Big news – Cape May Brewing Company is New Jersey’s Brewery of the Year for 2015, a title awarded by the New York International Beer Competition. Our Tower 23 brew also won for German Style Sour Ale of the Year. We’re stoked, especially considering the NYIBC is NOT one of those “third grade soccer competitions” (their phrase) where nearly everyone who enters wins a medal. In fact, they only honor less than 50 percent of liquid submissions. Huge thanks to the retail store buyers, restaurant owners, beverage directors, distributors and importers who voted for us. And thanks to New Jersey Monthly for this great shout-out about it.
It was a busy seven days of kicking ass kegs and taking names at CMB. Here’s what went down.
Justin showed off his figure: CMB sales rep Justin Vittii was the man twice-over — first, at the Ugly Mug last Thursday where his toasted coconut IPA was a big hit, and then again on March 13th. This was the first Firkin Friday at the new Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill in Atlantic City, and CMB’s Cape May IPA with dry-hopped citra and sweet orange peel was the brew of the hour. Justin carried a keg on his shoulder through the lobby of Caesar’s Hotel and Casino before entering the restaurant (he couldn’t carry the actual firkin or it would have exploded). Then, he made a brilliant show of tapping the firkin in front of a full house, and he did it all to a soundtrack of bag pipers over the sound system while wearing a Black Watch tartan kilt. “Save for some of the girls who worked there, I was the only one in probably a 100-mile radius in a kilt,” he says, “but I got a lot of compliments.” Adding to the good energy of the day? A spirited speech kicking off the pub’s opening made from on top of the bar by Executive Chef La Tasha McCutchen, winner of the Hell’s Kitchen’s 13th season. (Why the Scottish theme, considering Mr Ramsay is actually English? We don’t know, but we don’t nitpick.)
More kegs came in: 150 of them, to be exact.
CMB surprised: Christina Miranda, co-owner of Manhattan-based Repoint Marketing PR, gave a talk at The Governor’s Conference on Tourism in the Golden Nugget Casino last Thursday. Her message? How important the element of surprise is when engaging potential customers and keeping them out of autopilot. And just as the 160 or so attendees started drifting off into, well, auto-pilot, Christina brought out some surprises of her own, including free beer from CMB, which perked everyone right up. “It was 4:40pm at the end of a long day of conferences, so energy was kind of low,” says our Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso. “But then, all of a sudden, out comes a New Orleans-style jazz band called Hot Sardines, servers delivering free bagels fresh from Bantams on Bleaker Street and, of course, Cape May beer. Two pitchers were brought to my table of five ladies, and they were both kicked quickly. And I only had half a glass!” Cheers to happy surprises.
Hair got buzzed: First, it was Hank. Then, Andrew and Ryan followed suit. Then Paul shaved his beard. But Brew Master Brian is holding
Accolades are nothing new for Cape May, crown jewel of the Jersey shore and CMB’s home base. We’re a National Historic Landmark-designated city. Budget Travel named us among the top ten coolest small towns in America. Parents magazine named us fifth best beach town in the nation. And datingadvice.com thinks we’re one of the sexiest. (We like to think that has something to do with the beer…)
You might think another shout-out would be ho-hum at this point, but we’re pretty psyched about the most recent: a spot on a map laying out must-see destinations on the ultimate cross-country adventure. The route was calculated by Michigan Data Scientist Randy Olson, who used high-tech algorithms to determine your next dream vacation. The 12,290-mile round-trip will take you through the top-ranked TripAdvisor cities in the US, including Cape Island.
If you’d like to customize your own road trip, Olson released his Python code (plus instructions for how to use it) on his blog. Best brewery stops in the country? We’re just sayin’.
We like to think the people who drink Cape May beer are pretty savvy. To prove it, we asked a bunch of patrons at last night’s Tap Takeover at the Ugly Mug to tell us the coolest thing about themselves. Here’s what they had to say:
Name: Brady Schoenrock
Drinking: Coconut IPA
Coolest Thing: He’s a Mummer. Also, he used to drive a winch-cat up the slopes of Mt. Tom ski resort in Massachusetts. The not so cool thing? When a cable of that winch-cat broke and Brady nearly went toppling down the mountain. “But I brought it back under control,” he says.
