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The Official Blog of Cape May Brewing Company

Welcome Back, Staff Series!

Remember our employee series, whereby one employee at a time conceived of a new beer for our tasting room repertoire? It led to such inspired recipes as Andrew’s Snag and Drop and Jim’s Triple Wreck.

Now, the employee series is back. Only this time around, we’re changing things up. Rather than leave each staff member up to his or her own devices, we’re having our individual teams, well, work in teams. First up, the tasting room crew with their Crusty Barnacle Pale Ale, the brainchild of Dan Petela and Jim Zolna.

“Everyone worked on ideas for two weeks and had a vote to choose the beer,” says Operations Manager Ashley Sundstrom. “They took part in a ‘brew day,’ which is a full, in-depth educational day to better understand the brewing process in order to provide our customers with a better experience while taking tours in our Tasting Room. The staff spent eight hours with Brian, learning everything there is to know about brewing beer.”

Their 6.3% pale ale is made with oats, which lend greater head retention and a creamier mouthfeel. These things go a long way toward creating a “pillowy, fluffy” beer, Brian says, even despite a low gravity. And a Brettanomyces yeast strain adds some exotic tropical notes of papaya and pineapple.

We’ve got a sweetspot for Crusty Barnacle, also, because it was the last beer brewed in our 15-barrel brew system, which is being decommissioned for sale in December, so that we can turn its space into our sour-only brewery.

Try it out for yourself — on tap beginning November 20.


Field Trip: Mid-Atlantic Brewers Symposium

Last weekend, at the invitation of our neighboring brewers guild, The Brewers of Pennsylvania, CMBC co-owners Chris and Ryan headed to Bethlehem for the first annual Mid-Atlantic Brewers Symposium. The two-day affair was held in SteelStacks, a 10-acre venue that was once home to the nation’s second largest steel manufacturer, and featured ten 45-minute seminars run by industry leaders. The focus? A one-two punch of brewing science and brewing business, covering everything from sanitation to brewhouse technology to the trends that will move our industry forward.

Among the symposium speakers were JB Shireman, Executive Director of the Beverage Intelligence Group for First Beverage Group, an MAadvising and investment firm for “transformational” beverage brands; Robert Seaman, plant manager for Yuengling; Dick Cantwell, Quality Ambassador for the Brewers Association who famously resigned from the Elysian Brewing Company he co-founded when they were acquired by Anheuser-Busch; and Bill Clement, Stanley Cup Champion.
“In a business climate where we often have to do more with less,” Clement said, “our personal performance as an everyday leader is crucial not only to our organization’s victories, but also our individual successes.”

We asked Dan Labert, Executive Director for The Brewers of PA, why they brought The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild in on this symposium, rather than keeping all of these seeds of wisdom for themselves [insert maniacal laughter here]. Here is what he had to say:

“With so many new breweries entering the scene, there is real value in fostering a collaborative industry. Although every brewer is in competition with others in market, there is a general feeling to focus more on creating higher quality products. This can only be done by knowing ‘who are the people in your neighborhood?’ Yes, you can sing the song from Mister Rogers. This is why associations exist. Although many focus on advocacy, the hallway magic that could develop through educational gatherings offers real return on investment. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a PA & NJ collaborative beer develop as a result of the Brewers of Pennsylvania Symposium? If so, the consumers win again thanks to craft brewers! State guilds working together also sends a message that craft brewers are united and cannot be divided. The Brewers of Pennsylvania look forward to more opportunities with neighbors on all borders.”
Proof of this collaborative mindset? Happening concurrently with the symposium was an Oktoberfest presented by Yuengling… and complete with wiener dog races. They poured beer from us as well as Flying Fish, and proceeds will benefit The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild.
Cheers to good neighbors.


Why Lager Fans Owe Christopher Columbus

By now, we’ve all heard the truth about the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, and it ain’t what your second grade school teacher told you. Sure, he sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and that sounds noble enough, but he didn’t
chrisdiscover the New World… he merely stumbled upon people already living there. When he hit the Bahamas, Columbus thought he’d landed in India, and he misidentified an entire population as Indians. He then led a mass genocide in the Americas, and forced Native women and children to serve as sex slaves. What he gave them in return? Syphillis. The explorer demanded gold, and when he didn’t get it, he retaliated by cutting off hands and noses. Oh, and he helped establish the African slave trade. So yea — just your garden variety megalomaniac with no soul and a fetish for blood.

