When Hurricane Sandy made landfall a year ago, Flying Fish Brewing Company’s brand new facility in Somerdale, N.J., was lucky to spared.
“We were fortunate that the storm veered away from us, originally we were supposed to be in the path,” Gene Muller, Flying Fish’s founder and president told TODAY.com. “We dodged a bullet.”
But not everyone in the state fared so well, especially those along the Jersey shoreline who bore the brunt of Sandy’s fury in the Garden State.
“We knew we wanted to do something, but at that point we had just opened our new facility so we weren't in a position to do anything,” Muller said. “A few months later when we had a chance to catch our breath, we figured let's do what we do best to support the rebuilding effort – let’s brew a beer.” The proceeds from that brew would go to organizations working to get New Jersey back on its feet.
The beer was dubbed Forever Unloved Sandy or “F.U. Sandy” for short, a sentiment everyone in the state could get behind. “It's a Jersey thing,” Muller noted, “a name like that would never fly in Vermont!”
Muller said the initial response to the beer and the fundraising goal behind it was extremely positive. “Folks were really enthused and excited,” he recalled. “Though we did get a couple of complaints from people named Sandy (seriously).”
To date, Forever Unloved Sandy has generated $75,000 in donations, the latest of which was in the amount of $12,500, made on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of Sandy coming ashore. “Not bad I think for a company with only 23 employees,” Muller said.
Flying Fish has split the proceeds from F.U. Sandy amongst several organizations, including three chapters of Habitat for Humanity, Conserve Wildlife NJ, the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Bayshore Discovery Center.
“We also brew an oyster stout from Delaware Bay oysters, so we want to help protect habitat and local jobs and communities,” Muller noted.
The beer itself doesn’t drink like it was quickly cobbled together for charity – it’s an exceptional and unique brew.
F.U. Sandy is a 6.2 percent ABV American pale wheat ale, with half of its grain bill coming from smooth wheat and half from pale malts. It also includes a brand new hop variety called Azzaca, which was donated by its grower for the cause.
It pours a rich golden amber, with grassy scents of tropical fruits, melon rind and sweet wheat. A sip rewards you with a lush cavalcade of fruit flavors ranging from grapefruit, to pineapple, to melon, to pear, with just a hint of pepper to liven things up. There’s moderate bitterness on the finish, which is dry and clean.
The first run of F.U. Sandy produced about 100 kegs and was only offered on draft. “The first batch we donated all revenue - not just profit, but every cent - to the efforts,” Muller said.
A second batch was released this past July, this time in Flying Fish’s distinctive Champagne-style bottles. One dollar from every bottle sold is earmarked for charity, as is 50 percent of all revenue from merchandise like hats, T-shirts and glasses adorned with the F.U. Sandy logo.
“One guy who had just gotten over a nasty divorce bought about a dozen pint glasses as well as a couple of hats and T-shirts,” Muller said. “His ex’s name was Sandy.”
F. U. Sandy is still available on some store shelves in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, all places where the beer’s name will resonate with residents who were socked by the superstorm.
Muller hopes donations will continue to climb. “We've contracted hops for next year so we hope to bring it out again next summer,” he said.
Long after the benefit concerts are over and the text donations to the Red Cross have stopped flowing, Flying Fish remains committed to helping repair the damage wrought by Sandy. While their efforts might not make a dent in the estimated $4.85 billion still needed to repair the storm’s damage, it’s good to see a local business with their heart in the right place trying to make a difference.
The fact that their vehicle for doing good is a delicious and unique beer makes it even sweeter.