Beer Here! HMHS Alum Brews Craft Beer
Hoist a pint of local brew to Chris Henke, Class of 2001, who switched from a career in engineering to one in the kitchen, crafting small batches of beer in Cape May County.
A decade after his graduation from Haddonfield Memorial High School, Chris Henke, Class of 2001, opted to pursue an unexpectedly refreshing career path.
Chris, along with two business partners, brews craft beer, local beer lovingly made in small batches. The business is Cape May Brewery (capemaybrewery.com). Henke said the trio is having fun and loves meeting thirsty beer fans at the brewery Saturday afternoons.
Cape May may not be Munich, or even Manayunk, but craft beer is making inroads in the region with folks who know their hops, malt and yeast and have long since graduated from the mass-produced beers.
Now 28, Henke met Ryan Krill back at Villanova. Henke and Krill and Ryan's dad, Bob, joined forces last year and a new brewery was born. Henke, who studied mechanical engineering in college, built much of the equipment for the brewery, located in a small space in an industrial park near the Cape May County Airport.
Henke lives in Philadelphia but spends serious time in Avalon, where Bob Krill has a house. Ryan Krill’s day job is in New York, but he commutes weekends to South Jersey.
We visited the brewery this summer and sampled several tasty beers. Recently, we exchanged question-and-answer emails with Henke about beer and the small brewery creating that beer.
Here is an edited, condensed version of the back-and-forth.
Haddonfield Patch: How did you get involved in this business?
Henke: A few years after graduating, I was renting a house with a friend from Villanova and he gifted me with a home brew kit. Within a couple of years, Ryan started home brewing with me. During the summers, we home brewed in the backyard of Bob's Avalon house. At first, Bob thought we were crazy, but after tasting the beer he was hooked. During the weekend of July 4, 2010, we were brewing in Avalon and Ryan asked me if I wanted to start a brewery with him. I took him half-seriously and said yes.
Patch: Why Cape May County?
Henke: It was the perfect fit for us. Even before the brewery, we would spend a lot of time down here. It is painfully obvious to anyone that lives or spends time in Southern New Jersey that there is a lack of local breweries. We decided we could take a step toward filling that void.
Patch: You brew IPA, stout and a wheat beer?
Henke: We are also brewing a honey porter brewed with locally sourced honey. Our small size (producing about 93 gallons a week) allows us to experiment. For Thanksgiving, we brewed a cranberry wheat beer that we will offer at the brewery in a few weeks.
Patch: Why is craft beer so popular now?
Henke: Because craft beer tastes great and we (the consumers) want the variety that only craft brewing offers. Craft brewing also brings the brewery closer to home and nothing tastes better than a fresh, local beer.
Patch: You are allowed to sell two 64-ounce Growlers to customers and they can sip four 4-ounce samples and get a souvenir pint glass for $11 on Saturday afternoons, but you currently only sell to one restaurant in Cape May, Cabanas. Why is that?
Henke: We will soon be expanding to a couple more accounts in Cape May, but our plan has been to grow slowly. We don't want to over-promise and under-deliver.
Patch: What are your goals with the brewery?
Henke: Just to continue having fun and supply the community with fresh, local beer. So far, the three of us are having a great time working with each other, and we love meeting all of the craft beer lovers that come in on Saturday. The satisfaction has been sharing our creations with people who appreciate the craft.