Saturday, March 12, 2011


Water water every- where...I need a beer to drink.

Two rain storms a few days apart and large amounts of melting snow have contributed to rivers overflowing their banks and road closures all around our area. Making it to Wayne to pick up The Control for our trip down to Flying Fish became quite an adventure. It was not lost on me that we just happened to schedule a trip to a brewery named after a type of fish. After winding our way through all the blockades, collecting The Control and then avoiding all the out-of-state drivers clogging up the left lane on both the GSP and the Turnpike, we arrived at the brewery only five minutes after we had planned and just in time for the first tour of the day.

The Geisha enters
THE BUILDING is very unassuming, as is the case with most microbreweries. It is in an office complex that also includes the Garden State Discovery Museum, a great place to take kids. If only you were allowed to leave them there and go visit the brewery which is just one building behind it. The Flying Fish logo over the door and the Flying Fish neon sign (unlit at the time) in the window tell you that you're in the right place. Walk through the door and you're in a lobby attached to what appears to be a break room for the staff. Through another door and you're in the gift shop. 

THE GIFT SHOP has quite an assortment of logoed items: glassware, shirts of all kinds, gift packs, tap pulls, shoulder bags made from used grain bags and fishing lures. Yes, I said fishing lures. It's a fishing lure constructed with the usual parts and a Flying Fish bottle cap...each individual so you get to choose. Speaking of bottle caps, they even sell earrings made from flattened bottle caps. There is quite a selection of glassware and shirts, some cooler than others and even some on sale. Their bargain rack for shirts was full of tie-dyed short-sleeved t-shirts and they had a few of the pint glasses on sale. Read their item list on the counter though as some of the items have limits. In accordance with the ill-guided state laws, you can purchase two 6-packs, 3 bombers or 3 gift packs...anything that doesn't exceed 144 ounces I guess. There's a public bathroom in the gift shop, which is greatly welcome after nearly a two-hour drive.

THE TASTING BAR is part of the gift shop. They have two taps and on this day they offered Hopfish and Extra Pale Ale. There's a chalkboard to tell you what they have, but it's on the wall right behind the taps and it's easy enough to just read the tap handles so I don't see the point. The samples, poured in little, plastic cups, are free. They also poured from a couple of open bottles (Exit 4 and Abbey Dubel) but they did not have an open bottle of their most recent Exit Series beer, which was Exit 9 Hoppy Scarlet Ale. But you could purchase it for $11 a bomber. Opposite the tasting bar was a showcase that was filled with breweriana. There were labels, cans and bottles from now-defunct breweries from that area, like Old Bohemia and Lord Camden. Pretty cool stuff! 

The Office Girl raising the roof
THE TOUR left from the gift shop and was loudly don't be afraid that you'll miss it. Our tour guide was the self-stlyed Office Girl. The other person there was the Lab Guy, as the Office Girl called him. She did tell us that everyone takes turns doing the tour, including the owners. The door just to the right of the counter is the door into the brewery. If you've been on tours of other microbreweries you won't be surprised at how small it is, but it was mentioned that they are looking for larger facilities. A mash tun, brew kettle, whirlpool, fourteen fermenters and a brite tank up front with the bottling and labeling machines behind those and then the place where they store the kegs and case boxes by the one dock door. The Office Girl seemed very knowledgeable of the whole process and even related the brewery and brewpub laws in New Jersey. I've been on tours with more entertaining guides, but also on tours with wet rags as guides. She managed to get some audience participation and executed her duties admirably.
Exit 9 Hoppy Scarlet Ale
THE BEER that Flying Fish produces comes in three categories: their year-round, their seasonals and their limited edition Exit Series. Their Exit Series is named for various exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. They'll run out of exits soon and may need to transfer to the Garden State Parkway, which is the road from the "You're from New Jersey? Which Exit?" fame. I first tried Flying Fish a little over a year ago and my first impression was not favorable. I had their Farmhouse Summer Ale and was surprised that they considered it a saison. Since then I have found that it is the Exit Series that I prefer from this brewery. This tends to be the case with many breweries: their seasonal or one-off series tend to be crafted with more detail and care than their year-round brews. Either that, or the year-round brews are your standard styles and the special series beers are leaps of faith into styles the brewer finds interesting or a recipe that thumbs its nose at the style guide.