Jimmy Valm

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I am director of brewing operations at Cape May Brewery in Cape May, N.J. Before that I was the production manager at Brooklyn Brewery, and prior to that I was a brewing shift manager for Heineken UK. I started off like so many others, as a homebrewer in Seattle. After a few years of that, I knew it was what I wanted to do as a career. But instead of going to breweries and seeing what was available, I enrolled at the International Centre for Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland for my bachelor’s degree.

What’s new at Cape May?

We have started releasing a range of barrel-aged sour ales. We’re looking to release one every three to four months. We are also playing with not-so-common barrels like cognac, mead, Scotch whisky, and mezcal for unique beers. We are also very keen to show off what New Jersey has to offer in terms of agriculture, so we’ve done a few beers with certified Jersey Fresh ingredients and are now working on our first beer brewed with 100 percent New Jersey ingredients’even the yeast!

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

The people; everyone is so excited to be working with a product they love and helping each other to make the best beer possible. Everyone is passionate about what we all do and working hard to increase the profile of the entire industry. I think there’s a great back-and-forth in this industry where people are inspired by their colleagues and neighbors to improve their art.

Name a favorite food and beer pairing.

A golden sour ale and a rare peppercorn steak. The acidity of the sour ale helps cut through the savory steak, and the tartness helps to open one’s taste buds to the steak as well. For a non-food pairing, I love a good cigar with an imperial stout. The heavy body and roasted malts go so well with the smoke and tobacco.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

Before I enrolled at Heriot-Watt, I had already been kicked out of college once and didn’t really have much direction. It was my fianc e who inspired me to go back to school for something I was passionate about, and being able to go from that life to graduating with honors was a great accomplishment for me.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. It’s the perfect balance between malt and hops and it fits perfectly with the cold winter months. Also Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, and Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

I went to a family reunion on the island of Saaremaa off the coast of Estonia, and little did I know that everyone on Saaremaa homebrews! Saaremaa has a long brewing tradition that is infused with the local culture since it is slightly removed from the rest of Estonia; they use a local grain mix called kama, juniper berries, and locally cultivated yeast that is passed on from neighbor to neighbor and generation to generation. They also drink much of their beer out of tankards made from juniper wood, so the beers are often designed to complement the wood flavor that they will be consumed with, along with the local fare, which consists of a lot of smoked fish, pork, and very garlicky bread.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

In my free time, I try to catch as much surf as I can, so the south Jersey coast is perfect for me. You can find me out in the water at dawn any time there’s a decent swell. It’s a great way to start the day.

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