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Interview: Cape May Brewing’s Innovation Director Discusses Latest Limited Release

Photo Courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company

These days, thanks to the power of social media, it’s not difficult to be abreast of what’s trending in the beer world or what offerings will soon be hitting the market. So, when we saw a recent post by Cape May Brewing Company, a rapidly-growing brewery on the southern coast of New Jersey, about a limited edition beer inspired by The Simpsons, we wanted to know more.

This Saturday at noon, CMBC will be releasing Krusty’s Partially-Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage, a “shake” IPA that contains no lactose, only at its tasting room. It most likely will never see distribution. There will be 75 cases available to the public, with a three case limit per person. Four-packs will also be available for $18.99 and there will be no growler fills.

We recently got the chance to speak with Brian Hink, the Innovation Director at CMBC, who is the driving force behind much of what the company pumps out.  Hink gave us the scoop on how the company came up with the new beer, what it took to make this non-dairy beer possible and what’s coming next.

Dirtfork: Was the inspiration for Krusty’s mostly based on an employee’s trip to Universal Studios, or was it something you’d been scheming for a while?

Brian Hink: I grew up on The Simpsons and when Milkshake IPAs became a thing, I instantly wanted to name a beer Krusty’s Partially-Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage after the classic Season 7 episode 22 Short Films About Springfield.

Dirtfork: What’s the brainstorming process like for a limited release, highly-touted beer of this nature? How long does that part of it take and what’s the process before it reaches the brewing stages?

Hink: I hate to admit it but this is a beer where the name came first. We’ve played around with Milkshake IPAs a few times in the past and when we decided to brew Krusty’s, it was pretty easy to come up with a beer equally fun and interesting as the name. With the name being a little more out there, it took a bit of convincing to get everyone on board with doing it but once I explained the reference behind it, marketing and ownership got right on board.

Dirtfork: CMBC, like most others, has had limited experience with the newfound trend of Milkshake IPAs, so is brewing a beer like this one with such a complex flavor much more elaborate as opposed to something that’s on the simpler side, such as Devil’s Reach or Always Ready?

Hink: Conceptually, it is a pretty different approach than our other beers and imagining how the flavors will meld together with the creaminess and sweetness of the finish, along with the vanilla, requires a little more abstract thinking of flavor matching you really need to approach this more from an artistic, carefree baker’s mindset than a technical, analytical brewer mindset.

Dirtfork: What was the overall brewing experience like for Krusty’s — what exactly goes into the process and how long did it take from gathering the ingredients to the very first sip of the sample?

Hink: This pretty much followed our typical timeline: we conceptualized the beer and got the artwork going, designed the recipe, brewed the beer, cellared and then packaged.

Dirtfork: Milkshake IPAs are known for containing lactose sugars which are important in giving it the necessary mouthfeel. Given that non-dairy is in the name, how did you bypass it and still get the desired end result here?

Hink: Utilizing unfermentable dextrin malt almost acts like a bodybuilder for the beer and when combined with a grain bill of golden promise, oats, and malted rye, we were able to achieve a rich and creamy finish and high final gravity most often associated with using lactose. Adding vanilla definitely rounded out the sweet finish and the end result definitely drinks and finishes like a milkshake IPA, but since we didn’t use lactose we went with calling it a “shake” IPA. Not trying to start a new trend or anything but we’ve received a lot of encouraging feedback from dairy-free and lactose-intolerant individuals, so I foresee us rolling this way the next time we want to do a “shake” IPA.

Dirtfork: We’ve seen breweries have issues with using a brand’s likeness, take Knee Deep Brewing’s Breaking Bad inspired beer for instance. Was there any worry of a potential lawsuit or has someone from the show’s camp approved it?

Hink: Obviously, anytime you’re borrowing inspiration from a known brand you need to be really respectful and careful with how you turn it into your own image. We’re not trying to release this under the guise that it’s in any way, shape or form affiliated with The Simpsons and I think the playful fun nature of the name and artwork definitely lets the consumer know that it’s thoroughly a Cape May Brewing Company product. Definitely, there’s some concern that we may get unwanted attention from this release, but it’s a small brewery and a tasting room-only release, so I hope it stays off the radar enough to not get us in any hot water.

Dirtfork: This beer will be featured solely at your brewery, now is that simply to maintain the freshness — like a quality control issue — or could this beer eventually be found where CMBC distributes?

Hink: We’re a full-scale production brewery and at this point one of the three largest in New Jersey, so our focus is on our core and seasonal brands like Cape May IPA, Coastal Evacuation, Devil’s Reach, as well as seasonal releases like The Bog, Summer Catch, Follow the Gull. We release all of these brands across our entire distribution footprint but we have an amazing tasting room that lends a unique customer experience. As a fully-distributed brewery, we focus a small but very significant portion of our production on these tasting room-only releases to help drive that customer experience it really helps encourage people to continue visiting our tasting room and make trips down the shore to see what we’re up to on new brands that won’t be full-sized production runs. We have really high quality standards on our packaging line which ensures optimum shelf life on all of our beers. NEIPAs get a bad rap for being extremely un-shelf-stable but we’ve had incredible success with ours holding up and being very consistent throughout a few months of cold storage, so I wouldn’t be worried at all about seeing a beer like Krusty’s seeing a wider [distribution].

Dirtfork: Before it’s even been released, what kind of response have you gotten to this beer and, on the other end, what are CMBC’s expectations for when it is released this coming weekend?

Hink: We’ve gotten some really positive feedback through our social media channels, which is always exciting. The production crew, who’ve obviously been able to try the beer throughout its conception through its execution, have all been really enjoying it I heard a bunch of the guys saying it’s our best “milkshake” IPA yet. It’s still early in the season for us here in Cape May, so we won’t be seeing our summer crowds but, even in the off-season, we see a good turnout for these limited, tasting room-only releases. We’re a good 100 miles, or about an hour-and-a-half drive, from Philly and 150 miles, or about a two-hour drive, from NYC, so seeing nice crowds in the off-season for these releases has been really exciting. It’s nice knowing there’s an interest in these kinds of beers down here at the very bottom of New Jersey in the least-densely populated part of the state.

Dirtfork: I read on CMBC’s website that you’re a big Simpsons fan, do you have a favorite episode?

Hink: Oh, man, too many to list! I think the three that stand out the most are Flaming Moes, the Troy McClure-starring episode spoofing Planet of the Apes called A Fish Called Selma; and Marge vs the Monorail. They all definitely stand out as all-time classics.

Dirtfork: What beers are next for CMBC — what other efforts can drinkers expect down the road?

Hink: We have a few really fun releases coming out the next couple of weeks that people should keep an eye on. Our very first limited, tasting room-only release, Catch the Drift, is being re-released in early April. All of the women of the company designed and brewed a fruited kettle sour for International Woman’s Day called Maybe She’s Brewed With It, releasing April 12. And we brewed a collaboration kettle-soured NEIPA beer with Iron Hill’s Voorhees, New Jersey location coming out around Earth Day that we’re really excited about.