We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.
#21 ESB Amber Ale: Flying Fish Brewing Co., Cherry Hill, New Jersey
State: This stretch of land has given the country Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, yours truly, Danny DeVito, Bill Parcells, and John Travolta, among many, many others. Yet most people don’t know anything about the Garden State outside of the Sopranos, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey, political corruption and countless jokes from New Yorkers. It may look like shit from across the Hudson, but there’s no denying that Jersey has played an integral throughout the entire history of this country. Also, most of those Jersey Shore guidos are from Staten Island.
Brewery: In 1995, Gene Muller created the world’s first “virtual microbrewery.” A website that allowed users to name their beer and create merchandise. Eventually investors jumped on board to turn it into a real brewery. Flying Fish Brewing Company has gone on to win several regional awards and just opened a new, larger brewery this year. The website, however, looks like it’s still stuck in 1995.
Beer: Named “ESB Amber Ale,” this English-style bitter is the lightest amber I’ve ever seen. This beer was actually discontinued since our taste-off.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. Flying Fish doesn’t directly distribute far outside of the Jersey area, but you can find it at all Total Wine & More locations, including California. They cannot ship directly to Oregon but they have locations in Sac-town and LA.
PHOTO: Cameron Browne
Much like Jersey itself, Flying Fish’s ESB Amber Ale shouldn’t be judged on first impressions. It’s a pretty standard-looking beer. It smells horrible. It’s got a dull, uninspired malty nose. But just when you’re about to make up your mind about this beer, it shifts into a pleasant bitter finish. It’s still not enough to completely overcome the first impression, but it is enough to change mine from “bad” to “ungood.”
Despite being the 11th most populous state in the country, Jersey lags behind its neighbors and much of the country in beer production. Two dozen breweries isn’t an embarrassing amount for a state but it could be so much greater. Legislation is waiting to be signed by Governor Chris Christie right now—it passed both branches of the state legislature 39-0 and 64-13—to change this situation.
The proposed changes are manifold. Breweries will be open to own more than two brewpubs. Small brewers wouldn’t be forced to sell through a distributor, similar to Colorado’s system that allows these brewers to develop business relationships with liquor stores. The final change would allow people to a full keg at a brewery instead of being limited to 2 6-packs or growler fills.
In other words, there will be more pubs, you’ll be able to find small brewery beer at more locations, and, if you still want to go to a small brewery, you can now purchase enough beer to justify the trip.
The bill has yet to be signed but Governor Christie has already shown support for brewing this year by dumping homebrewing regulations in January.
Much like the Boss himself, Jersey is getting itself into the craft beer industry.
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