Much of what I’ve written about lately on my Facebook page has been my relocation to Rhode Island and the exploration of the breweries in the area. I think some of those entries are worth repeating here (after some reworking) for The Lager Room’s blog space. But first, I feel the need to revisit some of my favorites of the New Jersey craft beer scene.
I was born and raised in New Jersey and entered the craft beer scene after my first taste of Sam Adams Boston Lager. Like many beer nerds around my age, and on the east coast, it’s the first American beer that I had that was truly flavorful and didn’t taste like the drippings of a dumpster when it got warm. Craft breweries in my home state were few and far between, so many of us cut our teeth on Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Anchor. There were others, to be sure, but that was decades ago and not all survived and the rest I probably couldn’t recall.
New Jersey saw a huge boom in craft brewery openings after Governor Christie signed a bill that relaxed many of the restrictions under which brewery owners had to operate. A-1277/S-641 became law in September of 2012. Many will point to that moment as the seminal moment for New Jersey craft beer and, to be fair, that did spark the expansion of the Garden State’s craft beer catalog. However, I like to point to another event…well, two related events…that kicked it all off the year prior. Maybe this is just me, so you can decide. Two breweries opened in 2011 and proved, at least to me, that New Jersey could make superior beer. I speak of Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing who opened about a month apart. I think Kane actually opened first but I remember having a Carton Boat Beer before I had a Kane Head High. Not that it matters, both beers had me asking, with more-than-moderate surprise, “These were brewed in New Jersey?” I wanted more! And they both delivered!
Carton Brewing has long been the state’s maverick when exploring different styles to the point of even inventing some themselves…like Trail Ale, Blaison or Imperial Coffee Cream Ale. In fact, it’s quite possible that Carton Brewing would get the credit for inventing the Session IPA if it weren’t for the fact that Boat Beer is not technically an IPA. It’s just hoppy, cloudy goodness that you can drink all day long. Carton Brewing is also known for their collaborations under their @telier label…something that’s hard to remember how to find on Untappd and is also difficult to type out without a social media platform attempting to tag someone. Perhaps this desire to think outside the box…sorry, “drink off the beaten craft” is due to their owner’s days as a food blogger. Augie Carton believes that beer is cuisine. Don’t believe me. Check out his Ted talk from 2014: https://youtu.be/lwYfmSfFClY
Kane Brewing has made its reputation by producing beautifully clean IPAs and delicious stouts, among their other style offerings. Shortly after Head High, an IPA, made a splash, Overhead, a DIPA, followed adding a slightly different hop palate and a few more points of ABV. Why Head High and Over Head? They used to name their beers after surfing terminology since their owner, Mike Kane, is an avid surfer. Look around and you’ll his longboard hanging in the brewery. Drift Line is still one of my favorites but A Night to End All Dawns and Mexican Brunch (and their many variants) are insanely popular. They’re so popular that Kane’s fan base has crashed ticketing websites, and regularly stand on long lines, in order to procure their share of these beauties. Follow them on social media to get the notifications or join their mailing list.
It's always important to remember your roots and that’s why I still order a Boston Lager from time to time, and the rare Yuengling. In New Jersey many breweries came, and went, before Kane and Carton came about (Climax Brewing opened in 1996) but those two sure got the ball rolling for a craft beer explosion in the Garden State.