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“The guys in the brewery have been awesome. I’ve messed a couple things up so far, but they’ve been nice. I’m the new guy, so we’ll see how long that keeps up.”

Welcome Mike!

We’re big on internships at CMBC. There’s a lot of knowledge floating around this place — knowledge in the brewhouse, knowledge in the offices, knowledge in the Tasting Room — and we like to be able to pass it on.

Since we’re so big on internships, we decided to get ourselves a big intern.

A really big intern.

Like… so big….

Mike Flacco is 6’5”, 250 pounds. And — you guessed it — he’s the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Originally hailing from Audubon, NJ, Mike went to Audubon High School for two years before transferring to Camden Catholic and eventually graduating from Gateway Regional, playing baseball, basketball, and football along the way.

Mike is the second of six kids — four brothers and one sister — with Joe being the oldest. For the most part, they’d all been athletes in high school, with two of his brothers going on to play college football.

Growing up the younger brother of an eventual Super Bowl MVP came with a bit of rivalry.

“We were always friends, both good at sports,” he says. “I was always trying to beat Joe — usually failing. Joe was a bit of a nerd growing up, but I was usually hanging out with his friends, playing sports. We got into a couple of fights, but we were always good friends.

“But the rivalry was probably always more on my end than Joe’s, because he was always beating me. He probably never really felt like it was much of a rivalry,” he jokes.

Mike did a fifth year of prep school to play football, during which he injured his back. He spent two years recovering before attending junior college in Baltimore, playing baseball there in 2009 before being drafted by the Orioles. After four years of minor league play, they traded Mike to the Red Sox in 2013 before he eventually left professional baseball.

“I didn’t think it was going anywhere,” he says. “I think the Sox just took me to fill a spot in Single-A, so I said, ‘I’m outta here.’”

Not all of us can have “professional football player” as a fallback position, but that’s what Mike decided to do. He enrolled at the University of New Haven in the fall of 2013, playing tight end for a semester.

He transferred to Villanova after that semester before signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in May of 2014. He played all four preseason games with them, but got cut right after the last one.

He’d registered for classes at ‘Nova in the Fall, but then got signed to the Jaguars’ practice squad in October of 2014 and had to drop out of all of his classes.

“It was a costly semester,” he laughs.

Photo courtesy Baltimore Ravens

The Jags let him go at the end of November before working out with a few other teams. He tried out with the Jets, but didn’t get signed and went back to school. Last May, he worked out with the Ravens after the draft, attending their rookie minicamp. Comprised of about fifteen guys, the minicamp is for guys who’d never played so the team can run full-team drills. Sometimes they’ll sign a few of the guys in the minicamp, but it didn’t happen for Mike.

“It was a little disappointing,” he says. “I was definitely more disappointed about leaving baseball because I struggled through the back injury, I came back, felt good about myself, then got into the minors and just didn’t feel good about the way that I played. That was disappointing.”

But, for Mike, football was just a bonus.

“I just went for it. I wish I could have gotten just one more year to get some experience under my belt in the tight end position. But at the end of it I was ready to move on because I’d struggled for ten years and didn’t really have any success. I was happy to move on, but definitely miss it.”

And moving on meant returning to Villanova. Mike decided against returning to New Haven because ‘Nova was a little closer to home and was “just a better school.” His girlfriend graduated from Villanova as an undergrad and returned to get her MBA, “so she sold me pretty hard,” he says.

But it was Villanova’s active alumni base in the area that eventually sold him on the school. He intends to eventually work in the Philly area, so those connections will come in handy.

Nonetheless, Mike is definitely enjoying Villanova.

“I’m not getting quite the college experience that most people get,” he says, laughing. “All the teachers and staff in the Chemical Engineering department have been great, and I like the kids I’m in class with, so it’s been fun.”

When he went back to school, Mike knew that he wanted to do something in engineering because he’d always been good at math and science.

“I picked Chemical Engineering because, honestly, when someone asks what my major is, I want to sound cool when I say it,” he jokes, “and chemical engineer sounds smart, so I went for it.”

Like the rest of us, Mike had always liked beer, but hadn’t gotten much into the craft scene until relatively recently, which is understandable. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to craft beer, and when you’re focused on playing professional sports, you don’t really have much time to pick up a hobby that requires imbibing copious amounts of alcohol.

Last semester, he did a team project on brewing and they visited a brewery in Pennsylvania.

“There was just something cool about it, the different processes and equipment,” he says. “It just kinda hooked me.”

We met Mike when Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm did a guest lecture at Villanova. Not being a senior, Mike wasn’t in the brewing class that we sat in, but he stopped by afterward — as much drawn by the prospect of free beer as the anticipation of landing an internship with us.

Dr. Mike Smith, who teaches the brewing class at Villanova, let us know that he was stopping by, and had nothing but glowing things to say about him.

“In addition to being Joe Flacco’s younger brother,” Dr. Smith said, “he’s a really smart kid. Really on top of his game. He’d be great for your internship.”

Mike was excited about the prospect of working for us.

“When I heard about this, I just went for it.”

He’s looking forward to picking up some of the knowledge our guys have about the brewing process.

“Right now they’ve got me doing whatever,” he says, “but they’ve really taken the time — even on the easy things — to really explain the science and why they do what they do. I’m excited to expand my role.”

Jimmy’s a big proponent of internships, owing his career path to a successful one with Heineken UK.

“My real goal here is to give others the same opportunity I was given,” Jimmy says.

Choosing Mike for the internship had as much to do with his Chemical Engineering major and interest in beer and brewing as his determination.

“He seemed to be very driven,” Jimmy says, “his previous experience with pro sports and even his work at Villanova just screamed determination. One thing I’ve learned over the years as a Brewing Manager is that I can train just about anyone how to clean or fill kegs, dry-hop beer, harvest yeast, mash in a brew, etc., but the one thing you can’t train someone is how to be motivated and driven to work hard and how to take pride in one’s work. These days I feel those qualities are just as important as education and previous work experience.”

Mike has been with us for a week now and Jimmy’s sure that he made the right choice.

“I expect him to have a great summer working for us and learning what it really means to work in a brewery,” Jimmy says. “Hopefully, that may influence his career path once he graduates in a year.”

Mike is loving Cape May Brew Co. thus far.

“The guys in the brewery have been awesome. I’ve messed a couple things up so far, but they’ve been nice. I’m the new guy, so we’ll see how long that keeps up,” he jokes.

Like the rest of us, his favorite part of the day is his shift beers after work. As a new hire, the challenge is always to try as many brews as you possibly can while still being able to drive home.

“There’s so many beers on tap over there, I’ve only been able to try maybe a quarter of them so far.”

As a fan of dark beers, Mike’s really loving our Jersey Fresh Honey Porter.

“That one just went down smooth for me,” he says.

Yesterday, he was able to try Follow the Gull — our IPA celebrating Cape May County’s 325th anniversary — and he really enjoyed that one, as well.

“I typically don’t like IPAs,” he says, “but that one doesn’t have the bitter finish that IPAs usually have.”

As a ‘Nova student, Mike had heard of Demisemi long before he’d heard about the internship possibility. He tried it when he came down for his interview, but picked up a 64-oz growler for this past weekend.

“I was going to be hanging out with a couple of Villanova grads, including my girlfriend,” he says, “and it went down quick. It went down easy, and it was gone in twenty minutes.”

Mike hasn’t yet had the chance to take Villanova’s brewing class, as it’s only available for seniors. Nonetheless, he intends to take it next year.

“Hopefully, I’ll have a leg up at that point,” he jokes.

You definitely will, Mike. In fact, we’re confident that you’ll be able to teach it.