Flying Fish. Maybe it's bias. When I was first discovering craft beer in the mid-1990s -- we called it "microbrew" then -- Flying Fish was not only one of the early breweries that caught my attention, they were actually local! A brewery from New Jersey! That was novel at the time, since the only beers being brewed in New Jersey were either Budweiser in Newark and stuff like Rheingold.
Flying Fish, though, they started making great beers and pushing into the local market. Before long they became a staple in my regular beer buying. Their core beers are all solid brews, but the fun stuff is their Exit Series, a series of beers brewed with a New Jersey theme. That might mean local ingredients, it might mean a local theme, or it just might mean a simple twist that makes it Jersey.
The latest in that series is Exit 8, a chestnut brown ale brewed with Belgian yeast, with Jersey chestnuts and honey. and other than their Exit 4 (one of the best American trippels on the market), it just might be their best beer.
Pour this sucker and a nutty, chestnut-laden aroma hits your nose, though it’s not the
roasted chestnut I expected. The Belgian yeast gives it a muddy, herbal quality that spins the chestnuts you expect into new territory. Give it a taste and you'll find that the honey is a pleasant note in the background, right at the
finish. It’s the nutty flavor that dominates. Quite tasty, probably IDEAL for a winter/holiday release rather than the spring release this beer got.
This beer tastes great, though I wonder how this beer would be without the Belgian
yeast. The character of the yeast gets in the way of the interesting
stuff going on with the chestnut and honey, which leaves me wondering if an English strain wouldn't let the beer shine through more.
That said, how can I complain when the beer is so good, especially since the FF people know what the hell they're doing and I'm just a dude with a blog? This is a great brew that competes not only with the best of the Exit Series, but also with the best New Jersey has to offer. It came out earlier in 2012 and was released in limited quantities, so grab it if you see it.