I'm a New Yorker through and through. I spent the first six years of my life in Queens, I grew up in Westchester and I've lived in Manhattan since 2008. That means it's in my DNA to dislike the Devils and poke fun of the Garden State for always being in the shadow of New York. I went to college in DC so I'm very familiar with the NJ turnpike, which isn't very pretty and as I kid I visited the shore a few times but a beach is a beach at that point of your life. Lastly, I'll keep this simple and curt, I loathe Bruce Springsteen.
Despite all of this in the last few years my future-wife Erin has introduced me to some of the finer points of New Jersey. Monmouth County is beautiful, not every shore town is a bunch of fist pumping 20-somethings who have bad fake tans and without much effort you can find a great hot dog. I was already familiar with pork roll (taylor ham) so I can't credit her for introducing me to that fine salty meat product. Lastly, and arguably most importantly she introduced me to Carton Brewing. It was actually on one of our very first dates that she mentioned the brewery and I kind of just nodded figuring it was just something nearby her hometown she had tried and I probably just nodded at her and said something along the lines of, "Oh that sounds cool." Luckily for me after I spent the night in Cold Spring with friends about a week later their go to pub happened to have Boat on tap, Carton's hoppy, low abv session ale. I got to kill two birds with one stone, impress the new girl I was dating and also get my first taste of beer from a brewery that I would soon learn was cranking out some serious beers.
Fast-forward a few years and I've had a chance to try a large portion of Carton's portfolio and my love for their beers has increased exponentially. Without question my favorite beer from them is their Double IPA 077XX, ODUB for short and hash-tagging purposes. It's pretty big at 7.8% abv but not massive and it drinks like juice and emits incredible aromas from the moment you crack open a can. Even better, in recent months they have startd to can more and more of their "dub-viants" which is the original DIPA that goes through an additional dry-hop with a different hop variety each time. I honestly can't tell you my favorite but from what I've tried it's between the Nelson and Motueka. I haven't had the Mosaic or Galaxy which I can imagine would both be major contenders for a new favorite. They also did an interesting version with Warrior hops which are more frequently used for bittering and not aroma but it did wonders for the beer. It was abrasively hoppy but in a good way, screw those soft juicy hop flavors, they let the hops flex their muscles and let you know they were in the beer. I said drinking it was akin to eating really spicy wings where each bite increases the burning but you keep going back for more and more.
OK, they make great IPAs but lots of people are doing that and in some cases that's all breweries do but Carton does a lot more. Their milk stout is delicious and apparently a bakery nearby makes a cheesecake using it once a year. I'm also a big fan of their sours and got to try two great ones this summer. Monkey Chased the Weasel, a huckleberry Berliner Weiss that was nothing short of delicious and Sakura, a salty sour ale with the addition of cherry blossoms but don't call it a gose! They also brew what I would call weird sh!t really well. Cosmonaut is an imperial stout that had freeze dried ice cream and spices added to it and it sounds like a gimmick beer that I would dump out after a few sips but it was lovely, maybe a tad sweet but 4-pack I bought didn't last long in my fridge. I also recently tried a beer called Rub which was a smoked and spice porter and to be honest I had been to the brewery and passed on buying it until the second time around. I was going to be smoking ribs and chicken that weekend and figured why not, it seemed like a beer and food pairing that would work well. It was a good decision, my ribs are really good but they were even better when I was drinking a Rub to wash them down.
Without asking the brewery to marry me I'm not sure there are more ways for me to say I'm in love with Carton. If you're ever in the area it's worth stopping by and even making it a day trip from NYC. Their fridge is almost always filled with fresh cans, for $5 you can sample up to six of their beers and growler fill is never a bad idea. Speaking of the whole marriage thing, I'm getting married in Seabright in May of 2017 and just saying that it would super spectacular for the venue to have a few sixtels of Boat and the hotel rooms to be stocked with 077XX. End scene.