It was a bitterly cold Sunday morning when Rob and I, with little planning, jumped in his truck and decided to hit a few craft beer spots that have been at the top of our list. Today, Carton Brewing located at 6 E.Washington Ave. in Atlantic Highlands, NJ was on that list.
We followed the GPS right to their front door, but we weren't sure we had actually arrived. The building has zero public signage, I assume because it's located directly across the street from the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School. It wasn't until we saw someone walking out of the front door with two freshly filled growlers that we knew we had arrived.
We headed into the unassuming building, a "turn-of-the-century red brick warehouse", and headed upstairs where we could hear the hustle & bustle of a good-sized gathering of tasters. We were met at the top of the stairs by Doug who took us on a brief but very informative tour of the Newlands System 15 barrel brew house on the first floor below. It was immediately clear that Doug loves beer as much as we do and knows his stuff about the brewing process at Carton.
I immediately noticed stacks of personalized Carton sixtels and my mind began racing. Doug confirmed for me that Carton Brewing can now sell sixtels to the public. Amen! Though they have yet to begin bottling or canning their beer, Carton is well known throughout the state at better craft beer bars for their draft beer selection, and now you can take some home too.
During the tour we were shown the tricked-out homebrewing rig used by Augie Carton and head brewer Jesse Ferguson to brew test batches and otherwise experiment with ingredients and styles. Sometimes these "experiments" are available to sample in the tasting room ("What's on the tippy?"). The setup would make any homebrewer drool...and so we did. Drool that is.
After the tour, Doug guided us upstairs, we thanked him and were met by the tasting room bartender already pouring our first beer. The tasting room is a cozy feeling loft with exposed brick walls and exposed beam ceilings. A couple leather couches with a coffee table sat in the center of the room for those who prefer to enjoy their samples sitting and chatting.
Rob & I bellied up to the bar and tasted all six available samples that day, including their new seasonal, "Decoy". A high ABV (12%) winter warmer-style ale that hides that alcohol extremely well. An exceptionally smooth beer for the style.
The building is charming. The staff is outstanding. The beer even more so.
It's one of the newest craft breweries in New Jersey to find traction with the state's fervent beer lovers. I'll skip the hyperbole and only state fact here. Carton is brewing my favorite home state beers right now and some of my favorite beers period.