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Hopfish’s Flying Fish IPA strikes good balance

October is here, and with it sweaters, earthy colors, cool breezes, long walks with your significant other to see the fall colors and of course pumpkin spice. Yes, it’s time for pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice beers, pumpkin spice candies and pumpkin spice toothpaste.

If you want to hear about any of that pumpkin garbage, pick up another newspaper.

Are they gone? Good. I for one don’t see the appeal in beers that taste like a candle. That’s why I decided to review the Flying Fish Hopfish India Pale Ale this week.

Flying Fish opened late in 1996 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, just across the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia, plus seven miles. Some of their best-liked and most recognizable beers are in their “Exit” series, which are named after exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. (Exit 4, an American Trippel, comes to mind.) Hopfish is an English style IPA brewed with Magnum, Ahtanum and Nugget hops.

English IPAs differ from American IPAs in a few significant ways: they are usually lower ABV, they possess more earthy bitterness than citrusy or floral bitterness, and they are typically darker in color. The English IPA was the original IPA, developed to weather the long boat trip from England to colonial India. Don’t believe anyone that says your beer was brewed “without preservatives”—both alcohol and hops are preservatives, and as a result IPAs typically contain more of both than a standard beer. The shelf life is still limited though, so don’t let your IPAs sit around—drink up!

Let’s get down to the beer in question, then.

Purchased a six-pack from Old Nelson Food Company at 31st and Market. Poured from refrigerated bottle into a shaker pint glass. Deep amber in color, almost brown. (Hey, fall colors!) Very hazy, but this beer did not last long enough for me to determine whether this was caused by chill or if it’s inherent to the beer. Plenty of carbonation evident, with an initially large head that dissipated quickly. Some subtle citrus was balanced out by general hoppy bitterness and a strong malt character. Manufacturer states alcohol content is 6.2 percent by volume, pretty typical for the low end of IPA alcohol content. It’s nearly sessionable (for the uninitiated in craft beer lingo: you can drink a few in one session) but I wouldn’t recommend driving or operating heavy machinery afterwards.

Hopfish IPA is a well-balanced beer. The citrus note added by the Athanum hops is surprising in an English IPA, but not unwelcome. It’s complimented well by the deep earthy bitterness of the Nugget and Magnum hops, which Flying Fish states are added at five times in the brewing process.

This is a solid, local English-style IPA, best enjoyed at a slightly warmer temperature. Flying Fish says the beer is also available cask-conditioned, which would be enough to make this good beer really great, but I don’t know where to find that offhand beyond the brewery itself. As it is, though, I would recommend to anyone looking for a good local beer to stave off the pumpkin spice hoard to pick a few Hopfish IPA up as soon as possible.