Yay, long weekend?

But although the man is inarguably irredeemable, he did bring something to the New World that makes people happy: lager.

The cold-tolerant yeast that initially made the lagering process possible is actually a fusion of two yeast strains. One is called Sacharomyces cerevisiae and the other, Saccharomyces eubayanus, was a mystery to scientists until recently. In 2011, researchers discovered it in the beech wood trees of Patagonia at South America’s tip. And — drum roll, please — it’s a 99 percent match for what USA Today calls  “the missing link.”

According to this article:

“Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, this New World yeast got to Europe just as the Columbian exchange between Europe and the Americas was beginning. Perhaps beech wood from Argentina was used to make something that ended up in a monastery. However it happened, it made its way to where beer was brewed. And the rest, beer lovers have cause to be grateful for, was history.”

So there you have it – if it weren’t for the sociopath called Columbus we celebrate every October, you might not have your lager. No, this doesn’t absolve the man, but at least it gives you something to think about over your next pint of Oktoberfest.

Keg Washer: Complete

Remember when we outgrew our original, 12-gallon brewhouse, and we turned it into a keg washer? Well, it didn’t take long for us to outgrow that keg washer. This was a problem, because our kegs aren’t going to clean themselves. Thanks to Chris “Hank” Henke, our Chief Operating Officer/resident engineer, they don’t have to.

He’s been working all summer, in his spare time, on building a new and improved machine, complete with scrap parts and clever eBay purchases.

The process – which Hank says is loosely similar to that of a washing machine — works like this:

  1. Four kegs are mounted on the washer at one time.
  2. Compressed air is pushed through each in order to purge the containers of any lingering beer or yeast.
  3. The kegs are rinsed with hot water.
  4. Compressed air is pushed through each in order to purge this hot water.
  5. A non-caustic, alkaline brewery cleaner is run through all kegs.
  6. Compressed air is pushed through in order to purge this cleaner.
  7. The kegs are rinsed with hot water.
  8. Compressed air is pushed through again in order to purge this hot water.
  9. Sanitizer is pushed through.
  10. The kegs are purged again, but with CO2 – not air – this time.
  11. The kegs are pressurized with CO2. This way, oxygen is kept out of the containers, so that it won’t spoil the next batch of beer.

The fully-automated cycle lasts seven minutes. And in case you’re lucky enough to catch it in action on your next tour of the brewery (or even if you’re not), here’s your key, which will get larger if you click on it:


5 Things To Know About Oktoberfest Beer

1. Ours goes back on tap this Friday. Cape May Brew Co’s first lager, this 5.4% brew has a deep body, a dark copper color, a malty sweetness and some mild bitterness.

2. But it’s not *technically* an Oktoberfestbier. Kind of like true Champagne — which only comes from the Champagne region of France — true Oktoberfestbier is only brewed within the city of Munich. All anyone else can do is mimic the traditional style: toasty, rich, dark, medium to high alcohol content, clean finish.

3. The style can also be referred to as Marzan, meaning “March,” or the month in which this type of beer was originally brewed 500 years ago in Bavaria. Because beers made in late winter tasted better to Bavarians than beers made in the summer (cold weather killed off beer-spoiling microbes), the Oktoberfest was made in March and meant to last through summer. It was kept on ice in mountain caves and by October, ironically, medieval peeps were usually finishing off the last of it. Nineteenth-century advancements in brewing (hello, refrigeration) meant that March beers could now be made any time of year (hello, fall).

4. Annually, more than 6 million people attend the 16-day Oktoberfest beer festival held in Munich, a tradition since 1810, making this the largest beer festival in the world. Event goers drank 7.7 million liters of Oktoberfest beer at last year’s event alone (although only 6.5 million liters were reported, creating quite the scandal). Fun fact: it takes the festival’s most skilled bartenders only 1.5 seconds to fill up a stein.

5. The city of Cape May will hold its own Oktoberfest beer festival from 10am to 5pm on October 3, and we’ll be pouring. In the meantime, you may want to bone up on your German:


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.)


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.”

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