Duck inspires a beer dynasty.
At New York City’s three-Michelin-star Eleven Madison Park restaurant, there’s a permanent tap for Carton Brewing. The reason? Duck. Before Augie Carton opened his brewery across the bay in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. (where his family’s lived for seven generations), his passion was the Manhattan food scene; his anonymous food blog hit the big time in 2007, when the New York Times covered Carton’s exhaustive 10-day dining streak at then-new Morimoto.
But it was Eleven Madison Park’s five-spice duck that lodged itself in Carton’s mental flavor database. A few years later, he crafted Decoy, a Belgian-style ale modeled after the duck dish, using cumin, coriander, lavender flowers, red peppercorns and honey in the brew.
Today, the beer’s sold year-round only at the restaurant. Carton’s high-concept beer is inspired by everything around him: dishes he’s ordered and loved, new hop varieties, the nuances of municipal water. He acknowledges that his far-out releases won’t always find a favorable audience.
“Our deal is to make flavors that upset as many people as they make happy,” Carton explains. “The guy that loves GORP [a trail mix beer] should not like Intermezzo [an apple-wasabi sour].”
Lured in by approachable beers like an agave lager, a stout and the super- sessionable Boat (which mimics the crisp mineral profile of Atlantic Highlands water), drinkers are now getting hooked on the lineup of nowhere-near-traditional beer ideas, executed by brewmaster Jesse Ferguson. The smoky-sweet Swisher nods to the convenience-store cigar; Don’t Panic is an ESB designed after a cup of Earl Grey tea. According to Carton (who says he’s in a creative “fugue state”), these one-offs are planned well into next year.
AUGIE’S THREE WAYS TO DRINK BOAT:
1. From the glass: “It tastes exactly like it’s supposed to taste. It is what it is: super bitter with grass and grapefruit.”
2. From the can: “Somehow the grassiness and bitterness on the sides of your tongue are accentuated—the green parts of the hops.”
3. Shotgunned: “It’s just grapefruit blasting to the back of your head, like someone filled a T-shirt gun with grapefruit. It gives you brain freeze.”