Name: Cathie Sexton
Drinking: Vodka with grapefruit juice and a splash of cranberry. (We’ll forgive her.)
Coolest Thing: “I’m loyal and real,” she says.
Names: Amber Slawek, Jaclyn Gray
Drinking: Coconut IPA, Apple Bomb
Coolest Thing: Amber trains horses, and she thinks “the only thing better than CMB beer is the lead singer of Escape Plan.” Jaclyn is a kickass teacher.
Name: Chris Ohrenich
Drinking: Abbey Dubbel
Coolest Thing: He once swam with barracudas. “And they were frightened of me!” he says.
Name: Josh Chandlee
Drinking: Coconut IPA
Coolest Thing: He’s only been wrong three times in his life. Also, he’s a twin.
Name: Kristen Hughes
Drinking: Coconut IPA
Coolest Thing: She can drive stick like a boss.
Name: Taylor Haley
Drinking: Coconut IPA
Coolest Thing: She’ll soon be teaching English in Thailand.
Name: Lily Kublak
Drinking: Abbey Dubbel
Cool Thing: She’s an “underground comedian.”
Names: Emily Righter, Peter Rossi, Craig Lawson
Drinking: Apple Bomb, Coconut IPA, Abbey Dubbel
Coolest Thing: Emily works at Congress Hall and loves Cape May Brewery, Peter is a student at Rowan University, and Craig owns Seven Mile Pies in Stone Harbor. “Bring more Cape May brew up there,” he says. “We love it!”
Name: Jack Doyle
Drinking: Coastal Evacuation
Coolest Thing: He says, “I’m rush chairman,” which we’re pretty sure is an Animal House reference.
Name: Our own Justin Vitti, CMB sales rep, and the guy behind tonight’s toasted Coconut IPA
Drinking: Coconut IPA
Coolest Thing: He can stick three-quarters of a drinking straw up his nose. Evidence above.
The Ugly Mug is one of the oldest and coolest pubs in Cape May. It’s home to the infamous — and sexual innuendo-rich — Froth-Blowing Contest (where patrons blow as much head from their beers in one breath as possible)…
And it’s home to the Exit Zero Burns Supper (where men in kilts recite poetry and eat haggis)…
And now — drum roll, please — it’s home to CMBC’s tap takeover (where everyone will drink kickass beer and have a tremendously good time)…
Beginning at 6pm, six of our brews are available.
Says Mug Manager Dwight Dunbracco: “This is an excellent chance to experience local beers in the heart of town. The Devil’s Reach Belgian Ale pairs great with any of our burgers.”
Be sure to also try Justin’s Niu IPA, the one-time release brainchild of CMB sales rep Justin Vitti, who spent eight-and-a-half hours toasting organic coconut for the brew. While you do so, cover band Escape Plan will perform music that is “80s, 90s, country, rock, dance and anything that’s popular,” says Dwight.
Bottom line: you’re going to want to show your mug, ugly or otherwise.
Press of Atlantic City sports writer David Weinberg has a bone to pick with Eagles coach Chip Kelly — a duck bone. There’s speculation that Kelly, who now has control over free agency and the draft, will make a move for quarterback Marcus Mariota — aka, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” — which would bring the former Oregon Duck count on the Eagles roster up to 10. It’s a “huge mistake,” says Weinberg. “Aside from Dan Fotus, if you can name even one former Oregon quarterback who became an NFL star, I’ll buy you a growler filled with Coastal Evacuation ale at Cape May Brewing Company.”
Many Cape May couples spent the recent Valentine’s Day drinking wine, eating chocolate and making candlelit whoopee. Michael Keating and his better half shucked oysters until 3am.
Let’s back up.
Every February, Cape May’s Chamber of Commerce hosts a Chili and Chowder Challenge where commercial and home chefs enter recipes to be judged by the public. This year’s event took place at Congress Hall on February 15 and Mike, who happens to be executive chef of Cape May’s Blue Rose Inn and Restaurant, submitted an oyster chowder made with our Cape May IPA. The dish used about 32-ounces of beer and 100 Cape May Salts in a five-gallon batch… and beat out 20 other entries for first place in the chowder division.
