TBP Podcast: Carton Brewing Company’s Augie Carton

Podcast Version:



Click picture to view my photo album from this visit (7/31).

To celebrate our anniversary my wife and I decided to check out one of our favorite New Jersey breweries, Carton Brewing Company (Atlantic Highlands, NJ). While there I was fortunate to be able to chat with Carton’s founder Augie Carton. Being that his brewery is known for brewing flavor packed, hoppy, sessionable, and creative beers I took this opportunity to not only discuss Carton Brewing and it’s beers, but also pick Augie’s brain about topics such as the growth of New Jersey craft beer and the New England style IPA craze.


Topics Discussed (in chronological order):

  • Looking back on Carton Brewing’s first 5 years.
  • RUB – 5th anniversary dry rubbed smoked porter.
  • The growth of New Jersey craft beer since Carton’s opening.
  • Augie’s opinion/s on the recent New England style IPA craze and his approach to brewing hoppy beers.
  • Carton Brewing’s year round line up and rotating specialty / one-off beers.
  • Closing remarks.

At Carton Brewing Company visitors are guided on a quick tour of the brewery prior to being led up to the tasting room where they’re given the option of purchasing tasting flights which include a 4oz sample of the brewery’s flagship beer, BOAT beer and 5 poker chips which can be redeemed for five additional 4oz samples of beers that they have on tap. As you may have seen in the above video and or photo album I tried 5 beers in the taproom and a can of RUB during the interview…For this post I’ve chosen to share very brief comments on and ratings of each beer that I tried instead of full reviews.

  • BOAT beer – A great burst of citrusy hops in the aroma and initial flavor is joined by a crisp bready malt backbone and balanced bitterness in the finish. 8/10
  • HopPun – Sweet tropical fruit throughout, balanced by moderate bitterness and a smooth malt backbone. 7/10 – good beer, but I didn’t enjoy the hop flavors enough to say I’d order a full glass.
  • B.D.G. – As described by the brewery this beer is a well balanced beer whose malt character was just bold and complex enough for me that I pictured sessioning it with a meal. 8/10
  • RUB – Because I was drinking it before its official release I had to quickly finish the can while taking photos after my interview of Augie. In turn, I wish I would have been able to sip this beer for long enough to fully appreciate its unique qualities. I will note that during this drinking experience the spice rub became a bit too dominant for my tastes and I therefore can not see myself drinking this beer without pairing it with barbecue. 6.5/10 – I hope I can try this beer again soon.
  • Nitro Milk – Great semi-sweet chocolate and coffee notes enhanced by a smooth and creamy body. 8/10
  • 077-08204 El Dorado – My favorite beer of this visit. Big citrusy hop aromatics and flavors coupled with  just enough bready malt and hop bitterness. I could definitely drink a few glasses of this one. 9/10

Thanks to Augie and his team for making this visit so enjoyable for both me and my wife. Cheers!



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Smooth Transition Stout: Recipe and Tasting Notes

13680978_1126132600743117_1229748305706104646_n While it is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers to drink alcoholic beverages there are studies that say drinking stouts (dark beers) and consuming brewers yeast can increase milk supply. In turn, I set out to brew a tongue in cheek lower gravity stout that my wife and I could enjoy while transitioning to becoming first time parents. One challenge that I faced was incorporating all of the grains that I hoped to use into the beer’s recipe while making sure to not let the target original gravity go over 1.050. As a result the beers color (described below) was affected the most  and in the future I’ll have to figure out a different balance of the specialty and base grains. Lastly, my goal for this beer’s flavor was to blend the sharp (sometimes astringent) roasted malt character of an Irish dry stout with the smooth chocolate character of an English oatmeal stout.

Recipe Specs:

Brewed: March 20, 2016

Size: 5.5 US gallons

Boil Time: 50 Minutes*

Brewhouse Efficiency: 81%* (Set to 74%)

Attenuation: 77%

Original Gravity: 1.053 (Target 1.050)

Final Gravity: 1.012

Alcohol: 5.4%

SRM: 30

Bitterness: 28 IBUs

Mash Temperature: 152F for 70 minutes follow by a 15 minute mash out and fly sparge to collect 7 gallons.


