Bruce Springsteen once sang about falling in love with a Jersey girl, singing “Sha la la la la la.” Of course, I like the original, Tom Waits’ version better, but you have to hand it to Bruce—after all, he is a Jersey boy.
And with Labor Day fast approaching and our beach season coming to an end, I will look back fondly on a new summer romance myself. Falling in love with a Jersey beer.
After being introduced to Carton Brewery thanks to Jimmy’s No. 43 and the recent Rock Hops festival, this past weekend I finally made the journey to its home base.
Located in the beautiful and quaint Atlantic Highlands, its location is both picturesque and easily accessible. A perfect stop-off point before descending down the popular summer vacation destination: The Jersey Shore!
“’’Cause down the shore everything’s alright. You and your baby on a Saturday night.” Awww, sweet Jersey love (and beer).
Apparently I’m not the only one who’s fallen in love either, judging by the hefty intake of visitors on this past Saturday afternoon.
After a brief walk around the small brewery, which is located on the bottom floor of a small red brick building with no telltale signs of the magic occurring inside and across the street from a school (those lucky kids don’t even know what they’re smelling), we were lead upstairs to a tasting room, where an offering of 5 different brews were poured.
The brewery is open on Thursday and Friday evenings from 5-7:30 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from noon until 5 p.m. There are no set times for the tours—just a constant influx where a crew member will walk around and explain how their sweet nectar is produced.
One interesting standout is an explanation of what’s in the “tippy,” a 20-gallon pilot system where new experimental recipes are tried out. Some of them turn into regular offerings, while others may not work and therefore, become the stuff of legend.
Either way, it’s a great way for Carton’s master brewer, Jesse Ferguson, to play with different styles and flavors.
After a brief walk around the first floor, where friendly, well-informed crew members talk about the brewing process, visitors are lead upstairs to a lounge area, complete with leather couches, where they are offered a tasting pour of each beer.
From Boat, to B.D.G. to their stout, “Carton of Milk,” all of Carton’s beers are well crafted and more importantly, highly drinkable.
Their East Coast Double IPA, “077XX,” which is a reference to the local area code, is a fine example of a balanced double IPA that still packs a powerful hop bite.
Carton’s logo is also well designed and eye-catching, with fluorescent orange accents adorning their taps, glasses, growlers, and t-shirts.
Their special beer offering at the moment is their SS 2012 (We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat), an amped up version of their session ale, the Boat beer, which has been making waves (I can’t help myself) all over the local craft scene. This beer was brewed to celebrate their success so far, and maybe reference an expansion in the future?
I’m not sure, but it’s clear that local residents and business alike have taken notice and contributed to the brewery’s growth and popularity. Above a flat screen television where a well-produced video about the brewery and beers play in loop, is a bright orange pin board of Jersey where the names of local towns and bars carrying their beers is on display.
For being such a new brewery, Carton Brewery is making its existence known all over the state and even infiltrating New York City. I can’t wait until Carton is available in my local craft beer bar and store.
But until Carton makes its way to Staten Island (I will call this phenomenon the reverse “Jersey Shore” invasion), I have no problem driving over the bridge and filling up a growler (or two) at the brewery.
“”Cause tonight I’m going to take that ride. Across the river to the Jersey side.”
New York, you’ve met your match.