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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company
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It’ll Wreck Ya!

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“I cannot tell a lie,” said a six-year-old George Washington. “I hacked down that cherry tree and put all of the cherries into Cape May Brewing Company’s Tripel Wreck.”

Well, that’s how we remember the story, at least. Stands to reason: the Father of Our Country was an avid homebrewer.

However, it’s possible that we have our dates confused. George died in 1799 and we first released Tripel Wreck — sans cherries — 215 years later.

Named for the Triple Wrecks — an artificial reef created by six ships sunk by the German U-boat U-151 off the coast of Cape May on June 2, 1917 — Tripel Wreck is a Belgian Tripel with a complex strain of yeast delivering fruity esters and a smooth, clean finish.

Now, the Triple Wrecks are known for excellent diving and fishing, and Tripel Wreck is known as the 2015 World Beer Championship Bronze Medal winner in the Belgian-Style Strong Ale category.

Please don’t confuse the two. Fishing in a fermenter is a waste of everyone’s time. Diving into a fermenter, while not recommended for many, many reasons, sounds like a helluva time.

We like to bring back our winners. That’s why Justin Vitti has job security: so long as that beautiful mustache keeps winning awards, we’ll let him stay.

“We save this beer for the holidays because that’s the best time for a high octane and easy-drinking beer,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink.

And high octane, this certainly is. This year’s batch has a deceptively easy-drinking 10.3% ABV. Exactly what everyone needs to get through the holidays.

Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm is a big fan of Tripel Wreck. “It’s a classic Belgian Tripel, so it’s really all about the yeast character. These days, with so much focus on hops, I love any beer that showcases the other aspects that beer is made from.”

This year, though, we added a bit of a twist on this award winner: cherries.

“Tripel Wreck has a loyal following by now, but we can never pass up an opportunity to tweak things and change it up every now and again,” Brian explains.

“With a simple malt and hop profile, Tripel Wreck is a great beer to play around with,” Jimmy says. “The fruity-sweet and slight tart flavors of cherries go really well with the esters reminiscent of apricots and peaches and the slight phenolic character.”

Brian agrees. “In Tripel Wreck, we give the yeast unadulterated access to the flavor profile: hardly any malt character and little to no hop presence, and because of that the yeast is on full display. The yeast we use for Tripel Wreck is full-on cherry pie with notes of plum and peaches rounding things out bringing the flavor.”

“They play off each other so well,” Jimmy says.

Since the Trappist yeast in the Tripel Wreck already has a bit of a bite, we used dark sweet cherries in this batch. “Not too tart,” Jimmy says. “We wanted this beer to appeal to everyday drinkers as well as beer nerds.”

Fans of Tripel Wreck, never fear. It doesn’t look like the guys are planning to brew Tripel Wreck on its own, but the rumor is that some of the leftover original brew from this batch made its pre-cherried way into our oak red wine barrels.

For now, we’ll release our Cherry Tripel Wreck and see how it goes. “Maybe next year we’ll do two batches, maybe not, we’ll see where the crowds take us!” Brian says.

In the meantime, Cherry Tripel Wreck is on tap now in the Tasting Room. Will we bring it back next year, or will we play around with different flavors again? Well, that’s up to you. Mostly.

Yeast: East Coast Yeast

img_1642You want to know what the greatest thing in the world is?

We know you expect us to say “beer,” but no. Something even better than beer. Believe it or not, there are better things in the world than beer. (But not by much.)

The greatest thing in the world is…

…are you ready for this…?

Yeast.

It’s true. Yeast. You know it’s great for making dough rise, and we use it in our brews. It’s the greatest thing in the world, because without it there would be no alcohol.

The lifecycle of a yeast basically involves eating sugar and excreting out alcohol.

Sounds like a pretty decent life.

We use a few different suppliers for our yeast, as well as maintaining a few of our own pitches. The yeast for Three Plows came to us from Al Buck at East Coast Yeast.

Al’s been working with yeast for most of his life. He worked at a few New Jersey pharmaceutical companies, testing products and environmental monitoring, until his dissatisfaction with “corporate America” became too much to bear.

“I got tired of all the nonsense,” he tells us. “At the time I was doing some part-time yeast-making for a homebrew shop, and things started to take off. I decided to jump ship, and that was three years ago that I started full-time.”

East Coast Yeast carries “a couple dozen” strains of yeast. “I never really know the answer to that, because I have a lot of things that I don’t normally pull out, so it switches back and forth.”

Al’s been homebrewing for fifteen years, and has used most of his yeast in his brews. The yeast in Three Plows — the Old Newark Ale strain —  is his favorite yeast for ales. He uses it in his barleywine and stronger ales. “That yeast is very English-like, and it’s a style that I really do enjoy. It’s a strong yeast. It does well. Very reliable.”

And this yeast has been around for quite awhile. It was originally used at the now-defunct Ballentine Brewery, starting back in 1840.

img_1636Yeast and the differences between strains is a terribly complex subject and requires a degree in microbiology to truly understand on any level. We tried to wrap our brains around it, but we came up short. Suffice it to say that different strains of yeast provide different flavors: esters or phenols.

