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.
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.
The evening of Thursday 3/27 consisted of a visit to the first brewpub chain of our American Tour. Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant currently has 10 locations spread throughout Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with an eleventh site projected to open this November in Ardmore, PA. The brewpub gets its name from a Revolutionary War battlefield in DE and was founded by longtime homebrewers, Kevin Finn and Mark Eddleson, in partnership with experienced restaurateur Kevin Davies. Iron Hill is different from some of the other regional brewpub chains in that each location has their own brewing staff making beers on site. Due to this, each location is able to enter competitions individually and Iron Hill brewers have consistently taken home World Beer Cup awards as well as GABF medals every year they have been in operation. We selected to stop through the original location in Newark, which opened November 14th 1996 and is located just down the street from the University of Delaware, where we were excited to share a few beers and chat with Head Brewer, Justin Sproul.