Cape breweries band together for Habitat home

by Bill Barlow

November 18, 2020

Originally published in Atlantic City Press


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Each of the 10 breweries in Cape May County has its own approach, both to beermaking and to the business.

This month, all 10 have come together to help raise money for Habitat for Humanity and the construction of a new home in Upper Township.

The project is called the Beer that Built the House. The original idea came from a fundraiser in Colorado, said Sarah Matthews, executive director for Habitat in Cape May County. Similar efforts have taken place around the country.


“As a nonprofit, we’re always looking for new ways to raise funds,” Matthews said. “Knowing the level of brewery-mania we have down here, I thought this was something that might take off.”


Over the past decade, craft brewing has exploded in Cape May County. All of the breweries were interested in participating. She said there were multiple ideas tossed around at the first meeting, held at a local tasting room.

“Somebody said, ‘Let’s do a collaborative beer,’” Matthews said. Each brewery would work on the same style of beer, using similar ingredients. Matthews said she later learned this is the first time such a collaboration has been done in the county with all of the breweries.


Each brewery produced its own take on a robust porter, a dark style of beer. Laura’s Fudge, a longtime candy shop with locations in several beach towns in the county, is also participating, with each porter to include some of the fudge in the brewing process.


Even if each brewery followed exactly the same recipe, the beers would all have subtle differences, said Zack Pashley at Gusto Brewing Company in Lower Township, which has been open for about two years. Each brewer has an individual style, and even the water will be different from one site to another. That’s part of what makes drinking local beer so interesting, he said.


But while the breweries will follow a basic recipe, each will tweak it their own way for this collaboration. That way, area beer fans have a good reason to try each brewery’s creation. At Gusto, chief brewer Dan Petela went counterintuitive, Pashley said, “making something that’s weirdly refreshing for a beer of that style.”

At the Bucket Brigade Brewery on Route 9, expect notes of coffee and bourbon, while at Coho Brewing Company on Indian Trail Road, head brewer Jason Heavey went all in on the chocolate profile.

“We all took the base recipe, and we all got to do our own twist on it,” Heavey said. That meant using different malts and incorporating different flavors. “I added another 20 pounds of chocolate. We wanted to make sure you got that punch.”


Each brewery made a different amount, and the beer is available in different ways, by the glass on site, or in cans. At Gusto, for instance, they are selling 25.4-ounce cans at $12, while others are offering 32-ounce cans, or four-packs of 12-ounce cans.


According to Karen Buckingham, owner of Coho, it’s been a tough year, as the still-nascent local craft beer industry has tried to deal with changing restrictions related to COVID-19. They plan to stick around, she said.


“It’s my brewery, and I put my heart and soul into it,” she said.

She got to know the crew from Habitat for Humanity because she outfitted her tasting room with furniture from the ReStore in Cape May County, an affiliated retailer that benefits Habitat.


Heavey said it was great to have a chance to interact with the other breweries in the county, especially for a good cause.


The brew was launched with a special event Nov. 7 at Mudhen Brewing Company in Wildwood. Participating breweries include the first and largest in the county, Cape May Brewing Co., 7 Mile Brewery, Avalon Brew Pub, Bucket Brigade, Coho Brewing Co., Gusto, Ludlam Island Brewing Co., Mudhen, Slack Tide Brewing and Cold Spring Brewery. Cold Spring is one of the smallest in the county and also is a nonprofit, so rather than brew the beer, they will have T-shirts available to help with the fundraiser.


Other locations also will offer T-shirts.


The breweries will donate proceeds from the sales of the beer, which is set to be available until it runs out or until the end of the year. Matthews expects it to run out first.


She hopes the initiative will raise about $25,000. It costs Habitat about $150,000 to build a house with the help of volunteer labor. Upper Township has donated land on Redwood Avenue, where Matthews expects to break ground on the next project Friday, albeit in a virtual event this time.


Crews from the local breweries also plan to participate in building the home, along with other volunteers and the family that will one day live there. So far, the family has not been chosen.

The project shows the connections within the local community, Matthews said.


“We are all able to lift others in some way, and sharing in that process can bring even more people together. The enthusiasm generated from this project is so encouraging in a time when home means so much,” she said.


Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry that builds affordable housing, with affiliates in all 50 states and 90 nations.


Each of Cape May County’s brewers has crafted a beer called the Beer that Built the House. However, each brewery put its own subtle spin on the fudge-infused porter.


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