Flying Fish's Exit series of specialty beers - intended as an homage to the New Jersey Turnpike - has been flagged by the authority that runs the toll road.

"It's just not a good tie-in," said authority spokesman Joe Orlando. "A toll road and a beer company - it's not the right thing."

Flying Fish launched its Exit Beers in March with the intention of periodically releasing special ales named after each of the Turnpike's 18 exits. Its first, Exit 4, is a hoppy Belgian tripel, labeled with a generic white-and-green highway sign and a local road map.

Orlando said the authority has already asked the Cherry Hill, N.J., company to halt marketing the Exit series, and that the agency had consulted with an attorney to press its objections.

"We haven't heard back from [the brewery], yet, but they're still out there promoting it," Orlando said.

Flying Fish president Gene Muller confirmed that he'd spoken with the authority: "They told me they're not real happy with this because they don't want anyone to think the Turnpike is responsible for making beer. I said, 'That's good, because I don't want people thinking Flying Fish is responsible for all the toll hikes.' "

Muller said the series does not infringe on any Turnpike-related trademarks. He added, "We're celebrating the Turnpike, and they're confirming everyone's bad impression of New Jersey. You'd think all these well-paid people would have something better to do than go after someone who generates taxes for the state."

News of the dispute was first published last week by the online Toll Roads News, which indicated that the authority didn't like the flavor of Exit 4, either. It quoted Orlando: " . . . The beer tastes like [unprintable]."

Asked about the disparaging description of a New Jersey-made product, the Web site's editor said he believed Orlando was joking and that the spokesman had never actually tasted Exit 4. Orlando later attempted to defuse the controversy over the flavor, telling me, "I'm no connoisseur. . . . I can't tell the difference between Coors and Bud." *

- Joe Sixpack