“A lot of different compounds can be derived directly from the yeast, like a banana ester in a German Hefeweizen,” he tells us. “As opposed to English strains that are a lot more reserved and slightly fruity in flavor.”

The challenges that Al faces are surprisingly similar to those faced by Mike Kane at Laughing Hops. Mike has to worry about disease overtaking his crop, and Al needs to be vigilant in keeping his lab sterile.

“The challenge is beyond sanitizing,” he says, “I have to sterilize equipment. It’s a little more cleaner and more attention to detail for sterilizing anything that comes in contact with the media, so that only the pure strain can be grown as a pure culture.”

As you probably know, yeast are single-celled organisms. They’re alive. The only way to make more yeast is by making the yeast you already have hunker down and replicate. They’re gonna do that on their own, but Al sort of helps them along with plenty of filtered oxygen and a mixture of nutrients — pretty much the same stuff we need to stay alive: amino acids, carbohydrates, and vitamins. You’ve got to keep the vessels moving, too, because if they’re stagnant they’ll fall to the bottom of the tank.

“You want the yeast to grow using oxygen, rather than fermenting. When you give them lots of oxygen, they get nice, strong cell walls.”

Al’s been supplying a few hundred breweries over the past few years. “Every week it’s a new one coming in. It coincides with all of the new breweries popping up, but some of the bigger ones have also inquired.”

Homebrewers can pick up Al’s yeast, too. On occasion, whatever us big guys don’t pick up, he’ll supply to Love2Brew out of North Brunswick.

He thinks Three Plows is “pretty cool. I found that the grain to be kinda interesting. I’m really interested to find out what the beer will be like with that grain, more than the yeast and the hops,” he laughs. “It smelled very nutty. I’m interested to see how that works out.”

Al will be making another delivery down here — a wild yeast combination blend — so he can’t wait to hit the Tasting Room to try some Three Plows.

Can you blame him? You should probably get down here, too. This historic brew won’t be around for long.

Hops: Laughing Hops

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Mike Kane is the root of Three Plows.

As we’ve been covering the production of this beer — indeed, even as the guys in the brewery were planning this beer — we’ve found that the major drawback to the concept of a beer brewed with entirely New Jersey ingredients has been the considerable lack of hop production in the state.

Thankfully, this former union bricklayer and commercial fisherman got the wild hair of an idea to start growing some hops. After laying brick for 16 years, Mike picked up and moved to Maine. While there, he became friends with some organic farmers who turned him onto hops as a potential cash crop. So, he moved back home and bought a hay farm — Big Oaks Farm — eventually turning Laughing Hops into the largest hop yards in New Jersey.

Mike’s got 15.2 acres up in Pennington, of which a little over two acres have 188 poles with glorious hop bines twisting among them.

Let that sink in for a minute: the largest hop producer in the state is doing it with fewer than three acres.

“I’ve always had an affinity for growing things — I love to grow stuff,” he tells us. “But there’s a lot more work involved than I really had contemplated.”

This is an understatement.

img950108Growing hops is not the easiest thing in the world to do. First, the hop bines need support — if they don’t have a structure of some sort to grow on, they don’t grow. So Mike needed to get those 188 poles — and they don’t come cheap.

In addition, hops are delicate little things. They’re susceptible to humidity-driven disease, and, as you probably know, summers in New Jersey are insanely humid — on a hot summer day, the humidity can be oppressive for a human, much less a little hop cone. Mike’s had to deal with “downy mildew” — a microbe that can be devastating to hops.

“It’s a manageable disease,” he tells us, “it’s just expensive to spray for and any leaf litter or anything that falls off, we really need to clean all that stuff up because the spores will overwinter in the ground, and then next year, they’ll come back. Yesterday I was in the process of literally cutting everything to the ground, raking it all up, and putting it into a big pile so I could get rid of that.”

Hops also need a lot of water and nitrogen. “They require about an inch of rain a week,” he says. “I’m lucky enough here at this farm that I have a big, two-acre pond. I’ve just now gotten the hard pipe from the pond up to the poles. Last year, I didn’t have any irrigation, and that was a big drawback for me. I didn’t lose crop from it, but I didn’t get nearly as much as I should have.”

Yet again, this is an understatement. Mike should be able to produce about 2,000 pounds of hops. He got about 250 this year.

Two of his five varieties of hops were completely unharvestable — his Willamette and Centennial hops were useless. (No, not the Centennials!) Nonetheless, he was able to provide us with all of the Magnum, Chinook, and Nugget we needed for this iteration of Three Plows.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me this year, but I’m getting there.”

And he’s got time. It takes about three years for hops to come to maturity. The first year, you get bupkis. The second, you’re at about 50% of production. So, by next year, Mike will be flush with hops. Hopefully. “As long as they’ve got water and they’ve got nitrogen and you can control disease, you should be good.”

