NJ Craft Beer Industry Thriving

By Candace Kelley

This building was once a Motown Records pressing plant, but it’s now setting records in the craft beer industry.

“It’s probably the best time in 100 years for beers in New Jersey,” said Gene Muller, president of Flying Fish Brewing.

There are over two dozen brewing companies in New Jersey. According to a Nielsen study, craft beer and microbrews represent about 11 percent of the beer market, with a growth of 17 percent in the past year. That’s something the industry is toasting.

“Craft beer is an affordable luxury, a dollar bottle, and you get to enjoy a local hand crafted product,” Muller said.

I’m told the brewing is easy but the fermenting takes a long time but it seals the taste.

“We have some beers that will ferment and condition and need about 12 days. Other beers take longer. For us it’s about 22 days,” said Flying Fish Brewing Company Lead Brewer Chris Hamm.

And when the employees at Flying Fish Brewing wanted to help out with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, they say they did what they knew best — they made beer.

“Last year we came out with Forever One Love Sandy and donated the bulk of the proceeds — $75,000 — to Habitat for Humanity, partnerships for the Delaware Estuary,” Muller said.

The company says that they are all about New Jersey and when it comes to naming their brews, they’ve gotten pretty creative.

“We did a series of beers called the exit series so we take different exits of the Turnpike and try to use ingredients endemic to that exit. Exit 1 we did an Oyster Stout using Delaware oysters,” Muller explained.

Oysters in beer. Some loved it — others not so much. The key to this brewing New Jersey industry is keeping up with the exotic tastes of the customers and coming up with recipes that work.

And there’s a secret this head brewer shared.

“Hops are the spice of beer. Hops go into every one of our beers. So, even if people think that they don’t like hops, if you didn’t have hops in a beer it would taste sweet and unpalatable,” Hamm explained.

And the latest craze on tap — India pale ales knows as IPAs. Beer that has more hops to it — a taste that’s slightly more bitter.

“You get a piney character, citrusy character, tropical notes,” Muller said.

And a high note for New Jersey beer crafters, who are keeping beer enthusiasts lining up for more.