The visibility of certain NJ craft breweries can be misleading. The state’s elite brands, those that command shelf space in any liquor store, have earned their status by marrying a consistently good product with sound ambition. Other brewers, with little to no distribution, have become wildly popular via developing exceptional, exclusive brews that stand toe-to-toe with any in the country. Then, there are brands touting a substantial presence that can seemingly attribute their popularity to a business acumen that may outshine the taste of their beer.
Even though the market is becoming more saturated by the day, it’s still fairly rare for a good Jersey craft brewer to fly under our radar. Admittedly, without a fortuitous Google search, we might have missed Ashton Brewing on our last outing.
It’s difficult to imagine a more inopportune time for a brewery’s launch than at the beginning of a pandemic; particularly when state mandates closed a newly renovated taproom to the public and limited beer sales to to-go only. Almost two years after that launch, labeling Ashton Brewing a mere “success story” seems like a laughable understatement. In the wake of extraordinary adversity, the prevailing positive attitudes and quality brews you’ll find at Ashton are indicative of a company built to weather hard times and more than ready to celebrate the good ones.
Location: On looks alone, you’d probably never confuse Middlesex for one of the state’s food/drink destinations; yet, within a small cross-section of the borough’s 3.5-square-mile area, we can easily name seven to 10 spots that should make anybody’s “must try in Central Jersey list” (see our review for Vincenzo’s Ristorante). There aren’t too many small towns in the state that can boast a density of good food spots like that.
Taproom: Welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere with plenty of seating in both the bar and to-go pickup areas, as well as a large tent with more tables just outside the taproom doors. Oh, and we’ve been to plenty of breweries that allow dogs but Ashton really means it when they say dog-friendly” Think—kids are “allowed” but dogs are “encouraged.”
The Beer: With 14 beers on tap, you typically expect one or two suspect offerings. Not the case here. We sampled quite a few beers and didn’t notice a fall-off in consideration or drinkability. If you’re partial to a style of beer that’s on their list, we can almost assure that you’ll enjoy Ashton’s version. Our favorites:
– Champurrado, Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout (8.5% ABV): Such a cool idea and a perfect stout for the winter. Rich, big on flavor, and we enjoyed it even more than “Abuelita.” We could only do one of these in a sitting but, man, what a treat.
– Silver Dragons, NEIPA (7% ABV): Slightly cloudy as you’d expect. Smooooooth. Good hop and citrus presence—this one was gone quickly.
– Your Lips are Juicy IPA (7.8% ABV): Double dry-hopped and very juicy as the name suggests. Fans of the DDH IPA variety won’t be disappointed.
Worth Noting: Ashton Brewing has their own non-alcoholic orange soda (crazy good) and hard seltzer on tap for the non-beer drinkers. Also, don’t forget to pick up one of their mixed 6-packs for your fridge at home.