Cape May, NJ — Ryan Krill’s experience with beer in college consisted largely not of brewing it, but of drinking it out of a used cleat in a strange post-rugby game tradition. And in grad school, he cracked a bathtub in a home-brew experiment gone wrong. But after graduation, and after making a name for himself in Manhattan’s finance and real estate development sectors, he took a leap of faith. Ryan teamed up with Villanova University buddy Chris Henke, tester of commercial satellites, and his own father, a retired pharmaceutical executive named Bob, to start a brewery.
“We were naïve enough to think, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’” he said.
The guys launched Cape May Brewing Company in summer of 2011 with a hangar at the Cape May Airport, a homemade 12-gallon brew system made of recycled material, and one client. But CMBC’s product became so popular so quickly, the guys soon upgraded equipment and added a tasting room with 20 beers on tap at all times. Today, the demand of nearly 200 accounts throughout Jersey and Pennsylvania is dictating the next move – another major expansion that will bring the brewery’s year-round employee count up to 25 and counting.
This is why, last July, the men took over another space at the Airport, a 15,000-square-foot warehouse that was home to the Tomwar wallpaper company before sitting vacant for decades. Ryan, Chris and Bob gutted and renovated the building — beginning with the installation of an oh-so-important walk-in refrigerator.
Up until this point, CMBC’s cooling system had consisted of a used Quizno fridge that still smelled like Italian hoagie, and a 48-by-20-foot box made from hand-me-down insulated panels that were bolted to palette racking. Both units are operational only because “we tricked them out with home air conditioners,” says Chris. The third and final CMBC fridge was ripped out from a Weis Supermarket (yes, with permission) by Ryan. Altogether, this amounts to 200-square-feet of storage space — and not nearly enough room for beer.
So, before taking over Tomwar, a section of the new building was earmarked for a walk-in refrigeration unit that was purchased — like most of the brewery’s equipment — secondhand, this time from a Midwest supplier. Local builder John Thomas installed the 1,000-square-foot box complete with opening large enough for a forklift and a door that weighs close to 1,000 pounds. “It took four of us just to lift that,” says head brewer Brian Hink.
Now, because of this system, CMBC can store approximately 300 kegs of 20 unpasteurized brews at once (“Unpasteurized beers hold onto their flavor longer,” explains Chris). And business is booming. In the first three months the cooler was operational, CMBC added 60 new accounts to its docket. “You can brew all of the beer you want,” Brian says. “But it doesn’t do you any good until you have somewhere to put it.”
What else does the new fridge mean for this little brewery by the beach? It can handle what’s coming next: a 14-tank, three-vessel brew house capable of producing 15,000 barrels (or 472,500 gallons) a year. That, along with a CMBC’s complete bottling line, are being installed now, so more on those to come soon.
In the meantime, to try one of CMBC’s brews, stop by the tasting room (1288 Hornet Road, Rio Grande, NJ) anytime between noon and 8pm. And expect your beer to be very cold.
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 hangar 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 nearly 200 bars in Jersey and Pennsylvania proudly serving the guys’ award-winning recipes. And CMBC’s fearless leaders have never looked back.