Furthermore, to get hops from the ground and into your delicious brew takes a lot of infrastructure. In addition to the poles, harvesting the plants from eighteen feet in the air is a challenge — Mike built his own basket/ladder combo and sets it up on a tractor.

img_0423From there, the cones need to be separated from the leaves, then dried. He’s built his own driers, as well — basically little drawers with chicken wire and heaters. Then, they’re either vacuum packed whole and frozen or ground in a hammermill and pelletized.

Like most breweries, we use pelletized hops. They dissolve better, you get a better hop flavor in the finished product (what we call “utilization”), and it’s easier to clean the kettle and fermenters afterwards. Mike is the only guy in the state with a pelletizer.

Regardless of these barriers, Jersey’s making good hops. You know, you can take a tomato plant from New Jersey, bring some soil with you and move to California, but you’re still not going to get a Jersey tomato. They’ll still turn out to be those orange things you find in the supermarket in January.

Same deal with hops — they take on characteristics of the area in which they grow, known as the “terroir”. Jersey just has the right combination of climate, latitude, and soil to make some extraordinary hops.

“It’s definitely a much fresher product when it’s locally-sourced.”

We wholeheartedly agree, Mike.

Hopefully, Mike’s success will create more interest in hop production in New Jersey, and with the success of the recent Audubon Society event in our Tasting Room, bringing together hop producers and other farmers, we think it might. Mike agrees. “Since starting this yard two years ago — I think I was number four or five in New Jersey to start a hop yard — I’ve seen at least half-a-dozen other hop yards go up in the area. But, small — quarter-acre, half-acre.”

Ultimately Mike’s plan is to devote more of his farm to hops. “I’ve got about ten or eleven more acres that I could plant, but the infrastructure costs and the startup costs for everything here was so much money — and me not having a real good farming background and all of the challenges that I had this year, I really want to plant next year, but let me manage what I’ve got now and get it going to where I can hold onto it.”

Keep making them, Mike, and we’ll keep taking them.

As for Three Plows, Mike’s thrilled to be a part of it. “I was kinda blown away by a ‘big brewer’ like Cape May — in my eyes, you’re a big brewer. I think it was a great opportunity for me, and I’m quite humbled by it.”

We’re loving Mike’s addition to the brew thus far, and we’re sure you’ll agree. Get down to the brewery when Three Plows releases on November 10th.

And if you should run into Mike, thank him. Without him, this brew would never have come to pass.

 

Malt: Rabbit Hill Farms

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Rabbit Hill Farms.

It just sounds bucolic. It sounds like a place where great things are born, and where great food comes from to fill your great belly.

All of that is true. And even better, it’s where great beer comes from.

(Well, technically, the great beer comes from us. But they help. A lot.)

img_5212We’ve told you about Rabbit Hill before — our guys went out there over the summer to check out their barley production, and, apparently they were impressed with what they saw. So much that they’ve decided to use their barley in Three Plows.

Hillary Barile is the fifth generation to be working on Rabbit Hill, and she’s thrilled that we’re using her grain in our all-New Jersey beer. “It’s a great way to explore some of the different flavors of New Jersey products,” she says.

Her barley is a little different from what we might get from some of the larger companies, because the varieties of barley that are grown successfully in New Jersey are a little different from the ones they grow.

“The taste is going to be different, because my process is different.”

And that’s quite the understatement. Most commonly-available malt is pneumatic malted. This means that it’s put into a vessel, and it’s steeped, germinated, and kilned all in the same vessel.

img_5318Hillary, her father Abe, and her brother Blair are doing things a little differently. They’re doing what’s known as floor malting.

“We take the grain and steep it in one vessel and then when it reaches the proper moisture content, we put it out on the concrete floor for four days,” she tells us. “Every 8 hours we turn it with a specially made malt rake that my brother built, or shovels, depending on how much the grain has sprouted and grown.”

As you might imagine, floor malting takes up quite a bit of room. Hillary and her family work in one-ton batches, and once it’s spread out all over a floor, it takes up about 250 square feet.

It’s a little bit old-fashioned and a little bit artisanal, but it imparts some beautifully distinct flavors over modern pneumatic malting. “It’s a biological process. The grain is experiencing something different in terms of temperature and humidity and CO2 buildup than it would be experiencing if it were in a pneumatic vessel.”

This uncommon process has been a bit of trial and error for Rabbit Hill — you can’t just go online and find directions on a process that pretty much died out a century ago. “Floor malting is really an experimental thing. I have books from 1908 that I’m reading about how they floor malt. I have grand plans to do a tour in the UK where there’s still some floor malting, and the tradition continues to be passed down.”

img_5675But the experimentation is the fun part. “It’s like cooking,” Hillary says, “you’re gonna get something a little different, experimenting with recipes.”

And that’s kinda what we do around here. A lot.