7.5 lbs Maris Otter, Pale Malt (73.2%)

1 lb 4 oz Flaked Oats (12.2%)

8 oz Chocolate Malt 350 SRM (4.9%)

6 oz Black Patent (3.7%)

6 oz Victory Malt – 10L (3.7%)

4 oz  Roasted Barley (2.4%)



0.50 oz US Goldings (5.5% AA,9.7 IBUs) @ 35 minutes remaining

1 oz  Fuggles (4.1% AA, 8.9 IBUs) @ 20 minutes remaining

1 oz Fantasia (5.1% AA, 6.2 IBUs) @ 10 minutes remaining

1 oz Fantasia (5.1% AA, 3.4 IBUs) @ 5 minutes remaining

Water (added to mash):

6 grams Gypsum

4.5 grams Calcium Carbonate


Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale: 1 smack pack in a 1 liter starter

Fermented at 65-67F for 10 days then slowly raised to 70F for a total of 2 weeks of primary fermentation.

* Due to overshooting my target pre-boil gravity I shortened my boil time to 50 minutes. Though despite doing so I still overshot my target original gravity by 3 points and therefore achieved a higher brew-house efficiency than I originally aimed for.

13699980_1126132690743108_2119102289877434270_nTasting Notes:

Note: Having been brewed in March these tasting notes are not 100% accurate in terms of how this low gravity (abv) beer turned out). Therefore, I’ll try my best to include anecdotes about how I perceived its characteristics when it was fresher.

Aroma (9/12): Very straight forward for the style with notes of roasted barley, coffee, semisweet chocolate, and a hint of astringency. No off aromas.

Appearance (2/3) : Poured a medium to dark brown with an almost opaque body and light brown (khaki head) that dissipated quickly and left minimal lacing. Light in color for style especially when looked it in day light.

Taste (14/20): At first the roasted malt character was the most dominant flavor. However, after a few sips a fair amount of semi-sweet chocolate (milk chocolate) and caramel (Fantasia hops?) mixed in and were followed by a pleasant  hint of  astringency (like in many Irish Dry Stouts). As the beer warmed up its age showed more some  sips being sweeter (less roasty) and a  bit more muted than others.  No obvious off flavors.

Mouthfeel (3/5): Smooth and medium bodied, but not as creamy as the oatmeal stout style calls for.  Slight astringency lingers, but not as much as other irish stouts. In its merit this beer was/is quite drinkable especially when it was fresher.

Overall (7/10): Other than age this turned out quite good for a (my) first attempt at low gravity (dare I say sessionable) stout. After adding a bit more Calcium Carbonate than I would have liked I was afraid that the roastiness of the darker grains wouldn’t come through, but it did. As eluded to above future iterations will need both a balance of specialty and base grains and boil volume and time which have the ability to create a darker / more stout like color. One that’s not the lower end of the SRM range for the Oatmeal Stout and Irish Dry Stout styles. In addition, more oats and a bit higher mash temperature should help add more heft and creaminess to the beer’s body.

Score: 35/50

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First Fruits Quadrupel: Recipe and Review


Better late than never right? To celebrate the birth of my first child I brewed a Belgian Quadrupel with hopes of brewing it annually in honor of her birthdays. In turn, after 3 months of adjusting to being a parent and opening some bottles I decided that it was time to take some time to share the beer’s recipe and my tasting notes for this special beer.

Recipe Specs:

Size: 5.5 US gallons

Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Brewhouse Efficiency: 75% (Set to 74%)

Attenuation: 88%

Original Gravity: 1.087 (Target 1.088)

Final Gravity: 1.010

Alcohol: 10.1%

SRM: 32.7

Bitterness: 35.1 IBUs

Mash Temperature: 150F for 75 minutes follow by a 15 minute mash out and fly sparge to collect 7 gallons.


