BrewVue: #CBBCity

This was not my first visit to Crystal Ball Brewing Company. I first checked out their home base in a small warehouse in West York, PA—a space that practically put its roughly dozen-seat bar virtually IN the production area. Between limited space and relatively few hours, the CBB team knew they needed something better. The result has been stylized as #CBBCity, a taproom in downtown York City, an area trying to undergo a major revitalization.

The York taproom, while a major upgrade from their production space, is a bit on the small side (maybe a dozen bar stools and 20-30 seats, tops). And it’s maybe a bit dark, with grey walls and dark furnishings doing little to help what light is provided in the room. Still, it’s a very nice space where they are serving up a half-dozen or more of their brews, along with a couple of other options for those that aren’t adventurous enough for craft beer. Without a doubt, it is far better than their brewery-based tasting area. They served their well-liked Coconut Porter there (I’m not a coconut guy, but I’ve heard great things) and might even have it on nitro. Other notables include the Opal IPA and the Jamaican-Style Wheat (which is fruitier than your average wheat beer), though I’ve yet to have anything bad from these guys between a few cans and a couple of visits to their tasting rooms.

BrewVue: Wyndridge Farm

It's been a while now, but I had the opportunity to check out a few breweries while up north for Christmas. First off, I made my second trip ever to Wyndridge Farm, located on a repurposed farm just about a mile from where I went to high school in Dallastown, Pennsylvania.


Wyndridge is more than just a brewery. In fact, they utilize York County, PA's excellent apple orchards to produce a number of different hard ciders alongside their beers, and they also produce a number of unique craft sodas. But for all their quality drink production, their greatest asset may be the grounds and premises.


This is in the dead of winter. Imagine when the grass is green and there are leaves on the trees. I can be absolutely amazing. You can see the little arch/gazebo thing in the distance--Wyndridge is big on weddings, as they also have an attractive barn converted into a rustic indoor reception space. There is also a similarly-themed standard restaurant and bar space for public use.


Getting back to the relevant topic of this blog, the beer selection can be a tad limited--just 4 core beers with a few seasonal and limited run options that might bump that up to 6-7 options at any one time. But if you pair it with the hard ciders, which includes a nice cranberry-apple ciders and a hoppy cider, you have a decent overall drink selection. Beer-wise, everything tends to be solid, though nothing that will blow you away. Do what I did this last time: try a sampler. Just be sure to throw a cider in there, too!



BrewVue: Cape May Brewing Company

Cape May Brewing Company, located in multiple buildings on the grounds of the Cape May Airport, is certainly seen as the big brother of the craft beer boom hitting that particular part of the Jersey Shore.

Cape May Brewing Company recently underwent a rebranding, including all new logos and designs.

Cape May Brewing Company recently underwent a rebranding, including all new logos and designs.

This is the third time I've been to CMBC, and while still a solid visit, it was a bit underwhelming. For starters, Cape May County is performing extensive renovations and upgrades to the grounds of the airport. At the particular time I visited, this included extensive road renovations and closures, resulting in a less-than ideal parking situation that included trudging through a muddy field around the industrial building to get to Cape May Brewing Company's main entrance.

Cape May easily has the most impressive factory/production floor tour of any in the area, with an extended walkthrough area with videos and interactive exhibits with an opportunity to pick up a beer list or flight selection card before heading into the tasting room and outdoor beer garden.

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The production tour (top) and the brewery's outdoor seating area (bottom). Courtesy the Cape May Brewing Company Facebook page.

The production tour (top) and the brewery's outdoor seating area (bottom). Courtesy the Cape May Brewing Company Facebook page.

At this particular visit, Cape May had 10 different beers on tap. While a fine number, and the most of any brewery visit so far, this is actually a low number for Cape May. There have been prior visits where they've had nearly double that number of beers on tap. To their credit, they continue to have their in-house non-alcoholic sodas on tap, as well. The root beer is excellent, and tastes similar to commercially-produced root beers, but with the flavor intensity turned up to 11 or 12. They also make a ginger ale which is very good if you can stand the intense taste coming from the ginger root used. It can be overwhelming to some people.