“It’s really fun to find that the brewers at Cape May were excited to do that,” she tells us, “even though you guys have moved up to be on this 30-barrel system and are one of the bigger ones in the state. To find that culture and excitement about experimenting and trying something new is really exciting for me.”

Her brother Blair, a homebrewer, has been the guinea pig from the beginning. “That was where the whole idea for an all-New Jersey beer came from. Once he’d been brewing for several years, he was looking to find different ingredients. So, we thought it would be fun to brew a beer with all ingredients that we grew on our own farm.” Blair wasn’t sure if they could make malt, but Hillary was undaunted.

“We figured it out.”

The first few batches were malted in a food dehydrator in Hillary’s kitchen. She wasn’t going to send that to a lab for analysis, so she told Blair to try brewing with it. “Because if it brews, then we did something right.”

And they did something right.

img_5681Blair’s got a few things on tap right now. “Now that there’s bags and bags of malt in the barn, the sky’s the limit. It’s more malt than he could ever brew. He’ll keep trialing everything we have and making sure we’re hitting the things we want to hit and it smells the way we want it to smell.”

Hillary loves the fact that we’re using her Pale Ale and Vienna malt in Three Plows. “I think having a nice light beer gives everybody an opportunity to taste the malt and the hops and not be overwhelmed by a roasted malt or really dark malt that would contribute a lot of malt flavor.”

Furthermore, it’s a validation of the idea they had those many years ago. “To see Cape May pick up that idea and run with it is really exciting. It validates everything we’ve been working toward for the last year and a half.

“To have you guys make this beer and have it be available on a wide range, to walk into a bar not far from me and say, ‘Hey, we had a part in that’: that’s a little bit of me, a little bit of my brother, a little bit of our land is in that beer. It’s really great. That’s why we started doing this.”

So, how did Hillary and Co. do? You’ll just have to wait until November 10th to find out.

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Tide Table Pale Ale

It seems like many of the beers we brew are here for a minute, then gone. You need Steve Martin-esque timing in order to catch your favorites. Half of that is because we’re big fans of seasonals down here — they keep our lives interesting. The other half is that our seasonals are so popular, they tend to sell out rather quickly.

We know it can get confusing, dear beer drinker, and we never want to let you down.

With that in mind, we’ve made a decision. We’re adding another year-round offering to our lineup, and we think you’re going to be relatively pleased with this development.

Our Tide Table Pale Ale is going to be your new go-to when you’re down to the brewery.

We’ve always toyed with the idea of a year-round brew with a low-to-mid ABV and a strong hops presence, and we’ve had a few successes along those lines. Cape May Pale Ale, Smooth Sail, Escape the Cape, Sea Mistress, and the like have been well-received, but by the time they were gone, we’re excited to move on to the next one. Tide Table, on the other hand, we’re pumped to do year-round.

Tide Table isn’t a light summer ale or a heavy winter brew — it’s something you’ll be able to enjoy on hot sunny days, windy autumn nights, as well as in the middle of a winter nor’easter that dumps eighteen feet of snow on your lap. This brew is so good, “we don’t want to limit it to just one season,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “This is going to be a standard for your fridge.”

img_1897-1We focused on making a beer we could drink all day, every day, and not get too tired of it. “We sought out a combination of hops that would keep evolving every time you took another sip,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink. “An extremely complex hop, the Ekuanot hops make up a huge portion of the dry hop, lending different flavors and aromas almost every time you take a sip. Citra makes up the other end of the dry hops, and when they’re paired together, you really get the full gauntlet of flavors.”

And it looks like these guys knocked this one out of the park. It’s got a really intense flavor, with a great hop aroma of pine, orange peel, mango, papaya, and just a touch of that resinous dank that we all love so well. The malt profile has a hint of the German Caramunich malt.

We used almost a pound-and-a-half of hops per barrel, which in a 5.2% pale ale with a medium-light body is an absurd amount of hops. This brew jumps right out of the glass and onto your palate.

Thus far, Beertender Dan Patela agrees. He’s loving the lemon, lime, and stonefruit flavors from the Ekuanot hops. “Tide Table is juicy. It’s not too bitter. It’s easy-drinking.”

The easy-drinking character of this brew is what’s going to make this beer a strong choice for everyone. Jimmy — who spent some time in Scotland and likes to throw random Britishisms into everyday speech — says, “Beer nerds are going to love its intense and complex flavor, but even your average punter will enjoy its sessionability.”

Brian agrees. “This beer will be loved by all: the beer geek seeking the next big thing, the hop head who just wants to be inundated with hops to the face, and the average beer drinker who wants to expand his palette a little further. This beer is super complex and yet incredibly drinkable.”

We’re certain you’ll agree, deer beer drinker, but there’s only one way to find out. Swing down to the brewery this weekend and let us know what you think!

Halloween Candy and Brews

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Halloween is this weekend, and you know what that means: CANDY! Whether it’s leftover from the throngs of costumed children that never seem to show up at your house, or if you’re stealing it from your kids (“Parent Tax”. Totally acceptable. No shame.), Halloween is the gateway holiday before the biguns of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s there for the kids, but it’s also a way for us adults to prep our bodies for the huge amount of calories that we’re about to consume over the next two months.

