When the Philadelphia Eagles and Goose Island Brewhouse first sat down to brew a namesake beer, the conversation went something like this: "You want hazy and hoppy? Let’s do it."
Appropriately named FLY-PA, the beer draws on strong citrus notes from Cascade, Amarillo, and Mandarina Bavaria, hops and the flavor profile borders on light tangerine to intense grapefruit. The beer is a textbook example of the trendy New England-style India pale ale, and the irony has not been lost on anyone at the brewery or in the Eagles organization.
According to Goose Island brewmaster Tim Caron, one of the first ideas proposed as the two sides began discussing recipes was that the alcohol by volume (ABV) be a firm 5.2 percent. They wanted the beer to pay tribute to the Eagles’ thrilling victory in Super Bowl LII. Of course, the subtle jab to the team they beat in that game certainly played a "special" factor.
Former Eagles tight end Brent Celek took a recent tour of Goose Island Brewhouse in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia and was one of the first people to test a fresh batch of FLY-PA. He couldn’t contain his laughter after hearing about the beer’s creation story.
"New England IPA! We had to troll them a little bit," laughed Celek. "And FLY-PA is perfect, I mean you can’t get a better name than that."
Caron chuckled heartily in agreement, adding that FLY-PA was the first name pitched in their initial meeting. But trolling Patriots fans wasn’t the main reason for brewing what he called a "collaborative jawn."
The Eagles and Goose Island worked together on every step of the process, from naming the beer to recipe development to packaging and design. The label features the famed midnight green color scheme, emblazoned with the iconic Eagles wings tattooed on the team’s helmets. Predictably, the tagline reads: "An IPA Brewed for Champions."
"The first thing we talked about was the flavor and aroma, something citrusy, hazy, hoppy," Caron says. "After that, we worked on dialing in the ABV because we thought that was a really cool nod to what the Eagles can do in 2019 and 2020, but also giving a little pat on the back to the guys that came before and won Super Bowl LII."
The ability to brew beer to an exact ABV takes a great deal of precision. Goose Island takes immense pride in not dramatically altering the hometown water.
"You have to be a little more scientific when brewing to a certain ABV," Caron says. "Every time we do it, we get a little bit better at it. Practice makes perfect, I think both in football and in beer. We’re getting it dialed in closer to where we want it to be."
The biggest challenge was not sacrificing flavor in order to hit the 5.2 percent mark. It’s always a delicate balance considering the natural bitterness of the hops. According to Celek, they achieved their goal in creating a beer that is both quaffable and delicious.
"I like IPAs but can’t drink a ton of them," Celek says. "But this one … It’s light, fruity, and easy to drink all day."
FLY-PA is also a true hometown beer. In addition to using Philly tap water, it was brewed with all-Pennsylvania grown and malted grains from Deer Creek Malt House in nearby Glen Mills. Using local ingredients was extremely important to both the Eagles and Goose Island.
"We want to embrace the City of Philadelphia and show what we can do with products from this area," Caron says. "We’re a local brewery and the Eagles are a local team ... and we’re working together, and that’s a good thing to continue to pursue."
Caron says they brewed two 15-barrel batches to start the season and intend to ramp up production to 30-barrel batches for the winter months in order to satisfy the thirsty home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. For now, the partnership between the Eagles and Goose Island only runs through the end of the regular season. But that hasn’t stopped the brewery from brainstorming ideas for the playoffs.
"We may change things up if the Eagles make a nice postseason run and make something a little stronger, a little bit more celebratory at the end of the year," Caron says.
FLY-PA is only available on draft at Lincoln Financial Field and at Goose Island Brewhouse in Fishtown, with the brewery selling it in both growlers and crowlers to go. Yes, they get marked with the official FLY-PA logo.