While cousins and co-owners, Augie and Chris Carton, and head brewer, Jessie Ferguson, were away at the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, we were thankful that the remaining staff was able to meet with us to share their knowledge of Carton Brewing Company. We started off in the tasting room where Rebecca Flynn was finishing up her last week with the company and training her replacement, Kelsey Stahl. Rebecca and Kelsey gave us a detailed rundown on the unique brews coming out of the tippy, the brewery’s pilot system, as well as the established rotation of beers. It was clear from the beginning that Carton does things on their own terms with a one of a kind approach to creating beers. The Cartons opened the business with an great appreciation for food and much of the beers brewed here draw inspiration from food or are meant to pair well with a fine meal. You won’t find much for standard styles in the taproom. Instead, Boat Beer, GORP, Carton of Milk, and B.D.G. (Brunch. Dinner. Grup) filled the tap lines.
Following our introduction to the Carton beers, we made our way downstairs and chatted with Brewers Jeremy Watts and Doug Phillips, a.k.a Phresh. They showed us the brewing facilities as well as the impressive barrel aging cellar. It’s obvious that Carton Brewing has a lot to add to the growing conversation in New Jersey craft beer. The staff is incredibly friendly and take great pride in the product. The brewery is located less than half a mile from the bay and makes for a great day trip with convenient access from NYC by ferry. Tours and tastings are offered Thurs and Friday evening as well as afternoons on the weekend. Definitely stop by to sample some of these inventive beers, make new friends, and fill up a growler for later.
We visited River Horse Brewing Company in NJ on National Beer Day, however they were not open to the public so we were given a private look at the inside of the brewery while the staff told us all about what makes River Horse unique. It was obvious that they work hard to make a great product rather than get wrapped up in the glamorous media side of brewing. The head brewer Chris said: “It’s fun and it’s great; I love it. There’s nothing else I ever want to do or plan to do, but we’re working in a factory. We’re not ‘too cool’ for anything, ya know?” All of the beer we sampled was straight forward, clean, & well-done, all of the staff were great to talk to and humble, and the facility has plenty of room for expansion. Gotta love the art on their walls.
In the late afternoon, we made the 20 minute drive north from our stop at Flying Fish Brewing Co. to Mount Holly, NJ in order to check out Village Idiot Brewing Company. We were able to meet with the two owners, Vince Masciandaro and Rich Palmay, to talk about their brand new business venture. The two are long-time friends – Vince has been homebrewing for 25 years and Rich, who teaches a homebrewing course at a nearby community college, has been an avid homebrewer for 10 years. They were (and still are) active participants in the south NJ based Barley Legal Homebrewers and had been toying with the idea of opening a business of some kind. They admired the nano approach of other breweries around the country – especially Blackrocks in Marquette, MI – and, after the New Jersey legal landscape changed in 2012 to allow for on-site consumption, they jumped at the chance to the implement a similar concept of a tavern style, zero distribution, nano brewery – the first in their home state of New Jersey. Their last license was received late last year and Village Idiot promptly opened for business on December 20, 2013.
We ended up sleeping in our van again as soon as we crossed into the state of New Jersey coming from Delaware, then visited with the brewing staff at Flying Fish Brewing Company in Somerdale, NJ on the afternoon of Friday, 3/28/2014. As we walked around with the brewery manager, Barry Holsten, we found out that Flying Fish is the most sustainable brewery in the Philadelphia Region. They built into energy saving features in all areas when they moved into their current facility, including: converting to high-pressure steam for sanitizing instead of chemicals, using ‘solar tunnels’ that allow sunlight to light the warehouse to augment energy efficient lighting, have 470 solar panels on the roof, use recycled cardboard with low levels of one color of ink to package, and do not distribute nationally so that fossil fuels are not burned.