So let’s add some more!

We hit up the staff at CMBC for their favorite Halloween candy, then asked our favorite Head Chef JP Thomas to pair them with the perfect CMBC brew. The results will put five pounds on just from reading them.

Take 5 BarTake 5 and King Porter StompRyan and Graphic Designer Courtney Rosenberg
One of the neglected candies in the confectionary world, the Take 5 bar is five layers of pretzels, peanut butter, peanuts, and caramel drenched in sweet milk chocolate. The chocolatey richness of the King Porter Stomp will pair perfectly with the saltiness of the pretzels and peanuts, with the brew cutting right through the ooie-gooiness of the caramel. Delish!

candy-corn-pdCandy Corn and Mop Water — Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm
You know those ubitiquous little yellow, orange, and white candies that end up congregating on their own at the bottom of your kids’ Trick or Treat bags — they’re basically a step up from downing a sugar packet. They have practically no flavor of their own, so they need something with an explosion of flavor to make up for it. That’s exactly where Mop Water shines. The clean, sugary taste of the candy corn will bring out the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and vanilla in the brew rather nicely. You’ll be glad your kids didn’t come home with a bag full of Reese’s Cups. (Okay, maybe not. Those things are life.)

800px-twix-broken-pdTwix and Honey PorterBrewtique Manager Emily Bowman
It’s bad enough we have this election to deal with, but Twix has been spending the last few months of their marketing campaign trying to get us to decide between the left and the right Twix. The Mars company may be attempting to get us to really pack up and move to Mars. Nonetheless, the only candy bar with the cookie crunch will go wonderfully with our Honey Porter — as JP says, “Chocolate and porters are a no-brainer.” The smooth honey finish of the porter will accentuate the creamy caramel in Twix — and if you have enough of them, maybe you can forget about this election entirely.

146302839_59f9f56d0e_oSnickers and Sawyer’s SwapDistribution Manager Justin Vitti
When he’s not crushing his biceps or maintaining his glorious handlebar mustache, Justin’s satisfied by Snickers. Nougat topped with caramel and peanuts and enrobed in milk chocolate, this candy is practically screaming out for some Swap. The rich creaminess of Snickers will help to cut the high ABV of our flagship barleywine and will bring out the caramel and nutty tones in Sawyer’s Swap. Sounds awesome!

img_0749Sour Patch Kids and Turtle GutSales Manager Richie Rallo
We were hoping Richie Rallo would pick Rolo just for the opportunity for alliteration and consonance, but we were able to work it in, anyway. Nonetheless, his pick of Sour Patch Kids pucker your mouth to begin with, and when paired with our first foray into sour brewing, it’s a match made in heaven. The intense sweetness and the fruity tartness of the Sour Patch Kids will bring out the earthy undertones and malty sweetness of Turtle Gut rather nicely. Give it a try!

Pop Rocks and The ScupperHead Chef JP Thomas

We’re pretty sure JP’s combo won’t make anyone’s head explode, but that’s just an old urban legend, right? Our research shows that Mikey (who “likes it” in the old Life cereal commercials and is rumored to have died through the combination of Pop Rocks and soda) is still alive and well, and the Director of Media Sales for the Madison Square Garden Network (which is, apparently, a thing). Regardless, the tartness and effervescence of the Pop Rocks mixed with the fruity funkiness of The Scupper will tickle your taste buds in ways that even Mikey would like.

img_9228Hershey’s Almond Bars and Nitro Honey PorterMop Man and Sales Manager Bill McCaughey
Mop Man and Bill spent the day together on Tuesday drumming up some business in the Villanova area (more on why in a few weeks), and the time spent together must have had some effect, as they both came up with Hershey Almond Bars as their favorite Halloween candy. They’re tasty, fo’ sho’, and when the rich milk chocolate and toasted almonds are combined with the smoothness of the honey and a creamy nitro finish, you’ll think your kids picked up a sundae somewhere along the line.

Do you have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments, or stop down to the brewery and give them a whirl!

I Know What You Did Last Shandy and…?

img_1775If you missed I Know What You Did Last Shandy when it was out last year, no worries! It’s on tap again in the Tasting Room.

This killer shandy stands just fine on its own. It’s practically a liquid dessert: flavors of cinnamon, clove, and a ton of brown sugar swirl around your glass, enticing you with its aromas and flavors.

Nevertheless, this is the perfect beer to blend with some of our other brews. We’ve got some ideas for you for your next trip down to the brewery.

Mop Water — The spices in these two brews will complement each other nicely. Both have cinnamon, but the nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and vanilla in Mop Water will play beautifully with I Know What You Did Last Shandy. Furthermore, the dryness of the German malts in Mop Water’s brown ale are just begging to be sweetened a bit with a shandy. Give it a whirl!

