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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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Pumpkin Opinions

As of yesterday, our I Know What You Did Last Shandy beer is on tap in the tasting room. The 5% brew is last year’s Pumpkin, Pumpkin Shandy reincarnated. And while it doesn’t have any actual pumpkin in it — because the gourd itself is pretty flavorless — it has the taste of pumpkin pie thanks to cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.

Ah, pumpkin. The most divisive flavoring of the craft beer world.

In one corner, we’ve got liquid pumpkin haters, who see the style as silly and superficial. We’re talking about folks like Orr Stuhul, who wrote in an article for the Washington City Paper:

“This is the one time of year when ordinary, appreciative beer drinkers devolve into squealing Starbucks fanatics, leaping at the opportunity to try the latest approximation of some misguided confectionery fantasy. How did cinnamon and nutmeg become such an invasive species of flavor? You’ve already taken our cakes, our lattes, our sweet potatoes. For God’s sake! Spare us our beer!”

In the other corner, we’ve got the pro-pumpkin peeps. They see nothing wrong with tapping into the spices of the season, as long as it’s done right. We’re talking about folks like Don Russell, who wrote in a recent Philly.com article:

“People who say they hate pumpkin beer remind me of people who say they never watch TV, as if they’re too good for something so unsophisticated. They stick up their noses and piss all over the spicy brew because it’s a gimmick, because it’s crass, because they’re oh-so-busy rereading War and Peace.”

Regardless of which you are  —  vehement derider of all things liquid pumpkin, or fanatical pumpkin brew groupie — you cannot deny the numbers. According to  Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, the release of pumpkin beers in 2013 meant that seasonal beer sales overtook IPA sales — always the front-runner — by 300,000 cases. We have no reason to believe the same won’t be true for 2015.

Until next time, happy fall.

Credit: rozis.com.
Credit: rozis.com.

 

 

Making Laws and Taking Names

Trying to get a bill signed into law is like trying to conceive a baby. There are many, ahem, swimmers in the running, but most do not stand a chance.

Take the 2012 law that allowed for tasting rooms at Jersey breweries. It was a huge deal for the industry, and a major factor in our expansion from one employee to 37. But according to Eric Orlando, VP of the Kaufman Zita Group which handles lobbying for the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, the original bill had only a 4.6 percent chance of surviving the legislative process and getting an a-okay from Governor Christie.

“There are so many ways a piece of legislation can short-circuit,” Eric says. “And because the alcohol industry is so highly regulated, there’s an added layer of complication when dealing with beer-related bills.”

For many of us, knowledge about the legislative process comes largely from watching House of Cards. And while “there are definitely elements of that show that are true,” Eric says, Netflix fails at providing us with a clear idea of logistics. We’re talking about the step-by-steps of the law-making process we first heard about via Schoolhouse Rock.

Given the three bills sponsored by Senators Kean and Barnes and Assemblymen Coughlin and O’Scanion —  the ones that would allow, respectively, for the sale of food at Jersey’s tasting rooms, the sale of beer at farmers’ markets, and the ability of brewpubs to self-distribute their product — we thought we’d put together a flowchart that explains the timeline. Keep in mind, the meat of the process detailed below can take anywhere from one week to several years.

Presenting: how a bill becomes a law in New Jersey, because it’s not as simple as you think…

(Our nifty chart will get bigger if you click on it.)

flowing

Happy Saint Pat’s

It’s Saint Paddy’s Day, which means it’s green beer time. Come into our tasting room between noon and 8pm, order a $5 pint or tasting, and we’ll give you one of our lucky color-changing cups. Leave the food coloring to the frat boys.

Just remember, this is the only day you’re allowed to be excited about green beer. That’s because, any other day, “green beer” likely doesn’t refer to a Kermit-colored brew, but one that’s been removed from its yeast too early.

Allow us to go Bill Nye on you for a moment:

Acetaldehyde is a compound released during the process of fermentation. If beer is allowed to ferment long enough, it clears itself of the off-flavor this compound lends. But if not, the unsuspecting brewer ends up with a taste and aroma she didn’t see coming — that of grass, green apples or, in extreme cases, latex paint.

