Flying Fish Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale

April 13, 2012

Is this the best Brown Ale I have ever had? Yep, this is the best Brown Ale I have ever had. I know that sounds like I am damning with faint praise, as I am not a huge fan of Brown Ales, so let me go a little further: This is one of the best beers of 2012. Granted the year is young, but if I have many beers better than this one, it will be one hell of a year for beer.

Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale and Elk Steaks

Flying Fish is not available here in Texas, and it is one of the many things I miss about living in New Jersey (along with good pizza, WFMU, and the New Jersey Turnpike, the golden roadway of the East). I was lucky enough to secure a bottle of the recently released Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale in a trade with MZ, and all I can say is

HALLELUJAH!

HALLELUJAH!

HALLELUJAH!

This beer is really that damn good. Brewed with chestnuts and honey harvested in New Jersey, both of which are prominent in the aroma and the flavor, and which are balanced by the addition of Chinook hops and some nice warmth from the 8.3% ABV. I paired this with some elk steaks (one of the great things about living in Texas is that I have neighbors who hunt Elk, Moose, Bear, Wild Boar, Deer, etc. and they are quite happy to share their bounty with me) and it was an outstanding match. The Flying Fish Exit Series has been excellent from the get go, and this is a worthy addition to the roster, 9/10.

MZ also included a couple of bottles of the Exit 4 which I reviewed a few years ago. Not much to add to that review, just another outstanding beer from New Jersey’s finest brewery.


Flying Fish Exit 6 Wallonian Rye

July 10, 2010

I cracked open the Exit 6 Wallonian Rye Belgian Style Ale (named after the first Dutch* settlers in New Jersey), and it is another winner from New Jersey’s very own Flying Fish, and another in their Exit Series honoring the Golden Roadway of the East, The New Jersey Turnpike.  Using locally grown rye in the malts, the ale is hopped with East Kent Goldings, Slovenian Goldings and Japanese Sorachi Ace Hops.  The rye is prominent on your first sip, and the citrusy hops kick in subtly in the aftertaste.  This was the first beer I split with JPE and the V-Man last night (more reviews to come) and it started the night off in a grand fashion, 8/10. If Flying Fish keeps this up, they will soon be on the list of premier American craft brewers, if they are not already there.

*Go Netherlands!


Boak’s Double BW Belgian Wheat with Lemongrass

May 17, 2010

I will not claim that New Jersey is a hotbed of craft brewing.  It is certainly not like Oregon or Colorado, where every podunk town has a brewpub turning out quality brews, and every convenience store has a selection which brings tears of joy to my eyes.  However, whatever my home state lacks in quantity, it makes up for it in quality.  River Horse brews several excellent beers, and Flying Fish is doing it’s damnedest to be considered one of the elite brewers in the country.

Boaks Brewing, located in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, brews a few beers in small batches, and they distribute seems to be limited to Northern New Jersey throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, with plans to expand to Central Pennsylvania and Maryland.  I tried their “Double BW”* Belgian Wheat recently.  It poured a very cloudy and very pale orange, with a frothy head that quickly dissipated.  It was peppery and lemony and refreshingly tart after the long bike ride I had gone on.  Definitely an unusual beer, and while it was not cheap, but pair it up with some spicy Asian food, and it would be fantastic, 7/10.

*Per an email from Brian, the man behind Boak’s, the “Double BW” stands for “Brian’s Belgian Wild Wheat.”  Two Bs, Two Ws.  This beer clocks in at 4.2% ABV so it is not a ‘Double’ in the sense that the term is often used.


Titus Andronicus

May 7, 2010

Reasons that Titus Andronicus rock:

1.  They are from New Jersey.  That right there makes them something special.

2.  Their lyrics (“You never been no virgin, kid/You were fucked from the start”) have the right mix of humor and pathos.  It is worth the time to listen closely and decipher them.