Apple Bomb — There’s literally nothing more American than apple pie. Ask your grandmother for her apple pie recipe, and if she doesn’t mention cinnamon and brown sugar… ask your other grandmother. Combining I Know What You Did Last Shandy with Apple Bomb will leave you wondering who smuggled a slice of apple pie into your pint glass.

Avalon Coffee Stout — Who doesn’t love some spice in their coffee? If Starbucks’ next big coffee drink is some combination of coffee, cinnamon, cloves, and brown sugar, we’d assume that they got the idea from a brewery in Cape May. The grain bill of pilsner, carafa, caramunich, roasted barley, and oats with the nutty and cocoa notes of Avalon’s house blend will pair beautifully with I Know What You Did Last Shandy’s spicy sweetness. Yum!

Honey Porter — The roasted and dark crystal malts and characteristic sweetness of our flagship Honey Porter practically implores you to add a bit of spice to the mix. Cinnamon, cloves, and honey play wonderfully together, while the brown sugar brings the malts to the fore. This is where tradition and innovation converge!

Devil’s Reach — The fruity simplicity of our flagship Strong Belgian fares well against the complex sweetness of I Know What You Did Last Shandy. The fruity esters and unbearable lightness of Devil’s Reach are spiced up considerably by the cinnamon and cloves in the shandy. And that brown sugar all over those fruits? It’s like an apricot jam or orange marmalade on a cinnamon raisin toast first thing on a cold winter morning.

Do you have other ideas? Come on down and try them out!

Set sail with The Scupper!

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The third release in our Barrel Aged series is almost here.

If you were fortunate enough to try The Keel before it disappeared, and if you’ve been cellaring your bottle of The Skeg because The Keel blew your mind, then it’s time to open The Scupper.

And if you haven’t jumped on board with the Barrel Aged Series, what are you waiting for?

You may be wondering what a scupper is. (Even if you’re not, let’s pretend that you are.) Is it one who scups? That which scups? How does one scup?

No, it’s none of those things. A scupper is basically a hole in the side of a ship meant to carry water overboard. It’s wet out there on the high seas, and water on the deck can be a problem. You need to have some way of releasing it, and the scupper provides that.

So, are you going to want to dump this one over the side? Not. At. All. The Scupper’s waaaayyyy too good for that.

img_9870With most of our brews, we use one of two yeast strains: either our house ale strain — very clean and neutral, or our Belgian strain — a little more “yeasty” and expressive. We obviously don’t limit ourselves to only these, but the latter is what was used in Misty Dawn, the base of The Scupper.

The concept behind the Barrel Aged Series is to play with different yeast and bacteria to give us wildly different beers, with the lactic acid and sour notes at the forefront. These brews use a much more complex palette of microflora: up to ten different strains of Brettanomyces, some crazy Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, with a touch of Acetobacter in there, as well.

This latest installment of the Barrel Aged Series builds on what we built before with The Keel and The Skeg. With The Keel, we kinda just threw in everything we could find — judiciously and well-researched, of course — and the ultimate effect was, by all accounts, freakin’ awesome. (Yeah, 94 on Beer Connoisseur!)

With The Skeg, the idea was to see what would happen when Brettanomyces could get funky with a really hoppy base. The beer going in was all about the hops (no treble), so the end result focused on Brett metabolizing and evolving the hop character.

However, with The Scupper, we focused on an already-complex base — Misty Dawn will keep your palette entertained for awhile on its own. When we added four strains of Brett in there, it “just completely chewed up and spit out something otherworldly in flavor,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink.

Follow this logic: “If Brett were a world class DJ,” says Brian, “this remix could become more popular than the original song, like in ‘Stronger’ when Kanye sampled Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger’ it just took something that was already great and just took it to a whole new level of greatness. That’s what the Scupper is all about.”

Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm agrees. “What we have here with The Scupper is a beer with a very different flavor profile than our previous Barrel Aged Series releases, and also one that will mature and age to a much greater extent than the other releases would, as well.”

img_9886After spending four months in those beautiful French Oak red wine barrels — the same ones that carried The Keel — we bottle conditioned this brew for another three months.

Brian gives us this analogy: “Remember back in college when you’d work for months on a term paper and you would just never be happy with it, and then for another one you would stay up the entire night right before it was due and somehow you managed to pull out your best work at the 11th hour?”

(Of course not, Brian! All of our work was always completed in a timely fashion so that we might be asleep by 9:30 pm.)

“Bottle conditioning this beer for four months under pressure was like pulling that all nighter and doing your best work.”

