Cape May Brewing's fourth anniversary this summer will find the brewery a veritable Goliath compared to the manikin beer-maker that once used air conditioners to climate-control a fermentation room and corny kegs to supply the lone local bar that wanted its debut pale ale on tap for the Independence Day holiday.
That was 2011, and a lot has changed from those days, several times over, in fact. But then Cape May has always been a changeling. It’s never been one to stand still – some of that out of necessity – even right after opening up in 1,500 square feet of garage-like space at the sprawling Cape May airport grounds.
There has always a version update with Cape May Brewing.
The most recent growth ring is the most dramatic and puts Cape May on course to hit 6,000 bbl production mark – double its past peak – and claim the No. 3 spot on the state’s craft beer volume leader board. (Flying Fish and River Horse Brewing are ahead of it.)
A new 30 bbl Premier Stainless Systems brewhouse, installed in a neighboring 15,000-square-foot building this spring, is leading that charge. It will step up the production pace with Cape May's flagship and signature brews, including a pair of IPAs and a honey porter that New Jersey’s ag department blessed with its “Jersey Fresh” imprimatur for the brewery’s use of a nearby apiary’s honey.
The bigger operation, co-founder Ryan Krill says, means extending the brewery’s distribution reach farther out in the state and growing the brand more efficiently with brews that resonate with the craft beer drinking public. (The brewery self-distributes in New Jersey, where its market is now concentrated in Cape May and Atlantic counties. Origlio Beverage distributes the brewery’s beers in the recently entered Philadelphia market.)
A 15-barrel brewhouse in service since 2013 at the startup location will stay put, Krill says. It gets the brewer’s playground job of making sour and wild ales, among other specialty brews. And, importantly, it offers the bulletproof cross-contamination safeguard of separate locations for Cape May’s “dirty” brews and its main production.
The 24-tap tasting room, with its 40-foot bar and gift shop space, is likewise staying at the smaller brewery and hanging on to the brewhouse tours. (Some tours will still be conducted at the larger brewery.) However, the eventual plan is to move the taproom and tours to the new building.
The new 30 bbl brewhouse was put into service in mid-May, busting out core labels Cape May IPA and Coastal Evacuation, an imperial IPA, in batch sizes double what they used to be just weeks ago.
Packaging side, the new facility also is home to a Meheen bottler (backed up with depalletizer, twist rinse and other add-ons) and a cold box that could house the Cape May Brewing Company from those four summers ago.
Back then, the brewery’s output wasn’t anything even the smallest of frat parties couldn’t handle. But then, the brewing rig made from three repurposed beer kegs – batch size, 12 gallons – was really about just getting licensed, getting the door open. It also said “hobby business,” especially to skeptics, whose numbers were matched by inspired homebrewers looking for an economical and manageable way to turn pro.
Cape May has been their touchstone, a case study for a number of breweries that have opened in New Jersey over the past couple of years.
But Cape May’s starter brewery – plastic fermenters, air-conditioned coldbox, and that brew sculpture, which has since been turned into a keg washer – was a passport to bigger things. Business baby steps (50-gallon batches) became more confident strides to bigger volume (4 bbl, would you believe?), and a sweet spot with the jump to the 15 bbl brewhouse. That helped nurture the widening demand for Cape May’s beers.
And it validated the idea of answering the brewery’s second anniversary by taking over a stinky, dilapidated, decades-empty building a couple of football fields away from home base, then spending a year-plus to construct yet another brewery, this time one way bigger than the last, but with a blueprint for tricking it out some more in the future.
Which, for Cape May, begins now.
A piece on a new dimension in take-home beer, courtesy of I Drink Good Beer.
Rinn Duin Brewing celebrated its first anniversary (see video here) with a limited release, 365 Blackthorn, an 8.1% ABV Irish red spiked with some Belgian candi sugar, making it the Toms River brewery’s biggest beer. But the brewery has also added entering the Philadelphia market and a small part of New York City to the 2015 to-do list.
With traditional English and Irish ales as its signature styles, Rinn Duin opened its doors at the start of 2014. Its 25-barrel brewhouse made it the largest of a half dozen breweries in that first wave of openings after the law change in the fall of 2012. In the audio clip, owner Chip Town talks about the first year and what to look for from Rinn Duin this year.
Two brewery openings on Saturday to highlight.
It’s a soft opening for Spellbound, a public debut by Mount Holly’s second craft brewery to open in less than a year. (Spellbound’s just under a mile away from Village Idiot Brewing. Look for Village Idiot to also be at the Witches Ball; Flying Fish will also be pouring there.) The brewery is also among sponsors of 5k charity race the next day.
Co-owner John Companick explains further in the video.
Elsewhere, Forgotten Boardwalk opens to the general public. The Cherry Hill brewery has been teasing its beers to a members-only club over the past couple of weeks. FB opens at noon.
Let’s be candid for a minute.