11 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt (66.7%)

1 lb Aromatic  Malt (6.1%)

1 lb Caramunich Malt (6.1%)

12oz Special B Malt (4.5%)

4oz Munich Malt – 10L (1.5%)

1 lb D90 Candi Syrup (6.05%)

1 lb D180 Candi Syrup (6.05%) – added @ 10 minutes remaining in boil

8oz Demerara Sugar (3%) – 4oz added @ 10 minutes remaining in boil


1.30 oz Hallertau Mittlefrueh (6.3% AA, 18.4 IBUs) @ 60 minutes remaining

1.30 oz  Hallertau Mittlefrueh (6.3% AA, 14.1 IBUs) @ 30 minutes remaining

0.50 oz Hallertau Mittlefrueh (6.3% AA, 2.6 IBUs) @10 minutes remaining


Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity: 2 smack packs in a 2.2 liter starter

Started at 68-70F for first 3 days, then added D90 candi syrup and 4oz of Demerara sugar and raised the temp to 69-71F, raised to 72F for 10 days because I thought the fermentation had stalled at 1.020. Primary Fermentation: 3 weeks after which I bottled the beer.

Brew Day Video

20151208_220041Tasting Notes:

Aroma (10/12): Though there’s been some variation between bottles this beer’s overall aroma has remained consistent. Upon first whiff the malt character was almost as rich as a an English barleywine with notes of caramel and toffee. However, those notes were quickly joined by dried dark fruits esters such as dates, figs, and cherries. In the background there was a faint hint of phenolic spiciness, but it did not lend balance to the aroma like in some commercial example of this style. In other words despite its low FG this beer’s aroma presented as rich and sweet.

Appearance (2/3) : Pours deep amber to mahogany in color with an off white to khaki head which lingered for longer than expected for the beer’s style, carbonation level, and alcohol content. Though not opaque the beer had(/has) less clarity than I feel is appropriate for the style. This was due to either a rough pour or secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle without first conditioning in a second fermentation vessel. Carbonation was visible in the form of small bubbles around the entire glass. Alcohol legs coated the glass as I sipped on.

Taste (17/20): Follows the aroma almost seamlessly. The rich malt character and dried dark fruits lent sweetness and were joined by hints of molasses and faint yet present phenolics and moderate alcohol heat which kept the finish from being too sweet. In my video review of this beer I remarked that the beer’s taste at front and mid-palate seemed very similar to sweeter Belgian strong dark ales that I’ve tried, but did not finish nearly as sweet which allowed me to enjoy sipping this beer as a night cap / dessert. No obvious off flavors.

Mouthfeel (4/5): As mentioned above despite this beer’s rich and sweet malt character it did not come off as being too sweet. Medium bodied with high end of medium carbonation. Moderate to high alcohol heat present, but as mentioned above certain bottles had more than others. (see video review).

Overall (8/10): This beer’s rich and complex malt and candi/demerara sugar character and overall great drinkability within its first 6-8 months in the bottle are what made this beer (my first attempt at a quadruple) a success. With some more age it’ll be even better. For future vintages I may tweak the recipe to increase phenolics and overall balance.

Score: 41/50

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TBP Presents: 3 Ways To Pour and Serve Pilsner Urquell w/ Václav Berka

After the formal interview was over Václav and I joined Pilsner Urquell Trade Quality Manager Bryan Panzica behind the bar to experience three different way to pour and service Pilsner Urquell…

Pour One: HLADINKA [SMOOTH]: A smooth, less carbonated serve, perfect for drinking on its own. The wet foam is poured first and the spout kept underneath it as the golden beer flows in to the glass. My experience: This is the way I prefer to drink most beers. For example, when I usually serve my home-brewed  beers a slightly less than average carbonation to increase drinkability. Hence, I enjoyed this pour the most.

Pour Two: NA DVAKRAT [CRISP]: A crisper, more carbonated experience which is ideal for drinking more slowly with food. The golden beer is poured first, then the wet form added on top. My experience: As its name implies this pour was indeed crisp upfront which opened up my palate and allowed me to picture pairing Pilsner Urquell with food.

