Flying Fish Brewing Company - Exit 3: Blueberry Braggot
- ABV: 15%
- Serving Temperature: 52–59° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip or Pinot Glass
We don’t cross paths with an enormous number of braggots, but this one from Flying Fish makes us wish we did. This limited release—Exit 3: Blueberry Braggot—will see only about 60 cases sold outside of the Rare Beer Club allotment. This one threw us for a loop at first, but after we allowed it to warm, and really showcase the complexity that the braggot style’s capable of—well, then we understood. Blueberries aside for the moment, there’s just huge amounts of baklava-like layering to the core honey character here. This one surprised us!
As Flying Fish puts it, “Exit 3 is the gateway to a lot of farmland.” And New Jersey happens to grow a whole bunch of blueberries. In fact!... Blueberries were first formally cultivated in New Jersey, just over a hundred years ago by blueberry researchers Frederick Vernon Coville and Elizabeth Coleman White. And, while New Jersey isn’t the largest blueberry producer in the country by any means (Washington’s #1), they grow quite a few. Hammonton, NJ is the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” in fact, and they’ve celebrated the annual Red, White and Blueberry Festival since the ‘80s. Not surprisingly, it’s off the New Jersey Turnpike’s Exit 3.
We were kind of shocked this kicked up any head at all—much less the slowly departing cap of off-white foam rising above this 15% nectar. This is big and burly, with a nice viscosity to it, but it’s also pleasantly bright and kicks up a nice head—so bonus points. Again, allow this one to warm up a bit. Once you do, those aromatics head in directions of honey and dates, a full range of ripe fruits (apple, pear, even banana-like esters), and properly contrasting notes of white pepper and spices. A subtly warming thread of alcohol contributes some red fruits.
The local blueberries show through more with the first sip, contributing a plump, ripe berry note alongside the wider-ranging elements of spice and honey. It adds a welcome measure of complexity, without necessarily pushing this braggot into full-blown fruit-beer turf. This has been fermented with both a Belgian-style yeast strain and a Champagne strain, and there’s a whole lot of phenolic-etc. complexity packed into that spice component: pepper, cloves, the aforementioned banana esters, yeasty sourdough, fresh-baked bread. It’s the perfect balance beside the layers of honey. Subtle bubbles and that touch of warmth contribute to a feeling of far-greater lightness than we’d expect at 15%, and the amount of complexity in this beer caught us off guard. This one’s special. Let it warm up. Let it surprise you as well.
The brewery suggests opening Blueberry Braggot within about two years of bottling, so feel free to set aside a few bottles in the cellar for at least a bit of time. A touch higher oxidation seems like it should fit in well with how this braggot presents itself fresh, though we’d expect the more subtle blueberry elements to diminish in impact with time. For pairing suggestions, Flying Fish notes this is basically a dessert beer, and would also go nicely with aged cheddar.
When Gene Muller founded Flying Fish in 1995, his approach was a bit unusual. While working to build his brewery, he launched the company online – becoming a “virtual brewery” – to allow microbrew fans to contribute their assistance and opinions by weighing in on upcoming beer styles, naming the beers, designing labels and merchandise, and even signing up to be volunteer taste testers and applying for employment. By late 1996 the brewery was finished and the first beer was released to a waiting fan base. A pretty clever approach if you ask us.
Muller, a graduate of America’s oldest brewing school at Chicago’s famed Siebel Institute, remains at the helm to this day, presiding over more than two decades of impressive growth. In 2012, having outgrown their original location in Cherry Hill, Flying Fish moved to a new facility in Somerdale. Here, they pursue sustainability as a top priority. Solar tubes provide natural light, solar panels provide power, a steam capture system reduces water and power consumption, high-efficiency boilers reduce gas usage, and all spent grain (over 2 million pounds per year) goes to a local dairy farmer for feed.
Winners of ten GABF medals, among many other awards, Flying Fish currently offers six year-round beers along with various seasonal and special offerings, including super small batch one-offs and barrel aged beers that are only available at their Tasting Room. Their Exit Series celebrates the diversity of their home state in a rotating release of beers dedicated to different exits of the New Jersey Turnpike. Some of the Exit Series have gone year-round, while others, like this month’s featured Exit 3, are especially limited. For more info about the brewery, their Tasting Room, tours and more, contact them at 856-504-3442 or visit www.flyingfish.com.
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