Here’s some exciting news: we’ve won five awards from The World Beer Championships, America’s oldest international beer competition.
Says the WBC: “Instead of trying to cram the tasting of hundreds or thousands of beers into a week, or even a weekend, like other beer competitions, we review a different category of beer every other month and carefully blind taste no more than thirty-five beers a day with a small cadre of experienced judges from the retail, on-premise, distribution, and importing trades.”
Those judges, all of them certified by the Beverage Tasting Institute, selected our South Jersey Secession Session Scottish Ale for a bronze; our Mop Water, Biscuits and Honey, and Coastal Evacuation for silvers; and our Blonde for the full monty — gold.
We’re humbled by these honors, which bring CMB’s 2015 award count up to 11.
Last week, we received 60 French oak barrels from a Colorado company that repurposes high-quality casks from all over the world for use as meat smokers, water fountains, even pet bathtubs. And while we’re not against dogs getting a rustic-chic day at the spa, CMBC’s barrels will be put to a far more exciting use, at least in our opinion. In these bad boys, we’ll be aging our sours, starting immediately.
While it may seem like the Hot New Thing, barrel aging is not exactly novel. From the early centuries AD, beer was brewed, stored and served in wood. With the advent of super-sanitary aluminum and stainless steel kegs, the practice fell largely out of fashion. But now, well… hello, renaissance. (It helps that modern brewers have a better handle on natural barrel-cleaning methods than ancient homies did.)
So what’s the big deal?
You might have heard that beer can pick up the aromas and flavors of the wood it’s in, and that oak lends hints of coconut, vanilla and caramel. While that’s true, it’s not going to happen in our case. You see, our barrels had a first life aging red wine before they were given up by their winemaking guardians. And usually, when a barrel is turned over by a vineyard, it’s because all of the aforementioned flavors have been leeched from the wood already.
We’re cool with that – we’ve got a different agenda in mind, and it’s two-fold.
One, our beer will be able to acquire residual red wine flavor, which will add to its complexity. And two, storing our sours this way will allow them to mature — in some cases up to two years — so that the resulting, beautifully acidic flavor is juuuust right.
A little bit of oxygen will permeate through the cracks, explains Head Brewer Brian Hink, so that necessary bacteria is kept happy. Meanwhile, our team will check on each barrel every 30 days or so, to make sure taste is on point and evaporation is kept in check.
Right now, the vessels are being rehydrated, or filled with water so that the wood of each swells, becoming liquid tight before it’s filled with beer. The process is tricky, especially considering each 59-gallon barrel weighs 100 pounds empty, and a full 500 pounds when full. Stack four on top of one another, as we’ll be doing, and you’ve got the weight of a full-grown elephant. It’s not like we can trot a few over to the nearest hose without the help of a forklift or power jack.
But it’s work that’ll be well worth it in the end. CMBC was already the only brewery in the state doing sours; now we’re the only one doing barrel-aged sours, and we’re pretty geeked up about it.
“I was thinking about it from an artist’s perspective,” says Brian. “We’re not just relying on what we create ourselves, but what the barrel maker and wine maker have created. It’s a cool collaborative effort and I’m excited to see where this takes our sour program.”
NJ.com is asking you to vote for Jersey’s best independent beer maker, so — get on it! Vote here and pass the link along to your friends, your family, your neighbor with the 10,000 Twitter followers, the members of Great Aunt Bertha’s bridge club… you get the idea…
In honor of that defining moment 82 years ago when President Franklin Roosevelt signed a law allowing Americans to brew beer — marking the beginning of the end for Prohibition — April 7 is National Beer Day. In celebration, we’ll be bringing a giant wheel into our tasting room beginning at noon, and on it will be listed all of CMB’s beers.
“One of the most frequent questions asked of the bartending team at CMB is: ‘What should I have’?” says our Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso. “This way, instead of having to decide, you can simply spin the wheel and let the brew choose you.”
Or, if you’d like to opt for a flight rather than a pint, let the brews choose you. Either way, members of the CMB team will be happy to fill you in on the specifics behind each beverage, including notable ingredients, special brewing stories or, in the case of the Apple Bomb, anecdotes about that time the fermenter exploded.
4. Yuengling has unseated Sam Adams as the top US craft brewer. Many balk at the idea of Yuengling being grouped in the craft beer camp at all, which happened when the Brewers Association relaxed its criteria. Since last year, “independent brewers who use flavor-enhancing additions like corn, rice and even syrups” have been fair game.
6. The rise of maple syrup as ingredient-of-choice among craft brewers has gotten some attention this week. Reminds us of our most maple-syrup-heavy brew, Paul’s Bareknuckle Imperial Stout, which cost a bloody fortune to make. The sweet stuff ain’t cheap.
8. The next Game of Thrones season is available April 12th, and Ommegang Brewing is once again partnering with HBO on GOT-inspired beer. Next up: the dark saison called Three Eyed Raven. Let’s hope it’s up to King Joffrey’s standards.
9. AmazonFresh, a grocery-delivering subsidiary of e-commerce behemoth Amazon.com, has stopped serving booze.
10. The Beer Mile world record has been broken! (Well, almost. It’s yet to be confirmed.) According to Runner’s World, 21-year-old James “Jimbo” Hansen completed the event, which involves chugging a beer before each of four laps around a track — in a time of 4:56.25, or about how long it takes to microwave two bags of popcorn. See the amazing feat below:
1. People had a grand old time in the tasting room, including Joan and Marc Krain of Downingtown, Pennsylvania who chose to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary by tasting our Cape May Saison, Citra Pale Ale, Coconut IPA, and South Jersey Secession Session Scottish Ale. “We go every time we come down to have a drink or two and fill a growler,” says Joan. What’s that expression? Couples who drink CMB beer together stay together…
2. Sales rep Justin Vitti came across this helpful iconographic, comparing the effects of beer and coffee on the creative process…
Last night, members of our team joined 170 other people in the ballroom of Congress Hall for a tasty farm-to-table dinner – complete with pairings of donated CMB beer. It was the main fundraising event for Cape May Forum.
