Coming together over craft beer.
Any day visiting a brewery is a good day, and last Saturday was a good day. A very fortunate twist of fate, which required some last minute rescheduling of plans which would have otherwise sent me and my team of beer loving compadres to the other end of the state, led us to Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.
Carton is, by all accounts, a very small brewery. But what they lack in square footage they more than make up for in personality, creativity, and unique beer. Their marketing and branding is superb and for only being in business for two short years (actually their two year anniversary is in August) they are adding to their distribution list and growing all the time. A glance at their ‘Where To Find Our Beer’ map had us all calling out names of place we knew of, but that we didn’t know sold Carton beer.
The red brick historic building that houses the brewery and tasting room reminded more of a prohibition speakeasy than the home of an edgy young start-up. No signage or markings present, no entrance way or cleverly designed architecture. The only sign that there was something amazing going on inside was the two ‘weeds’ growing up from pots, that as we approached we realized were indeed hop vines. The tour began right away, and our guide Doug was very informative. The brewery is indeed small, but it is a top notch facility. In addition to the commercial brewing equipment, he showed us the ‘tippy’ system where we were told that every Sunday, almost with out exception, they make a small batch of something different, constantly trying unique ingredients, including clam shells and mulberry fruit.
After the tour was complete, we were brought up to the second floor to visit the tasting room. The first thing we were greeted with is the classic loft architecture complete with exposed beams, wood floors, and raw brick walls. And of course the smell of fresh beer. They had seven brews tapped and available for sampling, and the one everyone started with was their flagship beer, Boat. I was not taking notes, but from memory I can tell you that Boat Beer is a light and refreshing ale, with a very clear grapefruit sourness that would be perfect on a hot summer day when, say, you were out on a boat! Everything we sampled was different and really good, with the sour called Monkey Chased The Weasel maybe being the most memorable (that’s the one with the mulberry!)
Surrounding the room are large, at least 2’x3′, placards with the vitals and a write-ups on all their beers. It was a great way to read along with what you were drinking, or help decide which sample you were in the mood for next. A simple bar and a couple leather sofas fill out the rest of the room. All in all a really cool place, which brews, in my opinion, some really good beer.
Personally, however, the coolest part of the experience was the people working at the brewery. Doug our tour guide, Rebecca the tasting server, and the others who names I didn’t get, were extremely informed and spent lots of time chatting about Carton Brew, the craft beer scene in general, and filling a novice like me in on lots of answers to questions I didn’t even know I had (Doug and I had a whole 5 minute conversation on how high hops vines grow, and how unique the pruning and harvesting procedure is). They truly talked the talk and walked the walk.
I think it is official, I now need to update my ‘Brewery Crush’ list, because I need to make room for Carton Brewing.
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