- May 29, 2015
Ryan Krill, co-owner of Cape May Brewing Co. has always been interested in beer, visiting various bars while attending graduate school at New York University. “My favorite spot, the Spring Lounge, had a great selection of craft beer and I had the opportunity to begin trying exciting varieties from brewers all over the country,” he says. “After only a short while, I was hooked, and there was no going back.” His love of beer led to his first homebrewing experiment, conducted with a friend in his tiny apartment in Brooklyn, NY. “It was a cold and snowy Saturday,” Krill remembers. “We trekked between restaurant supply stores and Brooklyn Homebrew to get our basic equipment and ingredients. Our first batch was a wheat beer brewed with coriander, orange peel and a whole mish mash of exotic hops. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun. We didn’t have a way to cool our wort, so we filled the bathtub with snow and placed the pot in it. It worked really well except that it cracked the enamel of the tub,” he laughs.
Krill went on to become an avid homebrewer, a hobby that the real estate developer truly enjoyed. One weekend, while at the Jersey shore hanging out with his father and his college roommate, he half-jokingly asked, “Should we open a brewery?”
The following year, in 2011, the three guys opened Cape May Brewing Co. in southern New Jersey, on the grounds of the Cape May County Airport. “When we started out, the brewery was 1,500 square feet of space with a homebuilt, 12-gallon system and we serviced one bar,” says Krill. “It was nothing more than a hobby business, but we had greater aspirations.” He describes the brewery and tasting room as ‘industrial chic’. “When it was built, there was no architect or master plan; it came about over the course of a couple years. A local mason built the bar out of concrete and pallet wood. It’s a reflection of our personalities.” The bar in the tasting room has ample seating with a simple, clean appearance accented by industrial lighting made of reclaimed materials. The focal point of the room is their tap list, featured on a large chalk board flanked by colorful brewery merchandise. The décor features strategically placed wooden barrels, suspended strings of lights and a large oriental rug that really ties the room together. Instead of televisions, there is a projector in the taproom that continuously plays old movies on silent.
Krill chose Cape May as the home of the brewery because, “It’s a very special place,” he says. “Cape May is known as a Victorian summer beach town, but it’s so much more than that. There’s a large artisan community that lends a genuine funkiness, not available elsewhere. I grew up going to the Jersey Shore every weekend. It seemed like a natural fit for a funky brewery and I was naïve enough to think, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ But, I had patience and determination on my side… and two great partners.”
With beers such as their double IPA, Coastal Evacuation, the sour wheat, Tower 23 and Tripel Wreck, a traditional Belgian triple, Krill says, “Our beers epitomize the spirit of our story. Our culture is steeped in South Jersey and we want our brews to reflect that.” However, growing up in Chadds Ford, PA, he knows how fond Pennsylvanians are of the Jersey Shore and what it has to offer. “Many of the folks who come to the Shore live in southeastern Pennsylvania. I know from experience just how much traffic there is on the Parkway, especially in the summer. Distributing to PA, so PA doesn’t always have to come to us, was a natural next step for us,” he says.
It’s been four years since Krill and his team opened the brewery, and they couldn’t be happier – or busier. With nearly 200 accounts throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they had no choice but to expand their operation. A major expansion project is currently in the works and consists of a new brew house, bottling plant and second tap room. “Our new 15,000 square-foot facility has a 3-vessel, 30-barrel brew house and about 15,000 barrels of capacity. The semi-automated bottling line will allow us to distribute consistently all over New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. We could have outsourced it to another contract brewery but what’s the fun in that?”
So what makes this brewery different from the other greats? Krill sums it up quite well, “We don’t do what’s easy and convenient. We’ll send one of our guys out to drive all day to get the exact honey we need or process hundreds of pounds of beach plums by hand to make one beer. We even make our own malt vinegar! It’s about crafting something using our creativity and passion. We’re an inventive group and that’s what shines through in everything we do, from the atmosphere in the tasting room to the beer we make.”