We ended up sleeping in our van again as soon as we crossed into the state of New Jersey coming from Delaware, then visited with the brewing staff at Flying Fish Brewing Company in Somerdale, NJ on the afternoon of Friday, 3/28/2014. As we walked around with the brewery manager, Barry Holsten, we found out that Flying Fish is the most sustainable brewery in the Philadelphia Region. They built into energy saving features in all areas when they moved into their current facility, including: converting to high-pressure steam for sanitizing instead of chemicals, using ‘solar tunnels’ that allow sunlight to light the warehouse to augment energy efficient lighting, have 470 solar panels on the roof, use recycled cardboard with low levels of one color of ink to package, and do not distribute nationally so that fossil fuels are not burned.
Owner Gene Muller started the business as the world’s first “virtual brewery” online in the mid 90’s. At the time, major media like the Philadelphia Inquirer did not have internet access, so a reporter went to Gene’s house where he showed the reporter the website for Flying Fish on his Mac laptop. They started brewing in September of 1996 but didn’t move into the current 46,000 sq ft facility until October 2011. It took a while to get the new place up and running, though, so they didn’t actually start producing beer there until September 2012; Berry Gordy used to press Motown records in the building they use now.
Flying Fish utilizes a 50bbl fully automated brewhouse, four 60 bbl & eleven 150bbl fermenters, and three 150bbl brite tanks. By usually brewing three times a day, they are able to maintain a line-up of seven year-rounds and 4-5 seasonals, including NJ350 Anniversary Ale – a beer they made for the 350th anniversary of the state of New Jersey. NJ350 has Marris Otter malt, Molasses (since it was common in colonial times), three and a half additions of Centennial hops (to represent 350 years), and is dry hopped with Simcoe (to represent new hops used) and Cluster (which is the oldest known cultivar hop used for production in America). Some of the anniversary beer was being put into 750ml bottles the day we visited while the rest of it is aging in Breckenridge bourbon barrels.
Sustainability, cleanliness, and making great beer are their three philosophies and they use the tagline “Proudly brewed in New Jersey. You got a problem with that?” Once people in the area find out that someone lives in New Jersey, they usually ask “What exit?” so Flying Fish has a line of beers known as the Exit series. Some of the beers you will find in that series include Exit 4 American Tripel and Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA, both of which are year-round; Exit 1 is an oyster stout that is seasonal to the winter. Some of the Exit beers are found in 750ml bottles while others are in 12oz and they are planning to make two new ones this year – a list of the rest of their beers can be found here. Their production was just under 20,000 bbl this past year and they made about 14,000 bbl the year before, making them the largest brewery in NJ. Flying Fish is predicting somewhere around 20% growth this year.
After Hurricane Sandy, the brewery created a special beer – Forever Unloved Sandy , otherwise known as FU Sandy – and raised $75,000 which was donated to Habitat for Humanity and organizations to help build natural reefs along the shore. They continue to ask themselves “how can we be more responsible?” and are even looking to use ozone in the brewery with water to use it as sanitizer which will then reduce itself back to oxygen gas when it’s done, which will reduce their chemical footprint. Every Wednesday they try to bring out barrel aged brews in the taproom and are looking to do a project with tequila barrels in the near future. Their beer is distributed to wholesalers within a 100 mile radius of the brewery, so it can be found in NJ, DE, eastern PA, and the Baltimore/ DC metro. However, if you live in a state with Total Wines and More (VA, NC, SC, FL, NV, AZ, NM, CA), they have an exclusive distribution agreement. We were also told they are working on a collaboration brew at Victory – Brotherly Suds – with many other local breweries for Philly Beer Week in June, so don’t miss that one when it gets released! Huge thanks goes out to Barry for spending time with us and showing us what makes Flying Fish unique.
Author: Michael Roberts