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Editorial Dept.'s picture

Cape May Brewing Co. Releases Fourth Barrel-Aged Beer: The Topsail

The Topsail by Cape May Brewing Co.

Cape May Brewing Co. recently announced the latest release in their highly-acclaimed Barrel Aged Series: The Topsail. Over a year in development, this exclusive brew will release at noon on February 18th from their gift shop -- The Brewtique -- at 1288 Hornet Road at the Cape May Airport.

“This is the best of the Barrel Aged Series thus far,” says president and co-owner Ryan Krill. “We’ve really gone back to the roots of barrel aging with this brew, learning from the successes of our previous barrel-aged offerings.”

The preceding barrel-aged releases from CMBC have been extraordinarily well-received. The first in this series, The Keel, received a 94 rating at Beer Connoisseur, with The Scupper exceeding that high bar with a 95 rating. Their holiday release, a bourbon barrel-aged barleywine called Boughs of Barley 2016, continued that success, having been honored with a 93 rating.

“With our Barrel Aged Series, we’ve run through a wide range of styles of sour and wild ales,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm. “As we’ve gone down this road, pushing the boundaries with what can be done with wild beers, with The Topsail, we come back to our roots.”

CMBC has embarked on each voyage in their Barrel Aged Series from a different departure point. The Skeg was an experiment in Brettanomyces working with a tremendously hoppy double IPA, and The Scupper started life as a yeasty Saison, barrel-aged, then bottle-conditioned with four strains of Brettanomyces for three months. The original release in the series, The Keel, was pitched with a particularly robust blend of twenty microflora and bacteria.

With The Topsail, Head Brewer Brian Hink took a predominantly yeasty Belgian with a mild grain bill and aged it in the barrels that previously held The Keel.

“When we racked The Keel out of their barrels last January and into a holding tank,” says Hink, “I knew we needed to refill the barrels ASAP because the condition of the barrels was nearly perfect.”

The base of The Topsail is a simple Belgian beer with an expressive yeast strain -- very dry and very approachable. After this beer’s original fermentation, there’s very little sugar left for the Brettanomyces to ferment.

“Many of the flavors achieved during the barrel aging are achieved by the Brett metabolizing and converting the yeast esters present from the original fermentation with the Belgian yeast strain into new esters,” Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm tells us. “This process is known as biotransformation, making for a brand new beer with a completely new flavor profile.”

The base brew for The Topsail has a simple grain bill. Hink wanted to see what the microflora would do with a brew with its simplicity and a phenolic and estery yeast profile.

“I was really curious to see these bugs playing off of that,” he says.

The microflora at play was essentially what was left in the barrels after The Keel was emptied from them -- the brewers didn’t pitch any new microbes into the brew.

“Since the beers were so different going in, I knew the end result would be completely different from The Keel,” Hink says. “There is some carryover in flavors between the two beers, but really the beers are completely different.”

CMBC has relied on what they’ve learned over the past two years developing this series to bring about The Topsail. The result is a more reserved, better educated, and all-around stellar brew.

“I feel like The Keel and The Skeg and The Scupper are like a band’s first album,” Brian says. “A handful of good-to-great songs, but not always a cohesive body of work. By the time the band starts work on the second album they’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t, learned a thing or two from touring, and in general have a handle on how to be a better band.

“I could not be more happy with how this turned out,” he says, “and I’m so stoked for it to see the light of day this weekend.”

The Topsail will be released in limited quantities from CMBC’s gift shop, The Brewtique, at noon on February 18th at 1288 Hornet Road in Cape May, $20 each. For more information, call (609) 849-9933 or see