Pour Three: MLIKO [MILK]: A surprisingly sweet all-foam specialty. Open the tap 10-20% and fill the glass with thick, creamy wet foam. My experience: This final pour is indeed a treat (or specialty) in that it showcases the malt backbone of the beer and introduces a sweetness that rounds out its bold hop character. If I ever invest in a nitrogen tap for my keezer I’ll definitely be putting a hop forward pilsner on it.

TBP Presents: Pilsner Urquell Wrap Up

As mentioned in my previous blog post; I’ve always had a lot of respect for Pilsner Urquell and its brewers. However, when thinking about brewmasters that I hope to interview someday, Vaclav Berka was not one that I ever expected to meet. Having done so my respect for Pilsner Urquell’s long and rich history and bold flavors has grown tremendously…In term of this experience’s effect on my home-brewing, I hope to brew an all Saaz hopped pilsner someday in order to hopefully capture the bold citrusy and floral notes of Pilsner Urquell. Though I will admit that it may take some time before I’m willing to give a triple decocted mash a try.

Special Thanks To: 

Vaclav Berka, Senior Trade Brewmaster

Danielle and Korina, Pilsner Urquell PR

Bryan Panzica  and James Zinkand,  Pilsner Urquell Trade Quality Managers

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TBP Presents: A closer look at Pilsner Urquell w/ Senior Trade Brewmaster Václav Berka

As an avid craft beer drinker and homebrewer one beer style that to me transcends the entirety of commercial beer’s history and evolution is the pilsner. A beer style that on its most basic level is defined as a crisp light gold lager from the town of Plzeň (Pilsen). However, over the past century the authentic or should I say true identity and flavor profile of a “pilsner” has been clouded by mass produced adjunct lagers that have flooded beer markets worldwide and who call themselves “pilsners.” So while homebrewers and craft brewers have begun to reintroduce authentic and good tasting pilsners to the masses; one beer and its brewery have in recent years begun a mission to spread the word about the true history of the pilsner, how their original and widely available pilsner should be served, and the dedication of its brewers to keeping their brewery’s traditions alive. This beer is Pilsner Urquell, the original pilsner, whose current Senior Trade Brewmaster Václav Berka has in recent years been traveling all over the world training bar staff how to serve and care for his beer in a way that displays its complete flavor profile and rich long history.

IMG_4486On April 28th I received an email from Danielle Nash (Pilsner Urquell PR) stating that Václav Berka would be in New York City in May and asked if I’d be interested interviewing him on the 10th. Having brewed a couple pilsners myself and enjoyed and respected Pilsner Urquell for quite some time I gladly accepted the opportunity…So after some back and forth emailing we decided to film the interview at Radegast Hall & Biergarten (Brooklyn) at 6:30PM.

As mentioned above Václav has been training bar staff about the correct and authentic ways to pour Pilsner Urquell. So for this The Brewed Palate special I’ve split my video footage into two videos, my formal interview of Václav and then him showing me three ways to pour the beer with the help of Trade Quality Manager Bryan Panzica (Part Two).

Topics Discussed:

  • Václav’s history at Pilsner Urquell and explanation of his current mission.
  • History of Pilsner Urquell, its ingredients, and unchanged brewing and fermentation processes.
  • Homebrewing Tip: Pilsner Urquell is triple decocted.
  • History of the pilsner beer style, Pilsner Urquell’s “role” in the US and worldwide beer markets.
  • How Pilsner Urquell’s brewers continue to ensure that they’re always staying true to its heritage (history) through making sure that each batch tastes the same as it has for many years both at the brewery in Plzeň and at bars (accounts) worldwide.

Part Two: Coming later this week…


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TBP Podcast: Blind Tiger Ale House Turns 20!

unnamedOn Tuesday March 15th I once again headed to my favorite New York City craft beer bar, Blind Tiger Ale House to join its staff and my fellow regulars in celebration of the bar’s 20th anniversary. After enjoying a couple beers I asked Blind Tiger co-founder Dave Broderick to join me outside for a quick interview. Beyond discussing the history of the Tiger we discussed the steps that Dave and his staff take to maintain its constantly rotating beer selection and neighborhood bar atmosphere and how running a craft beer bar in NYC has changed over the years.



