Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NJ's Carton Brewing is about to get bigger

New Jersey isn't exactly known for its thriving craft beer scene, at least not when compared to its neighbors in Pennsylvania and New York.

That's not to say it doesn't have some fantastic breweries. It sure does. Flying Fish doesn't get much love from the newest crop of beers geeks, but I contend that Wild Rice Double IPA is one of the great hidden gems of craft beer, while their Exit Series has churned out an array of quirky, interesting brews. Located at the Jersey Shore, Kane has one of the best IPA's in the region, and specialty brews like their Morning Bell coffee porter are top shelf by any measure. Plus there is the great stuff from Cape May brewing, among others.

But no NJ brewery has gotten more attention than Carton Brewing.

Boat on a boat? It seemed appropriate.
Based out of the Atlantic Highlands and founded by Augie Carton, a guy with a culinary background rather than a beer background, they've become by far the most in-demand brewers from the Garden State. Their Boat Beer is arguably the best session ale on the market, while experimental beers like Carton Regular Coffee are nothing short of mind-blowing.

(Seriously, people, this tastes like a sweet Dunkin' coffee, but it's 12% ABV ... and you won't taste a bit of the alcohol. Wow.)

No wonder stores can't keep the stuff on shelves. No wonder people in other states will trade you some outstanding shit to get their hands on Carton. No wonder people are actually paying attention to beer in New Jersey.

Because Carton is damn good at what they do.

It's great news, then, that Carton will be expanding their operations.

The brewery is going to be moving into a 10,000-square-foot building, which doubles the size of their existing facility, and will be bumping up their production from about 4,000 barrels per year to about 5,000 after their expansion. Now, 5,000 barrels a year isn't a lot, but when people are knocking over pregnant nuns to get a taste of your wacky IPAs, every little bit counts. So yeah, beer lovers in the vaguely-defined tri-state area, hoist your glasses and celebrate.

The idea, Auguie told the Newark Star-Ledger, is to allow them to keep experimenting.

"As much a we love that people enjoy our Boat Beer and 077XX, we also love making other beer and trying out new flavors," Carton said. "So in the short term, (the expansion) will help us do more of that while also keeping up with the growing demand for distribution of the beers that people already enjoy."

This is all happening in part thanks to a $1.25 million line of credit extended to them via the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's Premier Lender program, which makes it easier for small businesses to get loans.

The new facility will be located right next door to the existing brewery.

There is a downside to this, though. Carton currently has distro to about 390 stores, give or take. It's a rather small number, really, when you think about it.

And in order to better meet demand, the plan is to cut that number.


It makes sense, though. Beer shops in and around New Jersey are routinely hammered with "did you get Latest Carton Beer in?" Even standbys like Boat and 077XX (their flagship IPA) tend to sell out within a day. The only way to make sure that every shop that wants to carry Carton CAN carry Carton is to cut back on distribution. That kind of sucks, I guess.

But if in the long run it means more Carton for everyone, that's fantastic news, because I suspect this is a brewery that's going to be around for a long, long time.