Carton Brewing sent me one of the best beers this year, and one of the most horrible beers of 2022. In the same box. Let’s talk about them both.
XI is a masterclass in fig jam, port, massaging sweetness and coupling it with a fantastic sherry dryness, and leaving a swallow that is concise with notes of almond and Ferrero Rocher. At first glance I looked at the “brown sugar rum barrel” and it gave me pause. I thought this was going to be some wacky melanoidin extravagance. Perhaps that alone would have been Sugar Babies forward, but the wheatwine provides structure in lightening things. It’s like when William H. Macy shows up and you know things are gonna be ok.
It feels lighter than 12% due to the body, but also the depth of the cognac gives big Fox Farm Copestone energy despite not having the port. You can drill this entire bottle and still show up to couples counseling and work on communication. Everyone wins.
That being said.
Southside is a lemon pledge trainwreck. Me and Augie Carton often don’t see eye to eye on wacky flavor profiles. The NJ locals love “Regular Coffee” and I thought an imperial cream ale didn’t need granulated coffeemate dumped in it. Agree to disagree.
When I opened Southside I had no idea that a metastasizing meyer lemon tumor was pulsing inside undiagnosed. I tried it and had to text Augie, why, in the times of Murphy’s Floor wax and grapefruit Air Wick, were there only one set of foot prints on the mint beach. It was then that Augie carried me.
Look at this on paper: gin barrel, lemon zest, mint and juniper. Seems fun right? Some whimsical PNW type of riff you would see from Upright. Oh no. This is pure zested nocturnal emissions from lemon penitentiary. It goes ammonia rag, hanging car tree air freshener, chewed FIVE gum, and this meringue meets Aquadent closer that ensures no one is open mouth kissing. Imagine a lemon tart meets Underberg burp.
How can one brewery make these two wildly divergent beers? Sheer ambition. That is why I respect Carton, they do what they want and even if I don’t get it, their fanbase will. Also please support them, dunking on a NJ brewery with this draconic legislation is the last thing anyone needs.