Two beers were in contention for the weirdest beer at Flounder Brewing, a fast-growing nanobrewery in Hillsborough, NJ. There was the “off-menu” pumpkin spice latte ale, with a milk chocolate cream to confound the flavor profile even more, as well as a beer called the “Pitmaster” described as an “amber ale brewed with smoked malts and maple syrup.”
Being a non-coffee drinker, the choice was easy: the Pitmaster. Just three bucks for 7 ounces.
The smokiness hit me first, as if I had barbecue in my mouth. That faded as I sipped more, putting the maple syrup more forward, horrifying my beer aficianado friends. I’d rather have the smokiness. (Actually, I’d rather have some real BBQ, but this bikes and BBQ ride isn’t for a few more weeks.)
The other five in our bike ride opted for more traditional beers, like a Hefeweizen that was well-balanced, rather than overly banana-y (this is what I learned today), a “pollinator pale ale” with some wildflower honey and the “hill street honey” blonde ale.
Then there was the blind tasting of two IPAs made with the same ingredients, just brewed in different ways. Which will be Flounder’s new flagship beer — A or B? I didn’t catch the story of the brewing process, but I couldn’t miss the difference in taste. One tasted more “normal” hoppiness to me; the other seemed to turn bitter at the end (the one who ordered them — a former home brewer — called it an intense sour finish, so I assume he knows the real lingo, plus he took the brewery’s request for feedback quite seriously). At least we agreed that A was the better choice (let’s ignore the person who said B).
I found Flounder when I stumbled across a list of the 50 fastest-growing craft brewers in the U.S. It was the only New Jersey entry.
The taproom is small; beyond the six of us, seats for another dozen would be a squeeze. Beer tanks lined the wall, and bits and pieces of equipment are around the corner. But there was a steady crowd; Flounder seems to do a brisk business in growler fills.
Finally, the bike route. We used the D&R Canal towpath (part of the East Coast Greenway) north from Princeton, turned left at the Griggstown Causeway, then left onto River Road and right onto Belle Mead-Griggstown Road for 0.7 miles. Then it was backroads (thank you, Google Maps) to the light industrial/warehouse site that houses the brewery.