And that’s not all. Last year, Mike’s Texas-style chili made with beef shoulder and CMB’s Scottish ale was also a blue-ribbon winner. Apparently, our beer is meant for soup.
This past Sunday, we caught up with Mike and his colleague/sister Courtney over chocolate porters at CMB and we have to say, we like these guys. Not just because they’re into beer (they brew their own at home and are regulars of our tasting room), but because they run an impressive operation. The Blue Rose is owned by their parents. Courtney is the office manager of many hats, including marketing and innkeeping. Mike’s wife Angela works by his side as pastry chef, and we’re surprised their four-year-old child isn’t yet answering phones. It’s very much a family affair, and yet no one has managed to kill anyone else.
“People are always going to clash,” explains Mike, “but family are more understanding when it happens.”
And it helps that everyone has the same philosophy when it comes to food.
“We’re very much a scratch kitchen,” Mike told us. “We do as much as we can by hand. We make our own bread and cheese and we smoke our own bacon, which we used in the winning chowder. It’s also important that we use local ingredients — like Cape May Roasters Coffee, the Cape May honey we use for glazing fingerling potatoes and, of course, Cape May Brewery Beer. It’s only going to make my product better.”
In the case of Mike’s chowder, the hoppiness of the CMB beer was an ideal match for the brininess of his Cape May Salt oysters — a marriage that might soon appear on the Blue Rose’s menu full-time.
Meantime, stop by the brewery and check out our soup-friendly brews. It’s a place where the world — or at least the tasting room — is your oyster.
Cape May has been ranked one of the top 16 sexiest beach towns in America by datingadvice.com, and our brewery tours got a shout-out. We’re in good company — Malibu Beach, California and Kailuna-Kona, Hawaii also made the list. It’s appropriate timing, as Bringing Sexy Bock is our next big release, but more on that in a bit. Boom-chicka-wow-wow.
9:30: Chatter about the weekend ensues. Fearless leader Ryan Krill was in DC for the 78th Annual Walk to Washington where legislators had opportunity to mingle with Jersey’s craft beer makers. “Those senator guys can drink,” says Ryan. “I felt like an old man.” Meanwhile, Brew Master Brian Hink discusses his trip to Colorado, where he visited Avery Brewery. “They collect and repurpose CO2 with what looks like a fucking nuclear reactor,” he says. “Very impressive.” Both men are wearing the same CMB hat, complete with puff ball on top.
9:31: Production meeting commences. Brian has not yet had time to update the white board on which the brew schedule is usually written. “What the fuck?” jokes Ryan, although its hard to take him seriously in said puffy hat.
9:33: About the tap room, Brian says: “Everything’s kicking on us!” So, on deck for brewing is Cape May IPA, followed by Cape May Saison, and the new Take Five Session IPA. Bottling of Coastal Evacuation will happen on Friday.
9:42: New brew house update: it ships next week!
9:43: New brewer update: Jake Smith starts training tomorrow! “We’ll give him a raise to $.08 an hour,” says Ryan. But in all seriousness, Brian is pumped for the help; last Tuesday he had a 14-hour day that started at 4am — ah, the life of a brewer.
9:44: Time to talk about this week’s Wednesday one-off, Devil’s Reach Gone Wild, which is theDevil’s Reach IPA fermented with wild yeast from grapes that grew right outside of the brewery. “I’m really excited for this one; it’s a beer geek thing,” says Brian. As for taste, expect it to be very wine-like, super dry, and not at all oaky.
9:47:AC BeerFest is coming up! Discussion ensues over whether it’s best to transport CMB brews there via firkins or pins. (If you’re wondering what the firk a firkin is, or if you’re too pin-headed to know what a pin is, click here.)
9:51: Speaking of pins, one of ours “blew up” last Friday. “It was in an outside cooler, and it was so cold it froze,” explains Brian. “As things freeze, they swell. It made a hot mess.”
10:30: Full staff meeting begins! Ryan shows everyone the plans for CMB’s next, next big expansion, coming at you spring of 2016. If all goes well, added on to our new 15,000 square foot-building will be another 5,000 square-foot tasting room, plus beer garden and 120-space parking lot. Bartender extraordinaire Jim Zolna wonders aloud which parking spot is his. “You’re over here,” says Ryan, pointing to the blueprint. “Can’t be too close to a school or it violates that law…” (We kid, we kid.)