3.  Titus Andronicus may be the most completely over the top band I have ever listened to, and also the most serious.

4.  Their last album, The Airing of Grievances, is excellent, and worth seeking out.

5.  Their new album, The Monitor, is a concept album about the U.S. Civil War, the first battle between ironclad ships (the Merrimac and the Monitor), and also the existential dread of living in suburban New Jersey in the 21st Century.  That combination should be a complete disaster, but TA pull it off.  The Monitor is without question the best album of 2010, and might be the best album since Kids in Philly by Marah.

6.  I have not seen them live yet, but every review says they are scorching in concert.

7.  They sound like Bruce Springsteen fronting the Ramones or Levon Helm backed by the Wooden Shjips, but those comparisons do not really do them justice.  They have songs that are ten minute punk rock riffs that never get boring, they quote speeches by Abraham Lincoln in between tracks, with their high school history teacher reading the speeches on the recordings, and they can drone on with the best of the post-rock bands and at the same time rip the most searing guitar hero rock god solos you can imagine.

8.  I love this band.


Flying Fish Exit 4 American Trippel

May 7, 2010

Back for another round with my Jersey guys, Flying Fish.  The Exit 4 American Trippel is the first of the Turnpike Exit Series to be sold in six packs, which makes some sense as the Exit 4 probably has the widest appeal to the masses, although I could see the Exit 16 having a similar commercial appeal to the general public.  This pours a hazy golden orange, with lots of fruity malts in the aroma and a creamy thick head.  Lots of yeast in the flavor, along with some fruity sweetness (banana and pear) and the hops bitterness is in the background, along with a hint of clovelike spiciness.  This drinks very easily, and at 9.7% ABV, that can be dangerous.  The Exit 4 American Trippel gets a 7.5/10, and if Flying Fish keeps this up, they will soon be part of the list of the elite American brewers, if they are not there already.


Roadside Graves interview and “Liv Tyler” video

April 29, 2010

Check out this Roadside Graves interview from SXSW. The interviewee is John Norris, formerly of MTV.  The clip includes the video for ‘Liv Tyler’ from the new Roadside Graves record.


More Music in Jersey City

April 20, 2010

Short clip of a saxophone player on Grove Street, on Monday morning shortly after 9:30 a.m.


River Horse Hop-A-Lot-Amus

April 15, 2010

Cool Stuff about New Jersey:

*R. Stevie Moore, the greatest rock star since Elvis retired and took that job in the 7-11 in Reno, lives in a basement in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

*The greatest television talk show and variety show host of all time, the great Uncle Floyd, is a New Jersey native, and still makes his home here.

*New Jersey is the only state in the USA that has an indigenous elephant population.

*The World’s Largest Waterfall is located in Paterson, New Jersey.

*The Bayonne Bridge: Not just the longest bridge on record, it is the largest man-made structure ever, with the Great Wall of China a distant second, and the Canals of Mars a distant third.

*The first paved road constructed after the fall of the Roman Empire was the New Jersey Turnpike, specifically the Holland Tunnel Spur.

*The Loch Ness Monster is an overgrown salamander, and Sasquatch is a candy ass.  Everyone knows that the coolest cryptozoological creature is the Jersey Devil.

*The only brewery mentioned by name in the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Gettysburg Address is New Jersey’s own River Horse Brewing Company.

The Brewer’s Reserve Hop-A-Lot-Amus is River Horse’s stab at an Imperial IPA.  It is unfiltered so it is a nice cloudy pour, dark amber in color, with a magnificent foamy head.  The hops are up front in the nose and the taste, balanced by some caramel notes from the malts.  It clocks in at 8.5% ABV, but the alcohol was hardly noticeable.  This is a nice beer, not the best example of an Imperial IPA, but very drinkable.  I am giving my Jersey Homies a 7/10 on this one.


The Bars of My Life: Neal’s Three J’s Lounge, Orange, New Jersey

April 13, 2010

I did not discover Neal’s Three J’s Lounge.***  JK and his friends, who were a few years older and drove before me, found it one night as they drove around Orange, trying to find their way back home after getting some White Castles.  JK took me there one night when I was about fifteen or sixteen, saying, “You’ll love this place.”  He was right.  I kept going there until it closed down a few years later.

