Cape May, NJ — Cape May Brewing Company is charting new waters with their much-anticipated Stow Away Series of barrel-aged sour beers. Over two years in the making, the first limited release of the series — The Keel — is available Saturday, June 25th at 11am in their Tasting Room at 1288 Hornet Road in Cape May.
CMBC has a long tradition of bringing great craft beer to the area.
“Doing that isn’t limited to just making craft beer,” says co-owner and president Ryan Krill. “The interesting thing is exploring flavors. Let’s not just stick with the basic flavors anymore. Let’s see what different flavor compound possibilities exist.”
“As brewers, we want to be creative,” agrees co-owner Chris Henke. “We started this company as brewers and we want to have fun designing beers. We want to let the beers do whatever they’re going to do.”
“The Stow Away Series is a great opportunity to show who we are,” says Krill.
Head Brewer Brian Hink has been trying to get the company to start brewing sours since he started at the brewery in May of 2013. “As a home brewer, I’ve done over 20 different sour beers over the past couple of years, so, when I finally got the chance to professionally play around with sours in 2013, I was ecstatic.”
The Keel has been in the works since September of 2013 — that’s how long portions of the blend have been aging. For the past 10 months, it’s undergone a second fermentation inside French oak red wine barrels where 20 different microflora have introduced exotic flavors. Drinkers can expect a rustic, earthy profile that balances a sharply lactic and acetic finish.
The barrel-aging process can be a bit of a gamble. While the variegated profile of bacteria and yeasts ferment and evolve, the barrel is allowing low levels of oxygen into the brew. “The oxygen just changes up everything going on, the chemistry going on in this barrel,” Henke says. “That’s the scary part about a barrel: you can put beer in a barrel, you never know what you’re going to get.” Only time and patience will reveal what the final beer will be. “It’s something you can’t replicate or rush.”
The Keel has been bottled at what the brewers expect to be the peak of its flavor profile; however, the brew will continue to condition and evolve in its wax-sealed, 750ml bottle. “The beer’s perfect to drink right now,” says Henke, “but can be cellared for up to two years.”
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done,” says Krill.
“The Stow Away Series has kinda become my baby,” says Hink. “It took a little longer than I would have liked to see the fruits of our labor pay off, but the wait was well worth it.”
Regardless of the amount of time the company spent on this beer, barrel-aging sours is still relatively uncharted territory. “There’s so little documentation out there on how to do this, and when we started this two years ago, there was even less,” says Henke. “When we started, it was almost a mystery. We’re getting some of the bacteria from one company, but when to age it? How long to age it? It was all a mystery.”
Cape May Brewery is eager to release this brew to the public because “they become part of the experiment,” says Henke. As the consumer cellars the beer, it will continue to condition and evolve in the bottle. “I think that’s the pretty unique part of it. We’re all just learning together.”
“I couldn’t be happier with the end result,” says Hink.
“It just turned out incredibly well,” says Henke.
The Keel will be released in limited quantities from their Tasting Room: three to a customer. For more information, call (609) 849-9933 or see capemaybrewery.com.
About Cape May Brewing Company
Once upon a time, twenty-something Ryan Krill earned a six-figure salary working in finance and real estate development in Manhattan, while his college roommate, Chris Henke, designed satellites. During a summer weekend at the Jersey shore, they brewed a batch of beer with Ryan’s dad that wasn’t half bad. “Should we open a brewery?” Ryan asked, only half-serious. But, by the following year, the three guys had secured a space at Cape May Airport where they concocted a makeshift brew system and honed their beer-making skills. In 2011, they started with one client. Today, there are hundred of accounts in Jersey and Pennsylvania proudly serving the guys’ award-winning recipes. And CMBC’s fearless leaders have never looked back.