ABV a smidge this would be an all-day drinking beer,” she says, “but I could still put down a few without getting tired of it or blowing out my palate.”

Two Versions of Me releases in our Tasting Room this Friday, January 22nd, with distribution throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania on the following Monday. Don’t miss it!