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New Jersey beer review: Flying Fish, River Horse Brewing

For the longest time, New Jersey was operating under extremely restrictive beer laws (shakes fists at Puritans). Recently, many have been repealed and the state is starting to produce some kickass beers.

Nicholas Guarracino

Happy Halloween, y'all. I hope you have your sexy Melvin Gordon costume all ready to go for tonight (it's just you in full jersey, pads and helmet juking people out of their costumes on State Street). While I know many of you won't be leaving Madison this weekend to follow the Badgers all the way to New Jersey, I know there are many East Coast alumni who will be making the trek to Piscataway and they need beer suggestions, dammit!

New Jersey has long been a state bereft of quality craft breweries due to myriad reasons, as noted in this column from two Julys ago, but suffice to say the liquor laws in New Jersey are whack. I say this as a native of Pennsylvania, where you can only buy booze on six of the seven days of the week.

Now, not many New Jersey breweries distribute to Wisconsin. In fact, it is so "not many" that it is zero. I seem to remember that Flying Fish Brewing did at one point, lest my memory is hazy from all the beer, but no longer! Either way, Flying Fish, out of Somerdale is an excellent brewery and should be the first one you seek out once you cross the border from where you're staying in New York. You are staying in New York if you're going to this game, right? Yo, don't be in New Jersey after dark because it gets ... you know.

Flying Fish Exit Series_bizzlenj-Flickr

Photo: bizzlenj-Flickr

Flying Fish has a wonderful collection of beers called "The Exit Series." People in New Jersey will tell you where they live by telling you which exit you take to get off the highway. After that, you're on your own, but at least you'll be in the right area. Flying Fish started making beers that were representative of the exit they were named after and people loved them. Exit 4: Mount Laurel Township, which happens to be the exit the brewery is off of, kicked off The Exit Series and is still in production today (many of the beers are one-offs). It is an American Trippel (while this is a Belgian style of beer, they call it American due to the American hops used to finish it) that clocks in at whopping 10.2 percent ABV. Like many beers of this style, there are hints of banana and clove, but it finishes with a slight hoppiness due to the aforementioned American hops. It is an outstanding beer, and one I've enjoyed many times while visiting home.

A brewery I discovered two Thanksgivings ago while I was back in the Philadelphia suburbs is River Horse Brewing Company from Ewing. I think it's time I told you guys something about myself: I have a life-long dream of feeding a hippopotamus. I just want to huck an entire melon into a hippo's gaping maw and watch him go to town on it. So when I was at the beer distributor (yes, in Pennsylvania, you can't buy beer and liquor at the same place and you also can't buy beer in six-packs at most plac...sorry, I'm getting side-tracked. Just know PA beer laws are arcane and dumb.) and saw a variety pack with a hippo on it and jumped at the chance to buy it. I'm a simple man and marketing works well on me.

I was pleasantly surprised when the beer inside the variety pack matched the awesomeness of the logo on it. My favorite was River Horse Hop Hazard, their American Pale Ale. It is a reasonable 6.5 percent ABV and is moderately hopped so as not to ruin your palate. It is the ideal beer to bring to your tailgate. It should be noted that River Horse also brews a Tripel (Tripel Horse), which would make an ideal challenger to Exit 4 from Flying Fish if you wanted to do a New Jersey Belgian beer rumble.

Enjoy your weekend of costumed drinking, gang, and as always, don't do anything I wouldn't do. That's a long list.