While it’s usually considered a fault, the presence of acetaldehyde flavor is sometimes the end-goal (we’re looking at you, Budweiser). So, if you happen to experience it during your own home-brew experiment, tell your friends it was purposeful, join them for a Saint Paddy’s pint, and go easy on yourself.

It ain’t easy being green.

 

We’re Bringing Sexy Bock

Weiner means a lot of things to a lot of people. The menu staple at Hot Dog Tommy’s. Adorable puppies doing adorable things. That Congressman who took phallic… selfies. But at Cape May Brewery, “weiner” is what we’ve nicknamed our next release. It’s a Bock — aka Vienna-style lager — and ‘Vienna’ in German is ‘wein,’ so…. you see where we’re going with this. But for formal purposes, we’ve opted for a name with a little more pop culture pizazz — Bringing Sexy Bock — because this is one sexy brew.

img_5836-editBefore we get into all that, a little beer school: a lager is a lager because it’s fermented at a colder temperature — 50 degrees as opposed to 65ish, which would work for a regular old ale. Of course at this cooler temp the fermentation process takes longer, and that’s before you even get to the lagering (ie, cold storage) stage, where the beer sits at 32 degrees for at least six weeks. During this time, it clears itself of any “off” flavors that develop during fermentation. We’re speaking of diacetyl, which is akin to that fake butter flavor you get on movie theater popcorn, and DMS, similar in taste to cooked cabbage. So yea – best to wait those out.

“It’s the reason a lot of craft breweries don’t make lagers,” says Brew Master Brian. “You’re tying up a tank for twice as long.”

But if you’re willing to hang tight, well, what’s that they say about patience being a virtue?

Bringing Sexy Bock is smooth, clean and malty, with virtually no hop or yeast character. The flavor profile comes instead from a complex grain bill — we use five different kinds instead of the more typical one-two punch (single base grain and single specialty grain for mouthfeel).

The end result is full-bodied; when it hits your lips, you’re transported from Cape May to a broody German beer hall, stein in hand.

The end result is full-bodied; when it hits your lips, you’re transported from Cape May to a broody German beer hall, stein in hand. Just be careful how quickly you down that stein, reminds Brian — because it’s a bock, the brew’s got a higher ABV (6.9%) than your typical lager.

bringing sexy bock JT

We’re tapping it on March 5, as the third in a six-new-beers-in-six-weeks series. So come check out the weiner in our tasting room, and don’t be afraid to call it what it is, loud and proud — we’ve heard that some of you were a tad sheepish ordering Bringing Sexy Bock by name last year.

But CMB is not usually a place where embarrassment comes easy.

“We like Justin Timberlake around here, but he’s no T-Swift,” says Brian, without a hint of irony. “She’s Chris’ favorite. Personally, I’m a big Katy Perry fan.”

See what we mean?

 

Our New Release Is The Bomb

It’s sounds like the episode of a sitcom: sweet mother makes apple butter for her family with huge pots in a suburban backyard and is mistaken for meth lab operator. But that’s exactly what might have happened to the mom of our guy Chris — she remembers a state police helicopter circling above her house during one of her frequent apple butter cooking marathons. And yet, more has come out of her recipe than a funny story… this was the inspiration for CMBC’s Apple Bomb beer.

apple bomb fermentation foam fail
The infamous Apple Bomb fermentation foam fiasco

A few Christmas seasons ago, in our original 12 gallon brew house, we also cooked apples down until they reduced to a butter, and we tossed the fruit of this labor (womp, womp) into a fermenter with some cinnamon and apple juice concentrate purchased from ShopRite. The resulting brew was so popular, we decided to do it again and again… and again. Each time, we’ve refined the process because, well, let’s just say we’ve experienced some funny stories of our own.

“The name for the beer came about because, in the early days, we underestimated how easily the sugars from 55 gallons of juice would ferment, so the fermenter kind of blew up,” says Chris. “The floor of the brew house was covered in two inches worth of foam.”

