Posted by: Nick Jiorle | April 29, 2008

Flying Fish Brewery

 

As I stepped into the back room I was amazed by the large tanks that appeared in front of me.  This was not what I expected to see from what I considered a small local brewery.  The 14 fermenting tanks on the right, the large stacks of barley and grains on the other side.  Directly to my left was the big brewhouse that people think of when they think of a brewery.  Yes this is the Flying Fish Brewery. 

 

 

 

Flying Fish Brewing Company is one of the first established microbreweries in

New Jersey.  They were founded by Gene Muller and Robin Tama in 1995 in Cherry Hill, NJ.  It is one of only 20 microbreweries in the Garden State. 

The brewery stands in the same building it did in 1995, but they have definitely grown.  I went to the brewery to take their free tour, which they hold every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  I was given a private tour from the two Co-founders of Flying Fish, Muller and Tama.

 

Flying Fish is a true local, homegrown brewery in every sense of the word, but that does not mean they are not innovative.  When they started in 1995, Flying Fish decided to get involved with something new at the time called the World Wide Web.  This made Flying Fish the first “virtual brewery,” and gave them an advantage in the world of beer because they were able to get their message out quickly to people all over.  According to the website, the reason it was created was to give their beer loving fans a chance to help design the brewery by giving them a place to voice their opinions.

 

According to co-founder, Gene Muller, that is also why they love sponsoring events at bars in the area.  Muller says that it is easier for them to hold events in Pennsylvania because of alcohol laws in New Jersey.  This has helped their distribution because Flying Fish is commonly in Philadelphia bars. 

 

 

 

“Holding events gives us a better connection with our customers because they get to meet us and they realize we are just beer drinkers like them,” said Muller

 

Muller also talked about how beer events, like Fish and Wing Night at the Victory Bar and Grill in West Berlin, NJ, which is held every Wednesday night, are good because it’s a great way to advertise their beers, according to Muller

 

They are a small, local brewery at heart but they take their brewing very seriously.  Robin Tama personally took me around their 10,000 square foot brewing factory area.  She took me through the brewing process that all Flying Fish beer goes through, explaining everything and answering all my questions.  She started by explaining how they choose hops and barley depending on what beer they are making, and finished with how the beers are all bottled and shipped out.  The slide show gives you some idea of all the equipment involved in the brewing process. 

 

 

 

One of the highlights of the tour was getting a close look at their new 500,000-dollar bottling system. It has not only increased their production but also given them more options in bottling.  Muller said it has given them the option of using the bigger champagne style bottle for special brews.  According to Tama, the new bottling system has made it possible to keep their beers fresh for longer.  It does this by filling the bottles from the bottom up to the top and using the beer and CO2, already in the bottle, to force the air out of the bottle.  So when the beer is capped there is almost no air in the bottle which keeps the beer fresh.

 

They also now use 14 fermenting tanks, up from the original four they started with.  According to Tama, each tank can hold about 500-600 cases of beer.  She also said that Flying Fish produces about 10,000 barrels of beer annually and each barrel holds 31 gallons.  It is important that with that much Flying Fish coming out it’s important to be efficient.  Tama said that Flying Fish prides itself on its efficiency. 

 

 

 

“We are incredibly efficient, you have to know when to brew and when to bottle.  It depends on the season how much beer and what types you should be producing, so you don’t waste anything.”

 

Flying Fish has a permanent staff of only 14 people that work very well together.  Tama said how they usually brew about three to four days a week and spend about two to three days bottling, and of course Friday is always reserved for cleaning.

 

Tama believes it is important it is to keep the factory and equipment spotless, and it was.  They have to clean the fermenting tanks constantly because they can only brew one type of a beer at a time so whenever they switch the type, everything has to be cleaned.

 

My favorite part of the tour was of course getting to sample some Flying Fish (for free of course.  It is part of the tour).  Also, the option of buying two 6-packs, fresh from the brewery is part of the tour.  That is the largest amount of alcohol they can sell at the brewery because they do not have a liquor license, according to Muller.  I was able to sample the Farmhouse Summer Ale and the ESB Ale.  They were both delicious and it was nice to shoot the breeze with Gene and Robin in the front room of their factory.  They happily answered all my questions and made me feel right at home.  Talking to them you know right away that they love what they do and it shows in the beers they turn out.

 

 The slide show provides a good picture of the brewery.  My advice is to go take the tour the next time you have a Saturday afternoon open and experience it yourself.  They are located at 1940 Olney Ave. in Cherry Hill right off of Rt. 70.  Bottoms Up!

 

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