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What The Hell Is A Beach Plum, And Why Do You Want It In Your Beer?

Sales Rep Justin Vitti won’t be the only tasty-looking thing hanging on the beach this summer, catching some rays…

Because it grows wild on natural dunes from Maine to North Carolina, the Beach Plum tree withstands seriously depleted soil and harsh gusts of salty air… and it looks that way. Gnarled and windblown, this isn’t the cutest shrub you’ll ever see. But for those who’ve gotten a taste of the sweet, tart fruits that bloom on these cherry tree-like branches every April, the plant is a thing of beauty.

The nickel-sized fruit can be deep blue, purple, rosy or yellow. Image via spectacularlydelicious.com.
The nickel-sized fruit can be deep blue, purple, rosy or yellow. Image via spectacularlydelicious.com.

Fanatical hunters won’t give away their favorite spots; beach plum hunting is a practice nearly as secretive as truffle hunting, especially since development on Jersey’s barrier islands has depleted the species. But since 2010, when the beach plum was named the official fruit of Cape May County, keeping hot spots under wraps has been difficult.

David Van Vorst, president of the CMC Beach Plum Association (yes, there is such a thing), says that for this “treasure hunt,” it’s best to look on the coastal plain. Hunters will have the best luck on the secondary dune, or the side facing away from the water. While the fruit grows on the entire peninsula — including Cape May Point State Park and along the harbor — Higbee Beach is a goldmine. Every August, the Cape May Nature Center hosts a “What’s Yum About Beach Plums” workshop here. And Joe Alvarez, local BP guru, leads beach plum tours throughout the area sponsored by the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension.

Which is all just a long-winded way of saying: wild thing, you make our hearts sing.

The beach plum is used to make tasty cordials, cobbler, cheesecake, wine, vinaigrettes, jams, jellies, and now — ta-da! — beer.

That’s right — our Queen Street Beach Plum Ale came out last Friday, and it’s as exotic as it sounds. We made it with wild yeast found on grapes growing just outside the brewery, and infused it with pomace, the crushed skins and seeds of beach plums pressed by the Washington Inn restaurant for their own cocktails.

So, whatcha waiting for? The brew is on tap in the tasting room now. No hunting necessary.