BT AnnyTowards the end of my time there that evening I asked manager Katherine Kyle about why she had waited until after the event started to post its tap list. She explained that she wanted to make sure that regulars and people who genuinely wanted to celebrate the Tiger’s anniversary to have first crack at the amazing beers being poured before craft beer geeks whose focus would be on the opportunity to try hard to find beers arrived.

For my thoughts on the beers that I personally tried at this event click here.


(L-R Katherine Kyle, Me, and Dave Broderick

(L-R Katherine Kyle, Me, and Dave Broderick

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Extra Precious Bitter (ESB): Recipe and Review

EPB postSince I began home-brewing in May 2009 I’ve brewed mostly within the parameters of the beer styles that I’ve brewed. Meaning, even when I put a slight twist on a traditional beer style I have yet to utilize ingredients that have the potential to mask the aromas and flavors of the base style. In turn, when scaling up my ESB recipe from its 1 gallon test batch state to a full 5.5 gallon batch I chose to keep the Honey Malt in its grain bill in order to accent the bready qualities of the Maris Otter base malt. I also decided to use Fuggle hops instead of Willamette in order to remain as true to the style as possible…As is the case with many home-brewers I chose this beer’s name based on how it reminds me of an interest of mine and what situation I can see myself enjoying it. I swapped out the word ‘special’  and used ‘precious’ instead in order tie together my wife and my love of The Lord of the Rings and my picturing of myself drinking a traditional ESB in an English pub.


Extra Precious Bitter

Recipe Specs:

Size: 5.5 US gallons

Brewhouse Efficiency: 75% (Set to 70%)

Attenuation: 66%

Original Gravity: 1.065 (Target 1.059)

Final Gravity: 1.021

SRM: 10.4

Alcohol: 5.8%

Bitterness: 40.7 IBUs

Mash Temperature: 152F for 75 minutes

Grain Bill:

10.9 lbs Maris Otter (pale malt)

1.2 lbs Crystal 60L

5 oz Honey Malt 

Hops (60 minute boil):

1.5 oz US Goldings (5.8% AA) @ 60 minutes remaining

1 oz US Goldings (5.8% AA) @ 20 minutes remaining

1 oz UK Fuggles (4.2% AA) @ 15 minutes remaining

1 oz UK Fuggles (4.2% AA) @ 10 minutes remaining


Wyeast 1968 London ESB: Fermented @ 65-67F for first 3 days i.e. until fermentation slowed down and then slowly ramped up to 68-70F where I left it for another 12 days.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma (9/12): At first whiff the yeast esters came off as acetylaldehyde, but after warming up for a moment they morphed into a fruity sweetness that I perceived as the honey malt blending with the yeast and hops. The malt character dominated the aroma though. It was quite unique and definitely more rich and developed than when I first brewed this beer a year ago. Rich Maris Otter breadiness blends with a specialty malt moderate sweetness. A hint of astringency and or sharpness present.

Appearance (2/3): Attractive burnt gold color with an off white head which did not linger for so long, but left some nice looking glass-lacing behind. Cloudiness not to style, but does not detract too much from the beer’s overall attractive appearance. Note: A BJCP judge would likely take a point off for it though.

Flavor (15/20): Follows the aroma almost seamlessly. The rich bready malt remained the star of the show while the honey malt sweetness added complexity. No distinctive hop character was present, but the honey sweetness and yeast esters combined and added a hint of sweet orange peel and dried apricot in the finish. No obvious off flavors.

Mouthfeel (3/5): Despite this beer’s higher than preferred / style guideline required finishing gravity it does not come off as being too sweet. Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Despite having been served from a keg carbonation could be a touch higher. A hint of yeast ester astringency in finish.

Overall (7/10): This beer’s unique malt character is what makes this beer a success. However, the honey malt’s contributions were at times too intense. With a bit more hop character, carbonation, and a drier finish this could be an  award winning ESB.

Score: 36/50


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