Fans of our brewery have likely heard of the Forum for two reasons:
First, this is who sponsored the TEDx talk given by our fearless leader, Ryan Krill, in 2013:
Second, ya’ll tend to like transformative ideas, and that’s pretty much the Cape May Forum shtick.
Each year, this Chautauqua-modeled program brings a series of events to Cape Island — lectures, meals, concerts – which provide residents and visitors an outlet for “grappling with the social, moral and political issues of our times.”
Sure, you could use the internet for that, but… ooh, look, a cat video.
In the past, the programming has tackled themes such as: “Humor – Can it Save the World?” and “The Future of Energy.” This year, the topic is: “Wine and Oysters – Growing on the Garden State.”
While the current subject might appear more micro in scope, it’s thinking locally – like, for instance, about the importance of sustaining the aforementioned industries in Cape May County – that sets the stage for big things to happen globally, at least according to Forum President Barry Cohen.
“The challenge in a beach town is that people come here for an escape,” he told us. “So how do we get people to think about important issues when the object is retreat?”
One way, the Forum team has discovered, is through good food and booze.
Enter Derek Thomas, the farmer with surfer-boy good looks who tilled the land at Fincas del Mar and Windy Acres to cultivate the ingredients for this evening’s five-course meal. He told us a few things: 1. He has seven children. 2. One of them does ballet, so he got a big kick out of CMB’s ballet-related April Fool’s prank. 3. The evening’s chef, Jeremy Einhorn, started scoping out his produce — and planning the beer pairings — way back in December.
“This is a very exciting event for me,” Jeremy said. “There’s a certain affinity between brewers and chefs. And most people don’t think this way, but it’s actually easier to pair food with beer than with wine. Dinners like this have been happening for a decade, but they’re getting more attention as beer gains respect.”
Event-goer Gary Padussis is a convert.
“Before tonight, I’d never heard of pairing beer with fine food, only pub food,” he told us, “but it works.”
And it doesn’t just work because it tastes good, but because it’s one way to get younger generations excited about employment opportunities on the Cape. That’s one of the goals of this year’s Forum, and the reason that a group of students from Lower Cape May Regional High School were invited to last night’s dinner. No, they aren’t old enough to drink, but via the evening’s speakers they still got a window into the importance of the oyster harvesting, food growing, wine making, and beer brewing businesses that thrive in this region.
“I definitely plan on coming back to Cape May after college to open a business, or maybe even more than one,” said LCMR Senior George Swoyer, adding that he’s got family in Buck’s County who make trips to Cape May specifically to visit the brewery.
“The company is a testament to the fact that small businesses really can can flourish here,” said George’s classmate Victoria Jacoby.
Aw shucks, kids.
For more information on this year’s Forum line-up, or their partnerships with Jersey universities, visit capemayforum.org.
And just for fun, here are photos of what we ate. The savory courses were paired — alongside vino from Hawk Haven and Cape May Wineries — with our Cape May Saison. And the sweet dessert went great with our Honey Porter. Big brews and big ideas really do go hand in hand…
Our Cherry Limaide Shandy comes out today, and we’re not ashamed to admit it.
“Because they’re so light and refreshing, shandys are often considered ‘chic’ beers,” says Brew Master Brian. “That’s a ridiculous stereotype because women oftentimes have the more refined palettes, capable of discerning complex notes.”
“Only 10% to 15% of the population have the sensory acuity to be a sensory taste panellist [the people chosen to assess food and drink products]… and when we give consumers a test, women always do better,” says Deborah Parker, PhD, one of only 37 accredited beer sommeliers in the world.
What we’re getting at? Show up at the tasting room and you, too, can drink like a girl.
Our home base was named by Family Vacation Critic among the Top 10 Best Beaches for Families in the Country, along with Oregon’s Lincoln City, Maine’s Ogunquit Beach, and Lake Tahoe’s King Beach. We won out over other Jersey shore options because of our “mix of historic charm and modern fun.” We like to think Cape May Brew Co is part of that modern fun; it’s okay to hire a babysitter on a family vacay, after all…
Just for fun, after illustrator Jim Kohl graduated from college, he began drawing a comic called Happy Hour in which one of the main characters works at a brewery. Jim soon found that he had so much to say about beer and its culture, he needed to launch a sister strip called The Brewery, which doesn’t follow a strict storyline. Rather, each iteration is it’s own self-contained piece that highlights a topical news story or brewery. The former will hit it 2,000th strip this August. The latter, which has been picked up by nightlife rag Steppin’ Out as well as Beer magazine, just hit the big 275.
And CMBC is the plot.
“I am from New Jersey and I could not be more excited about the beer in our state,” Jim told us. “I have been following Cape May’s newsletter and Twitter account. Every email and tweet has this energy of fun, and I really wanted to meet the people behind that, so I sent an email and was lucky enough to speak with [Marketing Guru] Alicia Grasso and President Ryan Krill.”
See Jim’s comic below — we love us some Jersey shore humor — and check out his cool interview with Ryan here.