We are so excited to release Boat Ramp Champ this weekend!
The beer is all brewed and canned and tasting delicious, and Aaron and Lauren Stasiak from The Qualified Captain are on their way to the Tasting Room at this very moment!
(Okay, at the moment we were writing. By the time you’re reading this, they’re here. Regardless, be sure to stop by and see them at the release event today!)
So, now that all of the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed, there’s only one thing left to do: drink up!
We caught up with Production Planning and Special Projects Manager Brian Hink and Lab Manager Lauren Appleman to find out what makes Boat Ramp Champ a helluva good Helles lager for spring.
For a brewery that puts out something as complex as Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA to turn around a month-and-a-half later and come out with something as simple as a Helles lager seems a complete 180, but, really, the only thing we care about at Cape May Brewing Company is good beer.
While Boat Ramp Champ is a good beer, it’s definitely a simple beer.
“I get a lot of shit from some of the other production folks -- the majority of whom love clean easy-drinking lagers, pub ales, ESBs and the like -- because beers like Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Milkshake IPA or Tiny Drink Umbrellas or Crushin’ It are always considered to be ‘my fault’,” Brian says. “While I’m the one to come up with new and exciting styles and recipes for us to tackle, like the rest of the production crew, I do love me a simple, basic, approachable, clean, easy-drinking lager, and it's a delight to have one available again.”
Since Boat Ramp Champ is a collaboration, this was the perfect opportunity to brew up something simple. Aaron from The Qualified Captain likes beer, but, like the rest of us, he likes what he likes. And what he likes are crisp, clean lagers.
“The obvious and only choice for this was a Helles,” Brian says, “which is one of my favorite styles of beer and is the perfect craft style of beer for people newly coming over to craft beers, but also one of the styles of choice for old hats like me whose palate has grown tired of hazies and pastry stouts and fruited sours and the like and simply craves good, drinkable beer.”
Lauren agrees but recognizes some pitfalls with brewing a beer this simple.
“I'm all for simplicity,” she says, “but sometimes, the more simple the beer the harder it is to perfect. There’s nowhere for a simple beer to hide its flaws.”
And Brian agrees.
“A Helles lager is a simple expression of quality brewing ingredients, impeccable brewing techniques, and time,” Brian says. “We planned on giving it the requisite lagering time, so check off the time part, and not to toot our own horn, but I think we have the brewing quality part down, so the last part of the equation is the ingredient part.”
So, while this is definitely a simple Helles lager, the components of the recipe are anything but simple. For example, the malt bill is comprised of our base Pilsner malt accentuated with a new malt for us: Simpsons lager malt. (Why didn’t we use that in Krusty’s Partially-Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage?!?)
“Our base Pilsner malt is great for the majority of the beers we do,” Brian says, “but with something as delicate as a Helles lager we wanted to use a base malt that is a little cleaner and a little lighter in both color and flavor and would add that nice crackery-slash-bready sweetness without bringing any astringent graininess.”
And the Simpsons Lager Malt was perfect for that.
“It’s brilliantly clean,” Brian says. “It’s really some high-grade, choice malt that just so happens to be perfectly designed for brewing quality lagers!”
As for the hop bill, we used a new variety for us: Hallertau Mittelfrüh.
“Hallertau Mittelfrüh is a traditional German noble hop not too dissimilar to Saaz, but a little less punchy,” Brian says. “Saaz is great for a pilsner, but Hallertau is a much better choice for the clean, smooth subtle bitterness you're looking for in a proper Helles.”
Then, for the yeast, we stayed simple -- our “house” lager yeast, Bohemian lager, was perfect for Boat Ramp Champ.
“It's the same yeast we use for Tan Limes, Oktoberfest, Cape May Lager (RIP), etc.,” Brian says. “It's just a really strong, workhouse lager strain, nice and clean, very reliable: I've always been a big fan of this yeast, and it's nice to let it shine in a beer that's all about balance.”
Lauren says that the key to making such a simple beer begins with the yeast.
“It starts with making sure that we have happy and healthy yeast,” she says, without elaborating on how one might be able to tell that yeast is happy. (She has a lot of very expensive lab equipment to figure that out.) “Lager yeast is a bottom fermenter, which means that it can sometimes be difficult to maintain a healthy bunch of yeast due to the 30 barrels of beer exerting physical pressure on it.”
If the yeast was struggling or in some other way unviable, it would be easy for you to tell.
“Lager yeast also tends to give off some sulfur aromas -- think hardboiled or rotten eggs,” she continues. “If you rush the beer
along, those aromas can become too noticeable. While we make some great IPAs and sours, there is something to be said about a really solid lager. I hope it shows the amount of work and care that we put into this beer.”
Some of that “work and care” is in the thoughtfulness we put into even the lagering temperatures. As a reminder, lagers are cold-fermented, whereas ales are usually fermented at warmer temperatures.
“We fermented Boat Ramp Champ a few degrees cooler than usual,” Brian says, “at 48° instead of our usual 50°, to suppress the yeast profile a touch more.”
All of that thought and consideration comes together to create a pale Helles Lager that is crisp, clean, refreshing, and light -- perfect for a day spent in the warm sun, gardening, cutting the grass, or fishing. (As a passenger. If you’re the captain, your Boat Ramp Champ will still be cold when you get back to shore.)
“Every aspect of Boat Ramp Champ is in perfect harmony with the others,” Brian says. “The malty sweetness isn't cloying or distracting, the bitterness is gentle and approaching, the aroma is delicately inviting in its simplicity. The Helles lager is the perfect representation of balance in beer, and it's glorious.”
Lauren is enjoying Boat Ramp Champ, as well.
“There’s a subtle hop presence and a nice bready backbone to this beer,” she says, “and at 5.5% ABV, this is a very easy-drinking beer that is a perfect way to end your day.”
Boat Ramp Champ is simply simple. It’s refreshing. It’s crisp. It’s fantastic.
“I wish I would have had this beer last Saturday when my husband and I moved a shitload of soil for our garden beds,” Lauren says.
And Brian is over-the-moon about this beer.
“I will absolutely demolish this beer,” he says. “Boat Ramp Champ pairs perfectly with the beautiful spring days we've been having, it's a great complement for any activity you might be up to. Disc golf or regular golf? Perfect beer for it. Spring cleaning and house projects? Perfect for it. Getting some early season beach time in? Perfect lagerbier for it. It's just a beautiful beer that is drinking delightfully right now.”
Boat Ramp Champ is a beer that deserves a celebration, so it’s the perfect beer to celebrate the return of warmer weather and the re-opening of our Brewtanical Garden!
We’ll have Animal House rocking the Brewtanical Garden from 2:30-6pm on Friday. This powerhouse five-piece has played up and down the east coast, from Killington, Vermont, to Key West, Florida, turning out classic covers in party rock, reggae, calypso, dance, funk, hip-hop, and alternative music. You’ll be on your feet and dancing all day long!
And, to kick off our collaboration with The Qualified Captain, founders Aaron and Lauren Stasiak will be on hand to join in the fun! You’ll find them in the Brewtanical Garden, and in our Brewtique, you’ll be able to get your first pick of exclusive merchandise for Boat Ramp Champ! We’ve got a Boat Ramp Champ glass, a coozie, as well as a hat and a long-sleeve t-shirt. Don’t miss out!
Boat Ramp Champ releases in the Tasting Room and Brewtique during the celebration on Friday, with distribution throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania to commence on Monday, April 5th, with Delaware following on Monday, April 12th.
Come to the party on Friday, or check our Beer Finder for a retailer near you!