What’s your favorite Carton offering at this point?
It’s Boat. It’s always going to be Boat if it isn’t, Boat will change. Everything else is fun. Everything else is a great creative outlet. It’s a good time. I think we’re doing a good job of making no beer like anybody make. Our credo is “Think off the beaten Craft”. Don’t make anything anybody else makes. We have actually dropped projects when we found a beer that we thought already did well what we were trying to do. And that’s all great, but the real genesis of that was not thinking of a way to make a watered down low alcohol IPA as a super hoppy session beer, but trying to come up with an entire new approach to super hoppy session beer, creating Boat. The truth is I drink about twenty pints of Boat a week. I’m always happy to be doing the new stuff. I’m always happy to be creative. I like when we do something weird and interesting like our Wasabi Green Apple Sour, or our Rum Barrel Aged Porter, or our winter warmer based on a 5 spice duck rub from Eleven Madison Park But the truth is if you said “look, you only get one more beer for the rest of your life”, I’d pick Boat.
Speaking of, you have Boat Beer and you also recently released ShipWreck, was a nautical theme just inherent in your location?
I don’t think you’re wrong in that. The Brewery is 6 blocks from the water, my house is a mile from the Brewery, my mother’s house is a block from my house. We’ve always been on the water, so I think that just happens. But the reason Boat Beer is called Boat Beer is because I commute on a boat. As you know because I’m doing it right now. This boat has a bar in it. And part what I was talking about with Jesse was “look, if I take a 40 minute boat home and I have 2 craft standard 5.5-6% beers, that’s like a power hour. I shouldn’t be driving home if I’ve had 2 beers in 40 minutes.” So that’s why they have lighter, crappier lagers behind the bar. “But why can’t we make one with that alcohol level that tastes good?” And that’s kind of how Boat Beer became Boat Beer. The reason I always called it Boat Beer while we were comprehending it is because the boat solved the problem of flavor complexity interestingness that you want to drink it when you’re on your way home from work, but not so boozy that you can’t drive your car at the other end.
The tasting room in your Brewery is one of the best I have ever been to.
Augie Carton: Yeah, we love it. That tasting room is the funniest thing in the world. Essentially the building we’re in is a 130 years old. That room has been a bunch of things, along the way at some point that building was an annex of the local school board. And we assumed the room as we got it was decorated by them because it was just terrible. I mean, legitimately terrible. It was little gray carpet squares and a white drop ceiling panels, vinyl soundproof plasterboard. It was just horrible, and while we were doing the build out downstairs there was leak in that room. Jesse went up to inspect it. He pushed up one of the ceiling tiles and called me at work and said “do you know there’s a 4 foot by 4 foot skylight in the tasting room?” I said “no”. So my partner Chris and I met him after work. When he showed it to us and we saw all that beautiful wood above that fake ceiling Chris reached and pulled a piece of wall off and exposed all that brick. We loved the building for being in the town, but one of the things that kind of tortured us about it was our tasting room space. We didn’t have a lot of money to put into it and it wasn’t a high priority opening with opening a brewery. And we didn’t want our tasting room to be this ugly box, or feel like any terrible 1970’s office space. And when Chris pulled it back and found that brick we were like “okay! Well that problem’s solved. Let’s just strip it down to its bone.” Then we put the wood floor in, and everything else you see is how the building looked under a whole bunch of crappy white 70’s soundboard.
So you had to get rid of the bad taste from the tasting room.
(laughs) Happy accidents man. Sometimes you just get lucky, and that room being that cool was lucky.
What’s next for Carton?
We just released our Shipwreck Porter last month. Another beer release worth mentioning is Epitome. Epitome is our black double IPA which comes out on Black Friday again this year. And on December 15th we are also releasing Decoy at the brewery. We also have our small batch night coming up at the Cloverleaf on December 12th. But all of our events are posted on our website.
Your YouTube channel is a great way to get acquainted with all of your offerings, can you tell us about those videos?
I think it’s a great tool. When you make each beer to be very different from what’s “regular” it helps to let people know what you intended and why. Brian from Idrinkgoodbeer.com shoots them and it’s a very rewarding partnership. And it’s basically 2 minutes on all 20 beers we made last year. If you need any context on beer they are 2-minute blurbs and not me just blathering on like this. I actually do blather on for 15 minutes and Brian cuts it down to 2. It works well for explaining why Carton Brewing makes BDG and lets people call it a brown ale even though it’s a German yeast with a French hop and a British malt bill and New Jersey water. It’s the anti-type beer. BDG is 100% designed just to be kind of food friendly and be the beer equivalent of a 12 dollar chardonnay. And half the people that taste in markets that don’t know us will say “yeah it’s a totally middle of the road Brown Ale.” And I’m like “yes, exactly, thank you.” And they’re like “No it’s not pliny!”, and I’ll say “No, it’s not at all.” So, the videos are there to kind of facilitate that communication with people that don’t get a half hour of time on the phone while I’m commuting.
Well I definitely appreciate your time.
No worries man. Thanks for calling. It’s always flattering when somebody cares and is interested.
One final question, you’re located in the Highlands of New Jersey, if another brewery were to move into your territory, would you exclaim “There can be only one Highlander Brewery!”?
(Laughs) I do love the joke, and I’ve made it my whole life. We seriously subscribe to the theory that even a brewery across the street from us would benefit New Jersey. I get asked that question all the time. My answer is pretty simply, the city of Portland, Oregon has something like 64 breweries and the state of New Jersey has something like 12. Obviously at some point after centuries of battle we might have to settle it. But right now I’d embrace a couple more breweries around us. I’m too sick of getting compared to 3 other guys every time I go out in a bar.
We don’t think anyone compares to you Augie! Luckily, you don’t have to be on a boat to enjoy Boat Beer so be sure to pick up a 4 pack of cans. If you’re at a bar be sure to ask for a pint of what’s new from Carton, you won’t be disappointed. And if the feeling strikes you, head down to the Atlantic Highlands for a Brewery tour and be sure to check out the amazing tasting room.