It’s an election year. Pallone’s on the ballot, and Atlantic Highlands is in his district. He’s a longtime incumbent and most likely a lock for re-election. Still, face time with constituents, even for a feel-good observance such as National Manufacturing Day, plays well. It’s a bonus if you can do it against a popular backdrop, and craft beer is still ridiculously popular. So, on one level, it’s smart campaigning to find that everyman niche, be populist.
But politics and cynicism aside, there are some important points to highlight off the Democrat’s talk with owners Augie and Chris Carton, cousins who launched the brewery at the Monmouth County bayshore three years ago.
Kane, probably best known for its popular IPAs Head High and Overhead, won a gold medal for its Night to End All Dawns barrel-aged imperial stout at the 33rd Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
Flying Fish, a 2009 gold medal winner with its Exit 4 American Tripel, the inaugural beer in the Somerdale brewery's Exit Series, won a gold this time for its Hopfish IPA and complemented that win with a silver medal for its assertively hopped red ale, Redfish.
The Iron Hill brewpub chain kept its 18-year streak of medal wins alive, this time thanks to its Media, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware, locations, taking silvers for a rye brew and a Belgian tripel, and bronze for a Burton IPA. Iron Hill has 10 brewery-restaurants spread among Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Winners of the Brewers Association's annual competition were announced Saturday. Just over 5,500 beers commercially brewed beers from 1,309 breweries across the country were judged this year.
The IPA, brewed Sunday (Sept. 21), christened Spellbound's Premier Stainless brewhouse. A soft opening to coincide with Mount Holly's annual Witches Ball on Oct. 11 is planned (keep an eye on the brewery’s website and Facebook page for details); there's also a small-batch barleywine, aged in a Dad’s Hat Rye whiskey barrel, in the works for the brewery's 150-strong founders club membership.
“We had 150 people who saw the passion we had – a lot of them we don’t even know … people as far as Arizona,” John Companick, who co-founded Spellbound with business partners Mike Oliver and Scott Reading, tells Beer-Stained Letter. “We’re going to have barrels; we’re going to do all kinds of crazy stuff, our passion is going to be into that.”
Welcome to Brew Jersey
The pace of new brewery launches remains steady in the Garden State, and Spellbound actually gets eclipsed for the title of being the newest by Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing, which moved into Flying Fish Brewing's original home in Cherry Hill a year after Flying Fish relocated to Somerdale. (Forgotten Boardwalk folks didn’t respond to an email for comment.)
Forgotten Boardwalk announced on Friday it got the green light from the state and released a video that trumpets an Oct. 11 grand opening.
Spellbound's license came through the day before, making its host town, Mount Holly, a two-craft brewery town and an interesting case study into the economic power of craft brewing.
Oast House Hop Farm has its biggest harvest yet of the Columbus, Chinook, Cascade and Nugget cones.
Beau Byrtus, one of Oast House’s founders, gives a rundown in the video.
What you should take away from Oast House is not so much that it’s a working hop farm.
No, there’s a bigger take away: Oast House, with its annual harvest gathering of friends, is building on New Jersey’s craft beer culture.
You can easily imagine the harvests becoming, over time, like a small fair, with homebrewing demonstrations, a beer tent, and vendors selling Jersey fall produce and pies.
Or at least that’s the potential. Town hall and the state may think otherwise (this is where you should start looking at Oast House as a working farm, given some of the privileges the state allows for farms).
Two breweries are using Oast’s Jersey hops this year, and it’s a safe bet there will be loads of beer drinkers looking to see what Kane and Triumph Brewing did with fresh-from-the-farm cones.
It’s not just hops that Oast House is growing; it’s the Garden State’s craft beer culture, too.
Jersey brewer Gretchen Schmidhausler has been going to the Great American Beer Festival for the past 16 years, serving as a beer judge at the event for half as long.
But this year, when the festival kicks off its annual three-day run in Denver Oct. 2, Gretchen will be home in the Garden State, in fact, a few blocks from the beach in southern Monmouth County.
"I sent my regrets ... I let them know I wouldn't be able to make it this year," she says.
There's a good reason, and it has everything to do beer: Gretchen's just-licensed Little Dog Brewing Company will probably be opening around GABF time.
"It's not just a weekend,” she says of the annual Colorado trip. “I would have been out there for five days. I don't now how I would manage that.”
Because duty calls, with an exciting new chapter. There’s lots to do between now and October.
The ink on Little Dog's state brewing license is still fresh: Just a week ago (Aug. 28), New Jersey regulators inspected Little Dog and gave Gretchen the green light to join the state's growing roll call of craft breweries. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s visit capped a half-year buildout that transformed a defunct coin laundry along Steiner Avenue in Neptune City into an ale brewery with a tasting room.
Every Monday enjoy half price wings* and $1 off all craft beers**, along with $3 featured craft drafts at the Washington Township location of The Village Pub. *Dine in only, to-go orders not included. **Some