AH's Carton Brewing Company Taps The Beer Market
By Celia Belmonte
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Cousins Augie and Chris Carton of Locust recently opened the doors to their independent 15-barrel brew house, Carton Brewing Company, at 6 Washington Avenue.
This week, they begin supplying area restaurants and bars with their locally produced beer.
The brewery was conceived after a sudden realization. "Augie and I were drinking one of our favorite beers, Troegs, from Pennsylvania. We thought, 'Why can't we get a great local beer like this?'" Chris said.
Augie and Chris are true natives. Both grew up in the Hartshorne section of Locust and attended Red Bank Catholic High School. They are now back, hoping to craft a beer that will influence the very community that helped shape them.
Carton Brewing Company will join a relatively short list of breweries and brewpubs in New Jersey. These companies, "are either in the far north, south or west," Chris noted. "There is nothing here in Monmouth or Ocean counties. This place needs a great local beer."
For the Cartons, the brewery's location was key. "We definitely wanted to be in a shore town somewhere between Keyport and Asbury Park," Chris said. Despite looking at 20 other structures, nothing compared to the turn-of-the century brick building they found in Atlantic Highlands.
"We now are in a spot a few miles up the road from our entire lives," Chris said.
The cousins' homecoming was not the only revival. Upon gutting the building and discovering unique features like skylights behind a dropped ceiling, the Cartons surmised that the edifice, previously marked as "storage," was actually once a warehouse. "We are going back to whatever this place was 100 years ago," Augie said.
For their brewer, the Cartons hired trusted home-brewer, Jesse Ferguson. Having previously apprenticed for breweries in Brooklyn and Georgia, Ferguson's brewing acumen was exactly what the cousins were searching for. Augie, who met Ferguson through his wife, had to convince his friend to join the project. "One day I was like, let's make beer, this is something we can do," Augie said. "He thought I was kidding."
With Ferguson on board, years of planning and renovating led to 10 recipes. "Our recipes are where I think we do our best work. We talk about what we want to make and backwards engineer it," Augie said.
Boat Beer, one of the company's first brews, is American style pale ale with a low 4.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). "Most beers of this kind are six to seven percent alcohol. You have two and then you are stuck for the night," Augie said. He reflected on his work commute on the ferry from New York City for inspiration. "With Boat Beer you can have two beers on the commute and still be able to drive home," Augie said.
With a name derived from the area's zip code, 077XX is a slightly different beer than Boat Beer. "This is the kind of beer that makes you sit on your couch," Augie said. "You aren't running around town after a few of these." With a 7.8 percent alcohol content, the brew is a savory mixture of local water and hops with orange, mango and papaya aromas.
The creation of Carton beer, from start to finish, occurs entirely on site. First a grain hopper mills grain from the Midwest and Germany. It is then cooked with water in a mash ton causing the release of sugars. The sugary liquid, known as wort, is then boiled in a boil kettle. Bitter hops, crucial to extracting aromas and counterbalancing the mixture's sweetness, are then added.
Once the liquid is to the Cartons' liking, the wort is cooled and goes into a fermentor with yeast and the liquid turns into beer. Finally, the beer is filtered into a bright tank where it clarifies, carbonates and is then put into kegs for delivery.
The wonderfully flavorful result will give drinkers that deliciously unexpected and exciting feel of enjoying something refreshingly new. Jamie Fulton, the independent contractor who installed brewing equipment from NewLands Systems Inc., has traveled the country as a beer judge. "It's my new favorite beer," Fulton said of Boat Beer. "I've tasted a lot of beer and this is outstanding. It's a killer beer."
Now two river residents will get a chance to taste the new local treat. The brewery's tasting room is open to the public after tours on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Spots can be reserved on the company's website, http://cartonbrewing.com. Additionally, Carton Brewing Company is ready to supply its brew to area restaurants and bars "that care about beer," Augie said.
Over the next two weeks, Boat Beer and 077XX will be introduced to the following establishments: Harborside Grill in Atlantic Highlands, Brickwall in Asbury Park, Jacks Goal Line Stand, Nip & Tuck and The Mix in Long Branch, Maloney's Pub & Grill in Matawan, MJ's in Middletown, Boyle's Tavern in Monmouth Beach, Murphy's Tavern in Rumson, Jamian's Food & Drink in Red Bank, Dive Coastal Bar in Sea Bright and The Clam Hut and Twin Lights Tap House in Highlands.
In addition, the two beers will be sold at retail at Spirits Unlimited in Middletown.
"At first, success means making as much as it costs to run," Augie said. "We want to make the kind of beer we like. If we make 10 beers that are good, then we will be forced to grow by demand." That could mean expanding throughout New Jersey and into Manhattan.
For now, the Cartons hope their locally inspired and passionately produced beer will become an on tap favorite at community hotspots. "This is a special beer," Augie said. "It matters."
Come meet and celebrate with the cousins at Twin Lights Tap House in Highlands at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 19.