Cousins Augie and Chris Carton really liked their craft beer – but didn’t like the fact that after just a few, that high ABV started to take it’s toll – so staying in for the night seemed to be a wiser option. But, In their Atlantic Highlands NJ hometown there was just too much to do to stay in – between Manhattan to the north and the shore and river nearby – they wanted to stay out. They saw a problem looking for a solution.
The idea of “Boat” – their sessionable (4.2 ABV) but aromatic, hoppy and well bodied craft ale was hatched. They added a favorite home brewer to their crew and after about 24 test batches they finally found Hop Head Nirvana – and called it “Boat”, as a nod to more sober outdoors activity.
Carton Brewing was set up in the summer of 2011, and they cousins are very happy with their Boat, and now many other local and regional favorites. They started with 90 bbls of fermentors, and set a goal of adding another three 45bbl fermentors in three years. On their one year anniversary they had met their goal already, and are at full capacity now.
Jeremy one of the brewers told me that “We try to make things that are different, and complimentary to what’s out there – not do the same thing all the time. We don’t do Belgians – Kane about 30 minutes south is very good at that. We don’t just do a bunch of IPA’s…” (though the luscious “077xx” DIPA proves they certainly can if they want to).
Their “Off the Beaten Craft” mantra is reflected in the fact while they rotate in some of their customer’s favorite recipies, they call them “Specials” not the usual “Seasonals”. “We don’t want people to expect them to be there, get complacent, so we keep them thinking about different beers all year round” Jeremy explained patiently.
Augie and the team at Carton are also very attuned at the natural attraction of exceptional food and exception beers – so they craft a number of food focused “catering beers” – some specifically for certain restaurants.
For example their seasonal – oops, I mean “special” holiday beer “Decoy” – a spiced strong ale with complexity and balance, is brewed to match the holiday duck dish at the highly regarded NY eatery “Eleven Madison Park”. While the flavors of cumin, coriander, lavender flowers, Sichuan peppercorns and honey sound overpowering, somehow this strong ale pulls it off without wrecking your palate. I can only imagine it with the duck!
And their inventive nature doesn’t stop there, how about a Pilsner lager flavored with Blue Agave syrup? And a perfect food pairing beer “BDG” with the grain bill of a British brown, French aromatic hops and German Kolsch yeast? Believe me, it works. Even better on the handpump when I visited the tasting room that afternoon.
Located in a non-discript but neat and clean red brick factory building, you have to really look for it or you drive right by. The locals know it’s there (one patron dropped in to buy a new sixtel to take home for his kegerator when I was there) and so do a number of “beer geeks” who make the journey. And neither crowd is disappointed – with the friendly and informative staff – who all seem to truly enjoy being there. (Was that the CFO/Sales manager Doug with a mop behind the bar? Of course it was.)
Check out their site to see which of their interesting, tasty and definately drinkable crafts they have on – and make the trip up to Carton, you won’t be disappointed. A few of their specials make it down to the Philly area, but most of their stuff stays local and up in Manhattan. “We take care of Jersey first, but we want to be sure people can try what we are making in Philly as well.” Believe me, you don’t want to miss the “Boat” on this one, a beer appreciator’s delight.