In recent years, we’ve had a lot of new craft breweries popping up in the Eastern part of Monmouth County, and we finally decided to try to review all of them. So for our first tour, that we did in January 2015, we stopped at Kane, Carton and newcomer Belford. (UPDATE: Read here Part II which focuses on Belford)
Kane Brewing in Ocean Township is probably the largest, at least as tasting room space. There’s a smaller bar as you come in, which opens to a large hall with plenty of picnic-style tables, where they also have stored dozens of barrels and kegs. They can comfortable fit almost 100 people (and it’s half open to the outside in the summer).
Going in the winter, I was a bit disappointed by the smaller offering. Haven’t been there since summer, when they were having about 8-10 beers on top, to choose from. This time they only had 4, and as their tasting flight has 4 glasses, there’s really no choice (in case there’s some beer you don’t like). Kane gives you some nicely-sized samples, and you get 4 glasses (about 4oz each) for $6. The ones Kane had on tap were:
- Head High (6.4%) – a West coast-style IPA, with lots a fruit flavors, which was my favorite, and ended up filling my growler with it.
- Overhead (8.2%) – very hoppy Imperial IPA, which is not my style, but got good reviews from other people in our group.
- Single Fin (4.8%) – a light session Belgian Blonde, with easy to drink flavors. I think we should’ve started our tasting with this.
- Solitude (9.5%) – strong Belgian, a darker beer (almost stout-ish) with strong sugary flavors. I liked it, those others didn’t (I actually traded my Overhead sample for one of these).
Next, we headed down to Atlantic Highlands for one of Jersey Shore’s best known breweries – Carton Brewing. They’ve grown a lot since the first time I went there 4-5 years ago. They have all fermenting barrels downstairs, and a nice tasting room upstairs with comfy couches, but I think they’ve overgrown this setup. It was a winter weekend and it was packed, you could barely move around… They definitely need to rethink their tasting room design.
Carton even sells canned beer (Boat), and offer flights of 6 for $5. As we were already overloaded with beer, we could only try the following:
- Boat (4.2%): This is their staple beer, a light pale ale that’s easy to drink.
- BDG (6%): Strongly-flavored country ale, it’s a nice beer to have while eating. It’s not the light session brew, but something you have to taste and enjoy.
- Red Rye Returning (6.2%): A rye pale ale with very nice spiced flavors, I really liked this one.
- Carton Canyon (6.4%): It’s stronger Southwestern-style lager. Tastes real good, and there’s a mix of hops in it that gives it a pilsner flavor without becoming too heavy.
Carton was boasting the Gilded Lily, a 10.6% trupfel, which I really wanted to try, but this far into our tasting Marathon I had to give up and save the chips for another time.
Finally, we stopped at the very new Belford Brewery, which popped up in late 2014 in the Four Corners in Middletown. I kept seeing the construction while driving by, but by now it looks really cool, almost like a neighborhood dive. They had a pretty nice offering, but I’m afraid I couldn’t make much of a difference between beers at that point (had about 9 different ones so far). They told me that while Carton focuses on the hops, they concentrate of the grains involved in the brewing process. For an accurate review, I went back Belford Brewing a week later, and here’s the full review. So from the 6 beers on tap, I could only try these two:
- Dunkel (5%): an easy-to-drink but flavored German lager.
- Pro Multis (9.4%): heavily flavored and hoppy tripel, the perfect conclusion to our tasting tour.
I have to appreciate the variety of craft breweries in such a small area, the Coastal Monmouth County. They are mostly small batches that you’d rarely find bottled at the liquor store or even in bars, but the rarity makes them even better and worth the trip. Almost all of them do tasting Saturdays afternoons, sometimes Sunday too and Friday evenings but you’d have to check their websites or Facebook pages to get up to date schedules.
This is a report in progress so stay tuned for more about the craft beers of Monmouth County!
Extra tip: If you do a tour including Kane and Carton, you might need some food in your stomach and I’d like to recommend two places at the Monmouth Mall, right in between: Bobby’s Burger Palace for the best burgers around, or Buffalo Wild Wings, where you can extend your tasting tour with a hot sauce tasting! (but that will require extra beer to put out the fire)
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