10:33:Richie Rallo, Justin Vitti, and Justin Vitti’s mustache update everyone on new clients, including farm-to-table friendly Red Hen restaurant in Swedesboro and Red Robin in Mays Landing. That brings the total number of accounts up to — drum roll, please — 149 in Jersey and 71 in Pennsylvania.
10:56: Ryan adds that Cape May’s own Congress Hall is installing a new draught system and putting CMB on tap. Also, a new shipment of kegs is a-coming, and that will “effectively double our inventory.”
10:57: Logistics guy Andrew Ewing confirms that Nugget, the official minivan of CMB, got an oil change last week.
10:59: Because fearless leader Chris Henke is out of town, Brian updates everyone on what went down at the morning’s production meeting, including a statement on how “crushable” that upcoming Session IPA is going to be.
11:05: Richie reviews Beats, Brews, and BBQ, which took place at World Café Live in Philadelphia over the weekend: “It wasn’t a drunk fest at all,” he says. “Good music, good people. It was the first event our two new employees were working, and I was trying to stress to them how much they were being spoiled. They’ll get a rude awakening at AC Beer Fest.” [Insert maniacal laughter here.] For all upcoming events, click here.
11:07: Jim and tap room coordinator Ashley Sundstrom update everyone on the weekend at the tasting room (“Smooth, no issues”) as well as the movement of merchandise (sweatshirts are selling like hot cakes. Or maybe cold beer).
11:12: Ryan, President of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, tells everyone to stay tuned for updates from the guild next week, because exciting things are… brewing. In the meantime, meeting is adjourned. Cheers!
Friday night, we hit the Rio Station in Rio Grande for our own Tap Takeover, which coincided with the release of the restaurant’s new menu. The place was jamming. “I wouldn’t pour Cape May beer unless I loved it,” head chef Rich Rutherford told us. “That would be bullshit.”
At the CMBC table, over a plate of tempura veggies, topics of discussion included:
How CMBC sales rep Richie Rallo and Social Media manager Courtney Rosenberg went to prom together in 2005. “I got my hair cut twice that day, because the first time was awful,” says Richie.
How good the warm pretzel nugget appetizer is, and we’re not just saying that because the side sauces (Devil’s Reach Sriracha! Honey Porter Mustard!) are made from our own beer.
Whether “exito” is the Spanish word for exit, or success. (Consensus: success!)
Around 9pm, we knew pop rock cover band Stellar Mojo would be taking the stage soon, so we broke away from the crowd to chat with lead singer John King. He told us that he came back home for this show, the first local venue he’s played in three months because he’s been so busy with gigs in Baltimore, Philly and Boston. And, turns out, CMBC beer being on tap was a big factor in that decision.
“All of my friends love it,” he said. “We’re hoping to team up with the brewery more in the future.”
Then John told us that, if he were one of our beers, he’d be the flagship Cape May IPA because “it’s got some balls to it.”
So — after he took the stage, thanked everyone for coming to watch him instead of the Fifty Shades of Gray premiere, and began singing Bruno Mars while throwing glowsticks into the crowd — we did some reconnaissance, curious about how other people see themselves in terms of beer.
“I’m a Devil’s Reach, because I’m smooth and not overly complex,” said Wildwood Crest resident Jerry Mainardi.
“Mopwater, because there’s a lot going on with it,” said Eric Bronson from “just down the street.”
“Honey Porter, because it’s perfect in every way,” said Tom Sullivan from Rio Grande. (Okay, his wife answered for him, but she wouldn’t give us her name.)
“Coastal Evacuation, because it’s smooth but dangerous, baby,” said our server Olivia Steffa.
“The Wednesday One-Off, because it’s original, a little unique, and always a special edition,” said Erika Watson from Wildwood Crest.
Around this time, a table noticed us asking so many questions, assumed we worked for the restaurant, and tried to order six Fireball shots from us, so we figured we’d better sit down. But we did so knowing that this Tap Takeover had been a great success, er, exito.