But no worries – the beer itself was delicious, and CMBC’s Apple Bomb has only gotten tastier since. Just not in the way you might think.

“It’s one of the hardest beers to describe,” says Brew Master Brian. “With a name like Apple Bomb, you expect it to be a cider, which is a lot like alcoholic apple juice. But this still tastes like a beer.”

Show bout them apples bomb graphicure, the fruit lends a little bit of tartness, but not so much that the hop note is masked, or the biscuit malts don’t come through. That’s because, unlike with a cider, all of the apple juice that goes into this beverage is converted to alcohol – hence the 8% ABV.

For your drinking pleasure, we’re releasing it Thursday, February 26 (it’s the second in a six-new-beers-in-six-weeks series), so come check it out in our tasting room. You know what they say: an apple beer a day keeps the doctor away, or some such thing.

As for Chris’ mom? She’s still operating her “lab.” Says Chris: “I’ve got apple butter in my fridge from three years ago.”

What You Need In Order To Bottle Like CMBC

Part of our ongoing expansion is the incorporation of a bottling line that we’ve been putting together for two years, thanks in great part to the mad engineering skills of our guy Chris. First, he designed the line’s layout in a circa 1999 AutoCAD program (hey, it’s vintage), and then we purchased the system in retro parts. “We were so excited when we got it, because we got it for scrap value,” Chris says. “But then we realized why it’s that way. I’ve spent a lot of time repairing pieces, and figuring out how to connect them all.”Bottling Devil's Reach

When it’s totally complete and set up in HQ, the action-filled process will look like this:

Bottles start on a depalletizer, or a machine that removes layers of containers from a pallet. (Ours is a circa-1960s “tank.”) From there, they’ll move onto a conveyor belt, then to a labeler, then to a twist rinser (another old-school piece) that sanitizes and removes any cardboard dust, and then to an actual bottler from a now-defunct brewery in Ohio. Here, they’ll be filled, capped, rinsed and moved to another feeder where they’ll be distributed into six packs. The system will be manned by two men.

In the meantime, getting bottles from one station to the next is a manual job. So, until we’re fully up and running (watch this space for updates), here’s what you need in order to bottle like Cape May Brewing Co:

  1. Bathroom breaks, before the process begins. “It’s like road tripping,” says Chris. “You go before you start.”
  2. Six hours. That’s how long it takes to get through 4,400 bottles, which is usually around the target goal. (Although the most ever completed by us in one shot was 8,800.)
  3. Six men. Four with beards. Three with (visible) tattoos, all of them nautical.
  4. Meta clothing. Our guy Chris is sporting a tee-shirt with the image of a fallen bottle on the front. (It’s from Base Camp Brewing Company.) Brian is wearing a CMBC hat with a green and red puff on top, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. Music. “The groovier and jammier the better,” says Brian. On Pandora today? Creedance Clearwater Revival. Fun fact: For their 1977 concert in Moscow before 80,000 fans, CCR sang all songs in Russian.
  6. Protective eyewear.
  7. A high tolerance for noise. The bottling machine’s actions (including pressing bottles with CO2 to keep air out) are loud, and the guys get to know them — and their order — very well. When something sounds off, “Duck!” says Bob.
  8. A high tolerance for aches and pains. “At the end of the day, your lower back is dead,” says Brian.
  9. A competitive spirit. Since bottles are currently being dried by hand, Andrew says: “I’m fastest. I keep track. I dry 11 bottles per case.” Brian counters with: “I only take 3.5 seconds per bottle!” Now, now, boys.
  10. Good conversation. “Doing this together all day is actually a good chance to catch up,” says Andrew.
  11. A sense of humor. “When the bottling line is complete, we’ll be able to lay off Jake,” says Chris. Twenty minutes later, Ryan enters and says. “When the bottling line is complete, we’ll be able to lay off Jake!” So we might need new material…

    Men Bottling
    It takes six hours, six men, and some serious stamina to bottle 4,400 bottles of Devil’s Reach

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