We wanted to let The Scupper sit for another few months to let the Brett work its brettful magic on the sugars and esters, but instead of putting it in a fermenter or barrel, we put it in a pressurized bottle. The extra CO2 puts a little more stress on the Brett, causing it to work a little more brettful magic. The result is more funky flavors, with “barnyard” and “horsey” flavors coming to the forefront and in higher quantities. As the sugars begin to run out, the Brett starts to metabolize the esters produced during the brew’s original fermentation as Misty Dawn. So, as the Bretty flavors are added, the other esters start to fade in a beautifully choreographed dance, leaving behind a brew unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

Asking Brian what he likes about any of the beers in the Barrel Aged series is sort of like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. He likes “everything!” about this one. “The complexity, the funk, the vinous notes and slight woodsy character thanks to the barrels it rested in for three months, how it’s bone dry — it has a lower gravity than water, so there’s just nothing left — and yet it has a juiciness to it that leaves you longing for another sip, and even the approachability of it. I think this is the best-looking of the three brews so far, too, but that obviously wouldn’t mean anything to me if the beer didn’t come out right, but for this one it definitely makes it shine that much brighter.”

Jimmy is a big fan of the funky, wild beers. “The terms “barnyard” and “horsey” may not seem too appealing — and in most IPAs or Pilsners they certainly aren’t — but when these flavors are used correctly they can be very tasty, especially when accompanied with woodsy notes from barrel aging, a touch of sour from Lactobacillus, and some vinous flavors. The Scupper is definitely funky, but right now it’s a just the right level of funk that any drinker new to the wild beer scene can latch onto it without being put off by the unique flavor profile.”

img_9876Like all the brews in the Barrel Aged Series, The Scupper is meant to be cellared for as long as you can take not drinking it. (But don’t let it go beyond two years. Please. If you do, we don’t vouch for it… but we’d love to know how it drank.)

Jimmy’s definitely stashing a few bottles in his cellar. “In a year or two it’ll be at that level of funk that makes me smile from ear to ear.  At the moment it’s more leathery with a hint of tobacco. The woodsiness and the slight vinous notes from the red wine barrel are right there, but the horse and deeper funk notes are in the background, tempting the beer nerd in me, and these will further develop over time.”

Brian agrees. “In another few months of proper cellaring — a stable temperature between 55 and 65 degrees and out of direct sunlight — this beer will just keep getting better and better.”

Do you need more than that?

The Scupper releases at noon, Saturday, October 22nd from The Brewtique. Same deal: $20 a pop, limit of three bottles per visit. See you there!

Alicia Grasso Goes to Kentucky

img_8099Our intrepid world traveler and Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso headed down to the University of Kentucky this past weekend for a symposium on craft beer writing.

“It was great!” she tells us. “I learned a lot from some big names in beer writing, and the University of Kentucky is a beautiful campus.”

So many of our favorite breweries were in attendance, including Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati, Blackberry Farm Brewing from Tennessee, and the hometown crowd from Country Boy Brewing in Lexington. In addition, many of the University’s students were in attendance — sounds like college students found out where the beer was! — as well as writers from various other disciplines, eager to learn as much as possible.

Heather Vandenengel and John Holl
Heather Vandenengel and John Holl

Heather Vandenegel from All About Beer and Beer Advocate gave a talk called “Beer as Culture: Witnessing and Writing About the Modern Beer Movement” speaking of the need to find your niche in the world of beer writing. Jeremy Danner from Boulevard Brewing spoke on “Beer Social Media — The Bar That Never Closes,” regarding the social media landscape and its importance to the beer market. Joe Tucker of RateBeer gave a talk called “Sensory Language at RateBeer: Use and Utility,” delineating the various ways sensory language is used to write about beer. Julia Herz of the Brewers Association spoke on “Craft Beer Story Ideas and the State of Beer in the US,” regarding the importance for us little guys to be active on the national level.

John Holl of All About Beer gave a talk called “Don’t Be a Beer Writer” — not quite as fatalistic as it sounds, his talk was about being a beer journalist rather than being a beer writer. Since this is what we try to do at Straight to the Pint — we try to create interesting stories that appeal broadly rather than only report on our latest brew and what it tastes like — it’s good to hear that he thinks we’re doing something right.

img_8060The keynote speaker was Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing. For those who haven’t heard of him, he’s a total rockstar brewer. He owns four companies and is one of the few people on the planet who could be considered a craft beer mogul. His talk was called “The Traveling Brewer,” and he lives this idea to the fullest. Your brewery should reflect your personality and your voice, according to Jeppe, and Evil Twin reflects his rogue, bad boy persona. His talk could basically be summed up with the old Emerson quote: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail.”

While Alicia was there, she got to tour several breweries, including Country Boy Brewing, West 6th Brewing, and Ethereal Brewing while sampling Kentucky’s finest. Alicia is nearly always wearing her marketing hat, so she found it interesting to see how other breweries market their wares.

While there are a lot of similarities in what we do with what everyone else does — after all, we’re all trying to get you to drink our beer — Alicia came away from the day with the understanding that we’re doing things pretty well at CMBC. A recent article in The New Brewer was along the same lines as John Holl’s talk — create stories, not reports. We think that Cape May Brew Co. is on point in following the trends in craft beer writing, but we’ll leave you to be the judge.

