Remember to celebrate a day our government got it right with a cold one. Cheers!
This month’s Session coincides perfectly with a lot of local happenings in South Jersey. The topic is local beer and our host is Hoosier Beer Geek. Matt poses the question: What does it really mean to be a local beer and how is it better? For my contribution I want to focus on my local brewery, Flying Fish.
The “local” moniker is used very loosely to describe craft beer. Isn’t every craft beer local to some geographic location? In most cases local doesn’t indicate much about ingredients: Grain, hops and yeast are shipped thousands of miles for use in “local” craft breweries. Water is sometimes treated to change the profile so certain styles can be brewed. This separates the finished beer from any local identity it may have. So is the term just a marketing ploy by these brewers to encourage consumers to buy fresh? I’d like to believe the answer is no.
Flying Fish has always embraced its New Jersey identity. You’ll find images of the state and sayings like, “Proudly brewed in New Jersey… you got a problem with that?” on their pint glasses and t-shirts. But they don’t stop here. The brewery has found a way to successfully highlight the local flavor of the Garden State with their Exit Series. Here’s a description taken from the website:
The Exit Series of beers is a multi-year brewing experiment to brew a series of beers as diverse as the great state of New Jersey. These big beers–in size as well as flavor–will celebrate each exit of the state-long artery that connects us. Each beer will focus on a unique aspect of an individual exit.
For those who have never had the pleasure, the NJ Turnpike is the main artery of the state and, in some cases, can cause some severe road rage. You wouldn’t think this portion of I-95 would work to showcase local ingredients, but somehow it does. Last night was the release of Exit 8: A Belgian-style brown ale brewed with chestnuts and honey which can be found right off the Turnpike in East Windsor Township. This offering, much like the others previously released, is a very well made beer any resident of the state should be proud of. The nuttiness of the chestnuts comes through nicely and compliments the breadiness of the Belgian yeast.
In addition to the Exit Series, Flying Fish stays true to it’s “local” distinction in other ways. Distribution is kept within a 100 mile radius of the brewery so it’s always fresh. Their beers can be found at local sporting events, including Citizen’s Bank Park and Campbell’s field. Owner Gene Muller is a big advocate to change the current state law that will encourage growth for the NJ beer industry. This company doesn’t just preach local… they back it up too. As we speak Flying Fish is moving from their original home in Cherry Hill to a bigger facility in Somerdale. Will this move change their local identity? Fuggedaboutit!
This is my first time participating in The Session. For those who aren’t familiar here’s how it works: On the first Friday of every month beer bloggers from far and wide post about one specific topic determined by the host. The host then collects links to all the posts and provides a rundown of what everyone wrote on their site. This month the Washington Beer Blog plays host to a session all about growlers.
The benefit of growlers for the home brewer is obvious. Bottling sucks and pouring off a half gallon for any occasion from your kegerator is a breeze. I’m sure my collection of growlers will grow very quickly once I’m finally kegging. Commercial breweries, liquor stores and pubs are also starting to utilize this means of distribution in my neck of the woods. I think growlers present a great opportunity for some creative marketing and distribution.
Joe Canal’s Liquor in West Deptford is one local example of growlers being used effectively. Notice how many of the reviews found online make mention of their growler filling station. It’s no surprise because the store has put forth the effort it takes to make the investment worthwhile. First, they do a great job of updating their tap list on beermenus.com. Next, they run ads in the freely distributed Philly Beer Scene (pictured above). The coupon for a free growler is a perfect incentive to get new customers in the door. Finally, and most importantly, they offer quality beers! Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen, Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel, and Flying Dog Gonzo Porter are just a few currently on draft. “Tap Takeovers” allow Canal’s to host a brewery and showcase some of their beers. This may be commonplace in other parts of the country, but in the Philadelphia area the concept is just starting to gain momentum and I like it.
I think the biggest beneficiaries of growlers are smaller breweries just starting operation. They’re a great POS purchase for visitors of your brewery and make nice keepsakes. Any brewery trying to establish themselves can get their name out there quick and encourage repeat purchases. In my eyes: The more creative, the bigger payoff. Outside the walls of the brewery there’s potential too. Ultimately, I believe if retail liquor stores embrace growler fill stations like Canal’s has done it would present another channel of distribution for these up and coming breweries. This may not be the deciding factor in success and failure for the brewery, but I’m sure every sale helps. Most beer lover’s would agree that anything to help these breweries get to market and stay will benefit all craft beer.