There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who know what pork roll is and those who have done a damn fine job of staying away from New Jersey. Though the regional processed meat known as pork roll or Taylor ham is a breakfast sandwich staple in the Garden State, it rarely gets any national notice. But now, New Jersey’s Flying Fish Brewing Company is garnering attention for using the unique pork product in a newly released pork roll beer called Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter. Yes, the flavors of processed pork and beer are together at last, and New Jersey residents couldn’t be more excited.
For those unfamiliar with pork roll, it’s is a sausage-like product, reportedly made from cured and smoked pork shoulder and spices, first developed by New Jersey resident John Taylor in 1856. Back in 2004, none other than the New York Times described the “lightly smoked slightly spicy pork product generally sold in rolls of three or six pounds” as “a kind of upscale Spam, without the Nascar sponsorship.” Because of its large cylindrical shape, pork roll can easily be cut into thin slices that, once cooked, are the perfect circular fit for a morning egg sandwich, and you often see the regional product offered on breakfast menus in New Jersey and some neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New York.
Adding pork roll to a beer, however, is a major logical leap. Following the Times description, the concept isn’t that far off from the idea of a Spam beer. But Flying Fish’s choice of including the meat in a dark and roasted style like a porter makes sense. According to Peter Genovese of NJ.com, the spiced pork adds a “pleasantly smoky” flavor to the “dark brown caramelly” brew “with a cocoa aroma and hints of chocolate, maple, toasted nuts and spice.”
The brewery reportedly used 30 pounds of Taylor Provisions brand pork roll that was cooked in brewery manager Barry Holsen’s home kitchen before being added to the beer. “I think people will have a love/hate relationship with this one,” he told NJ.com, perhaps still traumatized from the lingering smell of Taylor ham in his home.
Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter was officially released yesterday to celebrate Flying Fish’s 20th anniversary. Much like Taylor ham itself, this porky porter is a regional affair that will only be available in New Jersey, as well as possibly places like Philadelphia and parts of Maryland. The limited release is being sold in large format 750 mL bottles and small 1/6 kegs. And though pork roll certainly is a breakfast staple, at 7.5 percent ABV, this is a beer you’ll probably want to save for later in the day, lest you start your day with a pork roll-infused buzz.