The New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s (NJDA) Jersey Fresh quality grading and marketing program is one of the most successful in the country. According to the program’s website, “This voluntary program, established in 1985, enhances regional and national marketability of more than 80 New Jersey commodities and assures consumers and wholesale buyers that the products meet or exceed U.S. No. 1 standards.”
The familiar red and green logo has long been synonymous with high quality. The respect it brings also means better pricing for producers and quality assurance for consumers. Businesses who use Jersey Fresh licensed produce in their food products can apply for rights to use the “Made with Jersey Fresh” logo on packaging and marketing. And that’s just what the Cape May Brewing Company did.
Since its humble beginnings—and I do mean humble—in 2011, innovation has been the watch-word for Cape May Brewing. Ryan Krill, co-owner and Garden State Craft Brewers Guild president, dreamed up the Brews by the Bay event in September, which featured a beer fest simultaneously conducted in two states and linked by the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. There’s always something going on at the brewery, too. They make great beer and know how to have fun doing it.
One thing that wasn’t exactly fun—for them—was obtaining the first-ever Jersey Fresh designation for a beer. As Krill puts it, “It wasn’t sexy.” It required tons of paperwork and numerous inspections by the Department of Agriculture, who were supportive but didn’t cut corners. What ultimately won them the designation was the 90 pounds of Jersey Fresh honey that goes into each 15 bbl batch of their Honey Porter. Clearly, you can’t just drizzle in a teaspoon of honey and expect to get the Jersey Fresh logo.
So why go to all that trouble? Cape May Brewing is all about keeping it local. The apiary that provides the honey is close by and in the craft beer business, authenticity is key. It wasn’t really a marketing decision to seek out the Jersey Fresh logo. “We are just trying to promote Jersey produce,” Krill tells me. It doesn’t get more authentic than that.
It’s also part of the big picture. “The New Jersey Department of Agriculture encourages producers to use Jersey Fresh to market our state’s farm products,” says New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “We are excited with the interest shown by the growing Garden State craft brewery industry in our Made with Jersey Fresh program. NJDA looks forward to working with brewers who are developing new products with New Jersey agricultural outputs.”
The brewery website describes Cape May Honey Porter with the following: “Here’s a taste of South Jersey, better known for farms than fist pumping. Roasted and dark crystal malts shine through in a smooth and light-bodied porter that is balanced by a hint of sweetness thanks to the local Jersey Fresh honey. Welcome to the Garden State, bro. Apiology is the bee’s knees!”
I’ll pass on the fist pump, but I will give them a good, old-fashioned thumbs up.
Peter Culos is the editor of “Beer Bites,” Jersey Bites’ coverage of breweries, bars and good beer in the Garden State. A graphic designer by day, and a lifelong New Jersey resident, Peter was first introduced to the novel idea that beer could actually have flavor during several visits to the UK. He’s been riding the craft beer bus ever since. It has been called the ultimate social lubricant and Peter’s philosophy on beer is, “I’d rather split my last good beer with a friend than drink the whole thing by myself.” Besides beer he also likes history, dogs, Jeeps and painting. In the past, he has written a History and Art blog for the Weider History Group and occasionally contributes to his own blog, history-geek.com. Life is short. Drink good beer.