High tide for beer

The Cape May Brewing Co. is open for tours and tastings every Saturday. The microbrewery offers more than a dozen varieties. KEVIN MARRINER JR.
The Cape May Brewing Co. is open for tours and tastings every Saturday. The microbrewery offers more than a dozen varieties. KEVIN MARRINER JR.

Shore breweries are cooking up delicious craft beers, nothing light about them. Page XX

Posted: June 08, 2012

OCEAN VIEW, N.J. - Matt McDevitt spent years living the dream of every grown-up Jersey Shore kid: teach high school during the year, work the beach patrol during summer; in his case, the Sacramento beach in Ventnor.

But this year, McDevitt and three buddies, two of them also teachers at Mainland Regional High School, will spend summer chasing an even more tantalizing beach dream: presiding over their own brewery, the Tuckahoe Brewing Co., creating recipes inspired by everything from warm summer days (Marshallville Wit) to the memory of a treasured surf-shop owner (New Brighton Coffee Stout) to "friends sitting around a pine-tree bonfire on bench seats ripped from an old van in the middle of a quiet New Jersey snowstorm in December" (Steelmantown Porter).

Which is why McDevitt can be found this spring day in a warehouse garage in Ocean View, off Exit 17 of the Garden State Parkway, less than an hour after leaving his junior AP English classes at Mainland, standing on a platform built from old Mainland bleachers, stirring his enormous kettles filled with barley and hops, playing with timing and ingredients (with some consultation from more science-minded colleagues).

The look on his face makes it clear: This is his Jersey Shore version of a kid in a candy shop. "We let Matt lead the way," says Tim Hanna, his partner in the venture along with Jim McAfee and Chris Konicki.

"What I've learned most is to have a beer that is balanced," McDevitt says. "I am inspired by the idea of balance."

Is the Jersey Shore, land of the Bud, Miller, and Coors Light bottle drinker, about to become a craft-beer mecca? Tuckahoe Brewing joins the Cape May Brewing Co., which this year increased its production to move from the nano-brewery category to a full-fledged microbrewery.

Unlike Tuckahoe, whose beers are distributed by Harrison Beverage Co. and can be found on tap in a couple of dozen bars and restaurants in Atlantic and Cape May Counties - including the Deauville Inn, Kix McNutley's, Whitebrier, Crest Tavern, and Good Night Irene's - Cape May Brewing Co. is focusing more on its brewery itself, located at the Cape May County Airport in Rio Grande, which has been open every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. for tours and tastings. Those hours will expand in summer. (Its beer is also in Good Night Irene's.)

Ryan Krill, 30, who spent summers in Cape May, started the brewery with his father, Bob, and his buddy from college, Chris Henke. The three enthusiastically created Cape May Brewing Co. bike jerseys last year, de rigueur for most any craft brewery these days, their company barely a couple of kegs old. (Tuckahoe has T-shirts but is more in the surfer milieu than that of the hipster cyclist, more likely to come out with a Tuckahoe rash guard, maybe. Or maybe not.)

Cape May offers more than a dozen varieties, including a Centennial IPA that won first prize in its category at the recent Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival, up against heavyweights Yards and Dogfish Head. New Jersey laws governing breweries are, in Krill's words, "finicky," limiting tastings to four 4-ounce glasses, but Cape May also sells beer to take home.

"Because we're so small and because we churn out so much beer, everything is really fresh," Krill said. "The beer people are drinking on Saturday was kegged on Thursday. People are really excited about it. We're proud to see regulars coming back every weekend."

Both Tuckahoe and Cape May breweries started out as home brewers. Both are trying to use as many local ingredients as possible. Both are using local honey in their beers. A tasting of Tuckahoe's Marshallville Wit was served in actual honey jars to neighbors who stopped by. The beer's sweetness hung around its lightness in a swirl of lingering, textured goodness that lacked only a beach chair and some crashing waves to complete the picture.

While McDevitt is pretty much the designated beer creator for Tuckahoe, at Cape May it's a collaborative effort. "We just make what we like to drink," Krill says. "We all sit around, talk about it, just go out and make it."

Both local breweries are riding a tide of people looking to craft breweries for their beer, and with Philadelphia such a mecca, it seems like a natural that the Jersey Shore would find its way into the field, even in a place where the old bars like Robert's in Margate do not even have beer on tap. On the Atlantic City/Ventnor border on Wellington Avenue, the Vagabond Tap House recently opened with a full array of craft beers on tap. (Though the Coors Light brigade was still out in force.)

Both Tuckahoe (the locals) and Cape May (the summer dreamers) are stoked to be leading a trail in the area blazed by Flying Fish out of Cherry Hill. Both companies are infused with their surroundings. "Tuckahoe is like a Norman Rockwell," Hanna says. "It's the beginning of the beach. If you're coming in on Route 49 from Millville, you get to Tuckahoe, it's just outside Ocean City. It has a real cool old look and feel to it. It's a name and a word and it does stick in your head."

Krill says: "We want to create like a craft-beer culture in South Jersey. We're excited. Times are really changing, especially in South Jersey. It finally caught up."

If You Go

The Tuckahoe Brewing Co., 9 Stoney Court, Ocean View, N.J. Information: 609-827-5375, http://www.tuckahoebrewing.com.

The Cape May Brewing Co., 1288 Hornet Rd., Rio Grande, N.J. Information: 609-849-9933, capemaybrewery.com.

Contact Amy Rosenberg at 215-854-2681 or arosenberg@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @amysrosenberg. Read the Shore blog at www.philly.com/downashore.

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