There's nothing inspirational about the clogged stretch of highway known as the New Jersey Turnpike. But don't tell that to the Jersey natives at the Flying Fish Brewing Co. They've just embarked on a symbolic road trip to brew a unique beer for every exit on the turnpike.
Brewery founder Gene Muller says he was tired of going to beer conferences and having everyone make the same joke when they found out he was from Jersey: What exit are you from?
His response came in alcoholic form. Exit 4 is the location of the brewery and the first beer in the company's exit series. The exit itself is a trash-strewn stretch of pavement populated with chain restaurants and cheap motels. Exit 4, the beer, is an American-style Belgian trippel with notes of banana and cloves and a nice bitter finish. Just like the turnpike itself.
It's a good gimmick, but Flying Fish has vowed to come up with a different brew for each exit. It's not easy.
"At first, we were going to have the alcohol level match the exit," Muller says. "But Exit 1, 2 and 3 people really wouldn't be interested in. And Exit 17 and 18, you'd probably start to get in trouble."
Instead, Muller is going with high concept. Right now, the brewery is working on Exit 11. That's the spot where the New Jersey Turnpike intersects the Garden State Parkway. If you've ever traveled to the Jersey Shore, Exit 11 is one of those places you get marooned behind all that crawling beach traffic. So Flying Fish is working on a summery wheat beer.
But that leaves 16 more exits. The brewery has opened up its Web site to suggestions from New Jersey residents. One drinker recommended a Christmas beer for Exit 5, gateway to Mt. Holly. Another demanded a light beer for Exit 10, Edison. Get it? Edison? Light bulb?
Muller just rolls his eyes. No microbrewmaster wants to put his name on a light beer. But how about a stout? Muller is thinking that the deep, dark brew could be symbolic of one of those smelly, oil refinery exits up around New York.
Muller estimates that it will take about four years to complete the exit beer series. But if you've ever driven the New Jersey Turnpike, you know it always takes longer than you've planned.