Really, you can't go wrong with anything in their line-up. Truly, one of the things that impressed me about this brewery in the past was the ability to have such an extensive tap line-up of 15-20 beers and have every one be of decent quality at minimum. Some of the more notable beers include the namesake IPA, the Honey Porter (which can be found on Nitro), and Apple Bomb, a fruit beer that'll knock you on your butt if you aren't careful--it's 8% ABV, but doesn't taste it. Arguably their greatest offering is The Bog, which is a super-tasty cranberry shandy. It's highly accessible for just about anyone to drink and absolutely perfect for being near several beach towns. Cape May calls The Bog a seasonal, but it seems to have a wide length of availability.

Cape May is still tops in the area's craft beer scene. But it is quickly being caught up to by a few breweries, especially one I'll be telling you all about next week.

Brewery Review: Slack Tide Brewing Company

Among the newcomers to the South Jersey craft beer scene in the last year and change, Slack Tide Brewing Company in Clermont, New Jersey may have the most upward momentum.

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Occupying the back chunk of a warehouse that also houses a security firm and a damage restoration company, Slack Tide has the usual set-up, but their warehouse space looks to have a ton of room for expansion, which they had already started during my visit (despite just opening in early 2016). The tasting room is currently a bit on the small side (though, again, they seem to have expansion potential by just moving a wall) but warmly designed and decorated. Normally having as many as 12 beers on tap (which includes nitro capability), their ongoing expansion limited their offerings to just a handful from their core line-up as they were primarily focusing on production for area bars and restaurants until the expansion is completed. All the more reason to go back.

On the whole, I found everything to be fairly solid, though I would have liked a little bolder flavors from most everything. Their award-winning (including Best New Beer from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper's 2016 Brew-vitational) Bell Buoy Belgian blonde ale was easily the best thing on the wall at the time. This was a tasty blonde that hit a lot of standard notes (bananas, cloves, all spice) REALLY well. Their American IPA, called Angry Osprey, was also a very solid offering with a nice malt/hop balance and a little more diverse and different hop flavor profile (pine, but also something grassy or green) than you get in most IPAs. Other beers I tried, including a seasonal pale wheat and a fairly standard stout, ranged from okay to good, but I felt would have really benefited from a little more intensity. There are some really good options here, though, and I expect to make it back next summer post-expansion to try some of their seasonal and rotating offerings.

Brewery Review (name pending): Ludlam Island Brewery

Greetings, all!

I’m back from vacation, where I checked out no less than FOUR new breweries in Cape May County of New Jersey. I’ll be covering all five breweries I checked out with my family last week, starting with Ludlam Island Brewery, officially located in Ocean View, New Jersey. Having opened in June 2016, Ludlam Island occupies a small part of a multi-tenant industrial space about 10 minutes away from the nearest shore town, Sea Isle City. The state-mandated self-guided tour is about standard, offering a wide view of their production space, with what looked like 4-10 bbl fermenters up close and personal.

The tasting room is small with a fairly rustic look—the wood-paneled walls do actually make a nice difference from most breweries’ fairly sterile and industrial looks—featuring 8 standard taps, along with an additional two taps set aside for cask-conditioned ales. This particular day, they were serving one of their IPAs in a tropical style with coconut and tropical fruit. They seem to cask-condition their year-round New England-style IPA, Fish Alley Ale, fairly regularly with various fruits, but will also do things like chocolate candy-infused stouts and more.

Their core line-up is fairly pale ale-heavy, including a collaboration with the coffee roasters next door to create a coffee version of their Foundation Rye Pale Ale. Notables from the visit included an excellent core stout called 547, and a Nitro version of their very good Bay Muck Brown Ale. You’ll also find a Kolsch among their standard line-up, and might even see a Gose there right now. Thanks to the magic of flights tried virtually everything they had in-house (I had just a sip of that cask-conditioned ale, as I am no fan of coconut, and this ale had PLENTY), and found all of it to be very solid. I also appreciated their desire to go beyond the standard with the Nitro and cask offerings—even if that particular one wasn’t my thing, I could absolutely appreciate the quality put into it.