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Thursday, 26 September 2013 20:37

Cape May charges up its IPAs

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Cape May Hops 7

Sometimes you have to use a little force.

Believing they could enrich their IPAs with more hop character, the folks at Cape May ditched conventional dry-hopping with whole-leaf hops, sacked up and hung in a conditioning tank.

To get the job done, Cape May's brew crew forces the beer over a heap of hops as the beer heads to its next stop. It's an exercise that borrows from Sierra Nevada's repertoire of brewing tricks, namely the storied California brewery's Hop Torpedo and subsequent beer, Torpedo Extra IPA.

The result: a bigger hop flavor, an epic aroma.

Cape May Hops 1

"The first kegs that come through can be real grassy ... almost like when you wet-hop something," says Chris Henke, Cape May's brewer. "That grassiness starts to mellow out, and then it just adds this depth to it.

"The nice thing with the charger is, we're not picking up bitterness. We're getting more hop flavor, more hop aroma. We try to keep our IPA balanced, and this is kind of getting you that extra hop."

Cape May IPA (6.1%, 65 IBU), the beer the brewery launched with in July 2011, gets the same treatment using Cascade hops. The brewery's two IPAs are its top-selling beers, out of a lineup that includes a honey porter, hefe- and dunkelweizens, and a recently added Belgian strong.

Cape May Hops 6Cape May charges up its IPAs"It's not just direct substitution (for dry-hopping)," Chris says. "We think it's a better process."

The brewery teased its early efforts with the hop charger by serving one of the IPAs at the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild festival last June. Some fine-tuning has gone into the process since then, zeroing in the best vessel to hold the hops and how to keep bits of the cones out of the kegged beer.

Repurposing a yeast brink, or propagator, proved to be the most efficient vessel, in terms of cost and results. Its 4-inch opening, which can be tri-clamped for a true seal, was suitable for adding the hops (though cleaning them out is still a chore).

"We were trying to find something that could handle pressure. We (looked at) a lot of different tanks, and a lot of them are very expensive. This was the cheapest way of getting a tank that could be pressurized," Chris says. "It's gone through probably five iterations before where we have it now.

"We had different ways that we hooked it up, different ways to keep the hops from coming through. We're finally happy with how it's working."

Cape May Hops 4

Read 10338 times Last modified on Monday, 02 December 2013 18:50

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