Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carton Brewing fires up kettle in test run

Carton Brewing christened its 15-barrel brewhouse Sunday with back-to-back brews of a not-for-sale American pale ale called Boat Beer that, along with an amped-up IPA, will make up the brace of beers the Atlantic Highlands brewery is targeting for launch.

Another round of brewing was planned for Monday, with back-to-back runs of the double IPA called 077XX. (The name is a play on Monmouth County ZIP codes).

"Boat is our session pale ale: kolsch yeast, German malt bill and American hops. It's a 4.2 (percent ABV) session beer hopped within an inch of its life to keep it interesting for the whole session," says co-founder Augie Carton, explaining the brew that was first in the kettle.

The beer is bittered with Crystal and Nugget hops, with later additions of Galaxy, Citra, Cascade and Nugget again.

"We started (brewing) this morning. We just added our hops in the boil, so we're about an hour out from finishing it. And then we're going to do it again. Thirty barrel fermenters, 15-barrel brewhouse, so we're doing that twice to fill the fermenter," Augie says. "We did a water brew yesterday (Saturday) to make sure all the seals worked. But this is it. This is a first, true 15-barrel brew of this recipe that we've pilot-brewed probably 30 times."

The two days of beer-making were allowed under a temporary permit from state regulators, who granted the special permission so Carton could put the brewing equipment through the paces while a representative from manufacturer Newlands Systems was available to provide technical guidance for brewer Jesse Ferguson. (That's Jesse up top and at left; Augie is pictured at far right in photo below.)

The expected 60 barrels of beer from the brewing sessions won't be commercially available until the state officially issues Carton its limited brewery license. Augie expects that to happen sometime next month.

The brewery is awaiting installation of its kegging equipment and cold storage unit. The latter is expected to be installed by the end of the week. In addition, the brewery is also waiting for local officials to give a final blessing of the brewery building renovations.

Despite those unfinished details, Carton Brewing is on the cusp of becoming the Garden State's 24th craft brewery, following a run of six breweries coming online in New Jersey in just the past two years.

Two breweries opened last year – New Jersey Beer Company (North Bergen) and Port 44 Brew Pub (Newark), while 2011 has so far seen nanobrewers Great Blue (Somerset County) and Cape May Brewing getting licensed, and the larger production brewer Kane Brewing (Ocean Township) launching this month.

Three more nano breweries – Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough, Pinelands Brewing in Egg Harbor City and Tuckahoe Brewing – are in development, as is larger production brewer Turtle Stone Brewing down in Vineland.

The reality is, 2011 could wind up as New Jersey's biggest year ever for craft brewery start-ups – eight – should all of the projects in development come online behind those breweries that were licensed this year.

Right now, 1996 is the year with the most start-ups: six.

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