I grew up in Voorhees, NJ, in the southern part of the state right outside of Philadelphia. Flying Fish Brewing Company grew up similarly in the larger town next to Voorhees called Cherry Hill. Over the years, it has become the largest craft brewery in the state.
Flying Fish is all about the idea of buying your beer locally. That's why they don't extend their distribution further than they have; it's restricted to NJ itself, PA, MD and DE. They take pride in brewing from NJ and reflect that in their beer. Their most recent brewing experiment is called The Exit Series.
Now everyone is familiar with the old response to someone saying their from NJ: What exit? Flying Fish decided to pay tribute to the exits of the good old NJ Turnpike with their Exit Series, brewing a different beer for each exit. It started with Exit 4, the exit that you would take to get to Flying Fish Brewery (and my old house and the homes of my two brothers!) They just finished the second in the series, Exit 11, which connects you to the Garden State Parkway, a roadway that many take to the Jersey shore, since we're in summer now.
There never was an inclination in the least bit when I heard about this project that it would cause a problem. The only response that I had was excitement, especially over Exit 4 since I've taken the exit many many times. In the past couple days, however, the NJ Turnpike Authority and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have made some complaints.
The exit series is not endorsed by the NJ Turnpike Authority (obviously), so that was their response to them. They even added a disclaimer at the bottom of their website. It looks like the bigger problem is with MADD. Mindy Lazar, executive director of NJ's chapter of MADD said "The combination of a roadway and advertising for any kind of beer doesn't make any sense. This is almost a mockery."
I find these complaints to be mockery. This Lazar character obviously does not understand the significance of the many highway exits that exist in NJ and that Flying Fish is honoring the state and the residents that live off of each exit by brewing this series. Two beers into the project, they're accepting suggestions for the types of beer that they should brew for each of the rest of the exits, most of which are being made by NJ residents who live off of those exits.
Let's look at Mindy Lazar's statement: "combination of a roadway and advertising for any kind of beer..." Hmmm...roadway advertising...Aren't there thousands of billboards advertising Budweiser, Miller and Coors throughout the entire country? It's not like Flying Fish is putting a billboard on the highway. It's not like they are in any way advocating drinking and driving. As I said before, this connection never even crossed my mind before reading about this news.
I just read an update on this story and it sounds like Mindy Lazar is somewhat content with the president of Flying Fish Brewing Co., Gene Muller's response to the situation, that they in no way advocate drinking and driving. Couldn't MADD have just called Flying Fish directly to avoid a media storm? Hopefully none of this deters Flying Fish from continuing their commemorative, creative project.
If you live in the NJ area, have never been to, and are interested in seeing how they brew their magic, Flying Fish holds free tours/tastings (almost) every Saturday. Check them out today between 1-4. I was aging a bottle of Exit 4 (though I've already tasted it thanks to my brother), but I think I may celebrate this craft brewery by opening it tonight. And no...I won't be driving.