When it comes time to pop the Big Question, forget Champagne, bring a growler.
That’s what Vince Angelus did when his son’s friend went down on bended knee at Sunset Beach outside Cape May over the weekend. Angelus brought a growler of Cape May Brewing’s Coastal Evacuation IPA for the celebration. Everyone was delighted.
Champagne? That’s so 19th century.
Growlers, for the craft beer uninitiated, are 32 or 64-ounce glass bottles you fill with a favorite brew at your local brewery (crowlers are the 32-ounce canned version). Growlers give you the freshest beer, right from the tap.
They also make cool re-usable mementos of your beer travels; there are 75 growlers from breweries across the country in my living room. I am not necessarily proud of this, but neither am I ashamed.
“It’s liquid gold,” Angelus said of Coastal Evacuation, apparently something you run toward, not from. “I can’t stop drinking that beer.”
Cape May Brewing in Lower is one of the Final Four in our search for N.J.’s best craft brewery. We started with 500-plus nominations. All 83 N.J. craft breweries and brew pubs were put on the ballot; the top four vote-getters became four of our Elite Eight; I picked the other four.
I visited all eight, and then picked a Final Four. On Friday, we will announce the winner live on NJ.com. As with all our previous N.J.’s best showdowns, I alone will pick the winner.
Cape May Brewing is one of the state’s biggest breweries. Two sprawling warehouses — 8,000 and 15,000 square feet — contain tanks, tasting room, offices and merchandise shop.
It’s not all serious business here; all staffers are invited to a weekly tasting, and co-owner Ryan Krill was not above having a little fun on April Fool’s Day:
Cape May Brewing Company Drone Delivery from Cape May Brew Co. on Vimeo.
No, you can’t order beer by drone from Cape May Brewing, although it is a pretty neat idea.
Our weekend visit found dozens of beer lovers basking in the sun on the brewery’s outdoor patio. Angelus was there with his wife, Darlene, and their son, Vince Jr. and daughter-in-law, Ashlee.
Vince Sr. couldn’t stop talking up Coastal Evacuation, which he called “the greatest beer ever made.”
Over at the nearby fire pit, Jess Ferrara, raised in Denville, was kicking back with Phil Civitella, while at the indoor bar, tasting room manager Zach Pashley lined up my six beers (I must have been reminded at least 25 times in the past two weeks that I have the world’s best job).
My favorites here: Geek Out 3.1, an American wild ale, and Crusty Barnacle, a Brett’d pale ale. Ignore the name; it’s tasty.
KANE BREWING CO., OCEAN TOWNSHIP
Wearing a t-shirt whose message I couldn’t possibly repeat here, Jason Tomczak was hanging with buddies inside sprawling Kane Brewing, with the big bay doors open to bring in warmth and light.
The crew, on their way to a hardcore punk rock show in Asbury Park, included John Johnson, executive chef at The Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan; splendidly-bearded Scott Davis; and Rich Davis, who plays on the Asbury Park Brewery hockey team.
Asked to name his favorite Jersey beers, Scott Davis listed Head High IPA by Kane; Vine Shine IPA from Magnify Brewing Co. in Fairfield (one of our Elite Eight), and Born to Ruin DIPA from Dark City Brewing Co. in Asbury Park.
Then he went on to call Kane’s Party Wave IPA (not currently available) “the best beer I’ve ever had.”
Hey, in the beer world, you’re allowed to change your mind.
In a corner, Brandon and Stefanie Rojas of Glen Gardner were enjoying flights of Kane brew; Stefanie was partial to Kane’s Malus Belgian Dark Strong, while Brandon favored Port Omna extra stout.
As usual, Brandon was keeping detailed beer notes in a little black book. His description of Kane’s Head High:
C (color): Light gold orange hazy
A (aroma): fruity light pine
T (taste): same as aroma, hoppy but not overly so. light fruit.
“I’ve found that book all over the house – on the kitchen counter, living room,” Stefanie said, laughing.
Michael Kane opened his brewery in August 2011 in a space once occupied by a casket company. I interviewed him at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 2014, when Kane won a gold medal for its A Night to End All Dawns, an Imperial dark ale.
Kane received plenty of sudsy support when we announced our Final Four. “Kane and it’s not even close,” went a typical comment. But there were dissenters; one reader called Kane a “one-trick pony . . all their beers have similar hop profile.”
My favorites this time around at Kane: Head High IPA, Solitude Belgian Style Dark Ale.
It will all make for a tough decision on Friday – National Beer Day! – when we announce our winner live on NJ.com. Will one of our beer bluebloods — Kane or Cape May — walk away with the title, or will one of the upstarts — Demented or Twin Elephant — pull off the upset?