Java Brian

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Avalon Coffee Stout is not only a fan favorite, it’s a favorite of Head Brewer Brian Hink’s, as well. Our man spent some fifteen years in the coffee biz, brewing that other nectar of the gods, so, not only is a coffee stout a match made in brewing heaven, Brian’s subsequent geek-out nearly caused his head to explode.

And, with a four-hour flight to Denver to the Great American Beer Festival, Brian was more than willing to fill that time telling us more than we ever wanted to know about coffee. So, if you’ve ever wondered how our ingredients get into your glass, Brian’s got the scoop! (Of coffee grounds….)

Avalon Coffee Stout is a heavenly brew to drink as these fall evenings start getting colder and longer, as the sun fades quicker, and we’re further removed from the dog days of summer.

Brian on the Brew

Avalon Coffee Stout is a match made in heaven, combing the full-bodied roastiness of our stout with the medium-bodied and rich Avalon Coffee house blend to concoct a brew that is simply perfect. It’s a heavenly brew to drink as these fall evenings start getting colder and longer, as the sun fades quicker, and we’re further removed from the dog days of summer.

African coffee is some of the most underrated out there, oftentimes bringing strong lemon, berry, and floral notes that really add a nice complexity to any blend.

Brian on Avalon Coffee

[Social Media and Graphic Design Director] Courtney Rosenberg and I showed up at Avalon Coffee in Rio Grande at 1pm on Friday the 23rd just as Pete — their main roaster — was ripping through batches of coffee. He was mainly roasting their house blend — a mix of Costa Rican, Colombian, and Kenya — a beautiful blend of beans that hits all the right notes: soft acidity, rich cocoa and nutty notes, and a subtle berry aroma, thanks to the Kenya. African coffee is some of the most underrated out there, oftentimes bringing strong lemon, berry, and floral notes that really add a nice complexity to any blend.

If you haven’t gathered by now I really miss roasting coffee and creating blends!

Brian on Beans

Let me back up a second and talk about coffee in general. There are two types of coffee bean: Arabica and Robusto. Arabica is the higher quality, more flavorful, and less mass produced bean of the two, with Robusto being a little harsher, more stringent, and generally an inferior bean. Arabica grow at higher elevations — 2500 feet above sea level and higher — while Robusto are grown below that.

We’ll focus on the Arabica genus because that’s the good stuff. All coffee is only grown between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, primarily along the equator. Volcanic soil is great for coffee because it has the ideal minerality and pH content. There are three primary growing regions: Latin America, Africa, and Indonesia. Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are the main Latin American offerings; Kenya and Ethiopia are Africa’s main players; and Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Papua New Guinea are the main Indonesian areas that produce quality beans.

Coffee can either be a single-origin offering — usually you’ll see a Colombian or Brazilian offering — a great coffee that can stand up on it’s own. On the other hand, that can either get boring or not offer enough flavor variety, and that’s where blending comes into play. Much like when we blend our barrel-aged beers: some individual barrels can stand on their own accord, and some are better to contribute to a blend. Sometimes we need the extra acidity of this barrel combined with the softer notes of that barrel to achieve the complexity we’re looking for. Coffee blending is much the same: the dark-roasted earthiness of a Sumatra will be balanced perfectly by the nutty offering of a Costa Rican, and all tied together by the berry floral notes thanks to an Ethiopian – stuff like that. (If you haven’t gathered by now I really miss roasting coffee and creating blends!)

Roasting coffee is much like baking: you don’t just turn on your oven and throw in some cookie dough and hope for the best.

Brian on Roasting

Roasting coffee is much like baking: you don’t just turn on your oven and throw in some cookie dough and hope for the best. You have a set temperature and time, looking for the desired end result. You turn the roaster on and bring it up to temperature, usually around 415-430 degrees.

A roaster is kinda like a dryer, tumbling around with constant heat being applied to the sides of the drum to supply an even and consistent heat source. As the roaster is heating up, you measure out your raw coffee beans — called green beans — and add them in stages at just the right time.

With your oven you can set it to 430 and there it goes; with a roaster not so much. It’s all about controlling the gas flow to control the flame, and also controlling the airflow through the drum — the more air you draw the cooler it gets; the less air, the hotter the drum will be. A skilled roaster looks for a window, and dropping the beans in at exactly the right time is paramount to getting the proper roast: drop the beans in even 5 degrees above or below and you’ll be playing catch up the entire roast — much like our mashing process.

Getting my hands back on the roaster at Avalon Coffee was a great experience and something I had really missed doing.

Ahhh, the Memories….

Having worked at Starbucks for six years prior to coming to CMBC and at Java Jane’s in Ocean City for nine years prior to that, I have an extreme appreciation for roasting coffee and the craft and artistry that goes into it. The owner of Java Jane’s went to the Diedrich Roaster manufacturing plant to take a week-long roasting course and taught me everything he knew back when I was in my early twenties, so getting my hands back on the roaster at Avalon Coffee was a great experience and something I had really missed doing.

So, has Brian’s extensive coffee knowledge paid off? Only one way to find out: come down and check out our Avalon Coffee Stout, pouring now.

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