FORKED RIVER, NEW JERSEY
Veteran-owned BACKWARD FLAG BREWING COMPANY came to fruition during 2016 when Army Staff Sergeant Torie Fisher’s passionate commitment to craft a stylish array of diverse beers fully blossomed. Military-rooted badges, uniforms and emblems bedeck the right wall alongside the microbrewery’s black American flag insignia, designed to amplify Fisher’s appreciation for the armed services.
Backward Flag’s current 10-barrel system (as of February 2020) delivers interestingly wide ranging and oft-times non-conformist fare. Since opening, BF has crafted nearly 100 different brews. There’s a flagship blonde ale, citric sour ale, a few Cascadian IPA’s, a fruited cream ale and more on my initial quest.
Lodged inside a tan aluminum warehouse at the northern Jersey Shore town of Forked River, Backward Flag features a lacquered pine serving station with two separate tap setups delivering a dozen different brews. The cement-floored, window-fronted interior includes multiple US flags, a lounge-y couch area, one large community table and brew-tanked back space.
Fisher and I shared a decadent Knob Creek bourbon-aged Oak Armored Ale blend (with oaken vanilla resonance, dry Scotch licks and silken flow) after enjoying the entire lineup this sunny March ’20 winter afternoon.
First up, approachable flagship, Oak Armored Ale, plied oak-toasted vanilla pleasantry to honeyed orange goodness, lemon meringue tartness and scant cherry souring above pastry-like pale malting.
Next, vanilla creamed blackberry subtleties placated dry oak-based Blackberry & Cream, leaving candied fruitcake and honey-spiced mead illusions upon its light earthen musk bottom.
As for the two Black India Pale Ales (a.k.a. Cascadian Dark), Mil-Spec Black IPA left cocoa-dried black chocolate bittering on ashen wood-charred charcoal resin as well as black grape jam, blackcurrant and black licorice snips. For citric-pined West Coast-styled Dope On A Rope, black grape musk gained moderated coffee-burnt Bakers chocolate pungency and slight pumpernickel toasting.
Hybridized East Coast/West Coast styled Simmunition IPA featured dank wood-dried Simcoe hops that promoted orange-peeled grapefruit rind bittering and tangy pineapple juicing over oated wheat.
Tartly lemon-limed tangerine acidity embedded oaken vanilla tannins for Roadside Donkey Tangerine Vanilla, a lactic mouth-puckering sour ale with lightly vinous berry piquancy.
Raspy chocolate raspberry caking punctuated Hearts & Minds Brown Ale, a heavenly creamed mocha-bound dessert treat surpassed only by the even mightier chipotle-peppered cinnamon and coconut conditioned version.
Arguably my favorite, light roast Ethiopian coffee bean serenity seeped into the citrus-backed pale malt setting of S.T.F.U. Pale Ale, leaving mild charred nuttiness and oaken vanilla residue on its back end.
On summertime ’22 two-hour stop-off, my wife and I drank at the makeshift canopied parking lot where a life-size game of Battleship was being waged while finding three previously untried brews.
Lemon-wedged passionfruit bittering and limey guava-gooseberry tartness guided Passion Party, a ‘wild’ sour ale with acidulated malting.
Soft-tongued West Coast-styled IPA, Rock Da Boat, let brisk orange peel zesting, salted pineapple bittering, subtle cantaloupe sweetness and mild tangerine tanginess receive musky black-peppered hop herbage.
Coffee-sugared brown chocolate entry secured Zero Dark Thirsty, a sweet milk stout with soily earthen bottom.
During early January ’23, stopped off once again for seven more delightful afternoon libations at Backward Flag.
Dry lemon spiced light body, Golden Outlaw Blonde, will draw in casual thirsts with its easygoing citrus spritz and serene grassy-hopped herbage caressing musty Bavarian pilsner grain rusticity.
Coniferous citrus-spiced IPA, People And Pondering, placed reserved orange-peeled pineapple tanginess, dry yellow grapefruit bittering and mild blackcurrant tartness above tingly piney sage minting.
Sunshiny NEIPA, Something’s Missing, brought lightly embittered yellow grapefruit and orange rind tanginess plus lemon-limed licks to lacquered pine tones above dry pale malts.
Honoring the annual Army-Navy football game, Historic Rivalry, a juicy NEIPA collab with Pennsylvania’s Tattered Flag, scurrying sharp lemony grapefruit-peeled orange rind bittering, white grape tannins, salted pineapple tanginess and tropical vodka snap thru floral-daubed hop pining.
A rare stylistic combo, Coyote Brown IPA, coalesced dark-roast hop charred Cascadian Dark Ale bittering with less aggressive piney citrus India Pale Ale dryness.
Roasted sweet potato influence and ginger-rooted cinnamon/allspice/cumin minting soaked up by milk-sugared vanilla for quirky Mama’s Table, a wintry-spiced potato brown ale.
Backward Flag’s newest offering, Warrior’s Shadow Black Ale, let politely bitter black malting and nutty dark roast hop char invite black coffee, espresso and dark chocolate patronage.