Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jersey brewers in Irene's tempest

One of New Jersey's newest craft brewers sits on the frontline of Hurricane Irene's wrath, but the folks who run nanobrewery Cape May Brewing are optimistic the massive storm won't rob them of the 7 barrels of beer now conditioning in their cold room.

Irene is expected to be the first hurricane to pound the Garden State since the Great Hurricane of 1994. The storm's south-to-north trek along the heavily developed Atlantic Coast, bringing buckets of rain, savage winds and power outages, is a reminder of how vulnerable businesses can be at the hands of Mother Nature.

But such a storm could prove a product-spoiler nightmare for a business like a brewery, where glycol chillers keep the beer temperature-controlled for fermenting and conditioning. And, given the size and slowly diminishing strength of Irene, breweries inland (especially River Horse in Lambertville, along the Delaware Canal) could face a share of problems, too.

In Lower Township, in Cape May County, Ryan Krill, of Cape May Brewing, says the brewery's tiny size is a blessing in the face of Irene.

The brewery's 5 barrels of Cape May IPA and 2 barrels of Cape May Wheat, a new brew for the nano, are conditioning in the brewery's insulated cold room, kept at 56 degrees by a window air-conditioner unit adapted as a chiller.

In the face of a prolonged power outage, Ryan says, the air conditioner could be powered sufficiently by a portable, gasoline-fired generator. Despite the storm, Ryan says Cape May Brewing, which began making beer earlier this summer, had plans to brew a porter using honey from a beekeeper in nearby Marmora.

Meanwhile in Atlantic Highlands, 100 miles north along the storm-threatened Jersey Shore, the folks at Carton Brewing say a prolonged power outage is a worry for New Jersey's newest craft beer-maker. Nonetheless, there's a silver lining.

"Big fear is power outage," Augie Carton said via text message Friday night. "We have nothing starting fermentation, so nothing is generating heat. As long as it's not out too long we hope everything stays in line."

Carton received its state license a couple of weeks ago, and entered New Jersey's craft beer market with a brace of brews, a session-strength golden ale called Launch (4.6% AV) and a double IPA called 077XX. The brew lineup reflects a slight change from earlier plans of leading off with a hoppy session beer called Boat.

Look for Boat, made with a kolsch yeast, to come out next month. Augie says releasing Boat in September will help reinforce its place in the market as a year-round signature brew.