I was (and still am) a fair skinned Irish Catholic kid, and JK is about as caucasian as you can get.  The section of Orange that Neal’s Three J’s was in was decidedly more ‘urban’ than the neighborhood where we grew up.  I am certainly not going to claim that I was completely colorblind.  I had my petty prejudices, but I was aware of them and tried to overcome them. I think that I did ok at that.  After all, (CLICHE ALERT) I went to school with a bunch of black guys, and we got along fine together.  However, my classmates and I were peers.  We were on a level playing field, with our teachers and the SHP administration rigidly policing our behavior so that no shenanigans could occur.  But when I walked into Neal’s for the first time, and the black guys sitting at the bar stopped talking to each other and turned to look at the two white kids who had just walked in, I admit that I was a little scared.  Goofing around with my fellow students was one thing, but these were grown ass men, and there was no way I was going to bond with them by talking about who was cooler, Father Pavlich or Father Melillo, or whether Stanley was going to make it to the NFL.

I knew enough, or had enough foolish pride, to know that walking out was not an option, so we bellied up to the bar.  Neal walked over to us and asked, “You guys have papers, right? ID?”

Dead silence along the bar.

I nodded my head yes and slowly reached into my pocket.  (I had no such papers.)

Neal said, “No, no, I don’t need to see ‘em, as long as you got ‘em.  What’ll it be?”

I have no idea what I ordered.  For some reason, I remember JK ordering a Long Island Iced Tea.  Neal gave us our drinks, we paid, and the bar patrons turned away from us and started talking to each other again.  We stayed for a few drinks, and headed home, but we were back within a few weeks, and Neal’s became a regular haunt.

Most nights we would go down there for a few drinks and get some chopped BBQ for dinner.  Neal’s BBQ was incendiary.  It was some of the hottest food I have ever had, and bathroom trips the next day were never pleasant, but that was some tasty pork. I cannot say we became friendly with any of the regulars, they mostly ignored us, but I like to think Neal grew fond of us.  He always greeted us warmly when we showed up.  We never caused any trouble and we always spent a decent chunk of change in there.

The best nights at Neal’s Three J’s Lounge were when the band was playing.  I do not recall what they called themselves, and may have never known, but every so often a half dozen blind guys would sit on a makeshift stage at the back of the bar, and play the most soulful music I have ever been lucky enough to witness live.  They used to do “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” with “Sexual Healing” tucked into the middle, and it was absolutely fantastic. As far as live music experiences go, I put the Clash ahead of them, and maybe one or two others, but that unnamed band is right near the top.

I went to away college shortly thereafter, and whenever friends would visit me in New Jersey during summer break, I would take them down to Neal’s.  Everyone I took there loved the place.  Looking back on it, I recognize that we looked like tourists swanning in for a visit, and to a certain extent we were.  Other than my friends, I never saw another white face in Neal’s.  I had the good sense to take only certain friends there.  Some of my more douchey acquaintances would not have appreciated it for it was: a cool place with cheap drinks, good food, and if you were lucky, great music.

Neal’s limped along for a few years.  He was always talking about opening a smokehouse or expanding into the dry cleaning shop next door, but none of that ever happened.  The bar closed sometime in the mid-nineties.  I am not sure what, if anything, is there now.

***One night, one of us asked Neal what the “Three J’s” in the name stood for.  He looked at us like we were the dumbest bastards in New Jersey for even asking because the answer was so frigging obvious.  “Are you serious?” he asked.

“Yeah, Neal, what do the Three J’s stand for?”

“Jiving, Joking, and Ja-rinking.”

(This story may be somewhat apocryphal.)


Music in Jersey City

April 13, 2010

Some music I came across while riding my bike in Jersey City. The first clip is a group from a synagogue singing at a ceremony honoring Jewish Veterans of WWII. The second clip is a bagpiper outside a wedding in the Catholic Church down the street from me.


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