Since the licensing changes put into effect in 2012, the craft beer industry in New Jersey has been growing rapidly. Is the Garden State now ready to compete effectively, or are more legislative changes still needed to allow the industry to flourish?
As the laws have changed, NJ’s game has definitely stepped up. Better laws will obviously lead to a better NJ craft scene, which from my perspective is a better NJ if that’s possible.
It’s a 2 way street. As more communities get more breweries working to make their community proud, the less strange the idea of properly supporting them will be. It’s a process NJ is behind most of the other states on, but even when NJ is slow to start something we close gaps quickly.
For now we have community breweries working small scale and becoming a point of local pride. If we keep growing in that direction people will naturally move to work out the (now arcane) laws still hanging around on the NJ books hurting these small businesses’ potential. It’s just natural that a good community business should be supported by local laws. So far, most the breweries in NJ are working along those lines and we seem headed in a good direction.
Long term, I hope all the silly hold-over laws from almost a century ago all over America will change for the better. In the short term, my hope is the laws will at least improve to the point where NJ’s brewers have similar rights to those of NJ’s vintners as far as things like off premises tasting rooms and green markets go.
Brewing beer well in NJ is good for New Jersey. I have yet to find a community with its own brewery that isn’t benefiting from the commerce, the jobs, and the pride that comes from having your own local artisanal culture. It’s especially simple if that thing is as universally understood as beer.
In 2013 Carton Brewing Company’s Boat Session Ale became the first canned craft beer in New Jersey. How have the canned brews been received by the community, and what are the advantages of cans over bottles?
Our canning experiment is going well. We have been way oversubscribed from day one. At this point, we are working to make a sensible plan to get more of it beyond our tasting room so it is easily available to our neighbors in the NJ beer community.
As far as advantages of cans, do a simple fun experiment: Buy 2 cans of Boat, and 2 bottles of a beer with a similar structure hop/body/ABV wise. Drink each and consider what’s going on to make them what they are, rather than whether you like one or the other. Just try to quantify the flavor and aroma aspects of each. Throw the remaining two in your fridge and wait one, three, six months or a year, depending on your patience (and need for fridge space). We’ve done it with double blind tasting panels. There won’t be a doubt which protected the integrity of the liquid better so we can put that question to rest.
We love our beer so we go through extra expense and effort to get it in cans, and so far we are delighted with the results.
Carton Brewing is clearly not afraid to experiment and create some unusual flavors and surprising combinations. Where does your inspiration come from?
Different beers have different inspirations. I do my best to explain the thinking behind each in a series of two minute videos produced by IDrinkGoodBeer.com. That question is probably best broached on a case by case basis there.
What beers are you drinking lately, and what local breweries are getting your attention?
Coolest beer I’ve had lately was an “Armand 4 Autumn” that the brewer Sean Lawson shared with me during a largely sour session last Sunday, it’s been a couple days and that beer is still hanging tight in my mind.
Otherwise my mind has largely been on working recently and I haven’t had much time to consider beers beyond cursory impressions. That being said, the days I get to lift my head and get together with the members of NJ Brewers Guild, like the Brewfest on the SS New Jersey, are always a great time and I’ve been nothing but impressed with the liquid they’ve shared with me.
What can we expect from Carton Brewing in the future, and what’s in the tippy right now?
You can expect us to keep looking for new flavors or approaches to flavor. Most recently, we did a milk chocolate stout with rose petals as a Valentine’s notion taken off the beaten craft.