Flounder Brewing – First Taste
A joint tasting effort with TheLadyinRedBlog
(follow this link for her take on Flounder Brewing’s Hill Street Honey Ale)
For over a year now, I’ve been very fortunate to be a kind of “behind the scenes” photographer (and avid craft beer fan) during the development of Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough, NJ. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know
the family behind the beer – Not just Jeremy “Flounder” Lees and his brother Dan, but I’ve also been lucky enough to meet his wife, his cousin, his father–in-law, his brother-in-law…well, you get the idea. Flounder Brewing is not about one man and his beer. It’s a family affair in the truest sense of the phrase.
I’ve seen the three tank RIMS brewing system put together, tested, taken apart, sanitized, put together and tested again. I met Al, from East Coast Yeast, who supplies that all important culture for Hill Street Honey Ale. I’ve watched the guys mop the floors, paint walls and build a cold room. I’ve seen ingredients measured out. I witnessed the first brew on the system flow from one tank to another. In other words, outside of the Flounder Family, I think I’ve probably seen more of what’s happened to get them to this point than just about anyone…and I had my camera in hand for all of it.
Somewhere along the way, my friend Laura (of TheLadyinRedBlog) and I got to talking about writing a joint blog regarding Flounder Brewing. We thought it would be fun to combine our talents to write coinciding blogs about Hill Street Honey Ale from two different points of view. Not in the traditional sense of bloggers chipping in on one blog, but more like sibling blogs that compliment each other and approach the tasting from different backgrounds. So to find Laura’s take on Flounder Brewing, follow this link: TheLadyinRedBlog.Com
When Jeremy first described Hill Street Honey Ale to me, I was salivating. At the same time, I wondered if it could be as good as I was hoping…and expecting. So over the course of a year I would meet them at the brewery, watching, documenting the process through photography…and waiting.
It was worth the wait.
I’m picky about my beer. VERY picky. And I’ve had opportunity to taste some of the best in the world, including Westvleteren 12. And while I may not be the world’s best beer blogger, or have the finest of tastes, I have gotten to know a thing or two about beer over the past few years. Enough to make a statement along the lines of “I know good beer when I taste it.”
Hill Street Honey Ale is good beer…and depending on where your tastes run, it could be considered great. Not because it’s the greatest beer in the world, but because this could possibly be one of the best gateway craft beers out there.
You may be wondering why I say that, so here’s a quick explanation, before I get down to the beer itself:
You know the BAB (Big American Beer) drinker that comes to your house, looks at your fridge full of amazing craft beers and asks “Dude, where’s the good stuff?” Or the friend that’s not really a beer drinker but peeks in the fridge and asks “What would I like?” You know neither of these people is going to go for a hopped up IPA, or anything with a bold flavor (to clarify, I’m not saying a LACK of flavor, just nothing overpowering). So you look for something that’s good, but won’t overpower their delicate BAB-dulled senses. So you need a beer that would be good for introducing these people to the wonderful world of craft. And that beer you choose is the gateway beer.
That’s where Flounder Brewing Hill Street Honey Ale comes in. You can put this beer in the hand of someone that’s never had a really good beer before, or of the discerning craft beer drinker and both of them will love it. It’s just that kind of beer. Nothing overpowering, but no lack of flavor. A smooth and delicious marrying of pale and amber ales that people will seek out after tasting it.
This particular batch was brewed on 5/25/13 and aged until 7/5/13. Laura and I met with Jeremy on 7/26/13.
A couple of interesting notes about Flounder Brewing, Hill Street Honey Ale and where these names come from:
Jeremy earned the nickname “Flounder” during his days as a regular at the Great Notch Inn in Little Falls, NJ. Some of you will immediately associate that name with the movie “Animal House.” And yes, that is the connection. The beer itself is name for Hill Street in Morristown, where Jeremy lived during his early years of brewing.
Onto the beer!
Flounder Brewing, Hill Street Honey Ale – First Taste
Let’s start with the appearance – Hill Street Honey Ale has a dark gold color in the glass. It’s hard NOT to get a nice, frothy head on this one and it leaves behind beautiful lacing. This last part surprised me so much that I asked Jeremy where it was coming from. You don’t expect that kind of lacing from beers that are so light in color. Jeremy suspects it’s because of the honey (which is harvested in South Jersey) that’s used in the process and that makes a lot of sense.
On the nose, you catch a little bit of piney hops, but mostly orange blossom and honey and a little bit of a doughy scent. It’s really a pleasing aroma that’s a good prelude to the taste.
Flounder Brewing‘s Hill Street Honey Ale is a lot of fun in that the profile changes slightly if you let it warm up a little bit. According to Jeremy, the ideal drinking temperature is in the 40º-44º range. When it’s colder, it’s smooth and the slightest bit hoppy. But when it warms up just a little, it gets even smoother and the light hop flavor quickly gives way to a very nice combination of citrus and honey. Even when you pick up the hops, there’s no bitterness – just that smooth flavor that comes with all that honey. Citrus is ever-present over the other flavors, without overpowering them. It’s a nice compliment to the slight pine of the Cascade and Willamette hops and the warmth of the honey. When you get to the bottom of the glass, it’s got a warmth to it that you would usually associate with a very boozy beer and a lot of spices, without the booziness. In this case, we are back to the honey again, almost like the honey left in the bottom of a cup of tea. Hill Street Honey Ale finishes even better than it starts…you gotta love a beer that gives you good taste all the way through the pint.
To me, one of the best things about Flounder Brewing‘s Hill Street Honey Ale is that it’s a great year-round beer. I can see myself enjoying a pint while standing at the grill in the heat of the summer, or allowing it to warm up a bit and enjoying it in mid-January.
Flounder is currently on schedule to open the tasting room and for tours this fall. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates and to find out when you’ll be able to get your hands on some for yourself!
And don’t forget to check out The Lady in Red Who Writes: