HAMMONTON — The sign in the tasting room of the town’s first brewery says, “If you tap it, they will come.”
The owners of Tomfoolery Brewing Co. on Washington Street aren’t tapping it — or opening kegs to serve their beer — just yet. But they plan to in early December, when they expect competition.
Another brewery is opening across the street and at least one distillery downtown. That will make Hammonton the first municipality in New Jersey to have the combination of wineries, breweries and distilleries all within its borders, Deputy Mayor Tom Gribbin has said.
This week at Tomfoolery, the owners started brewing Shawn & Gayle’s Pale Ale. It was the first time they had used the tanks and other equipment they bought months ago.
It took almost 10 months to get their state license, which came through Sept. 28, said co-owner Gayle D’Abate.
“We’re doing a pale ale because that’s what we are most familiar with making,” said her partner and husband Shawn Grigus, who used to run Tap It Homebrew Supply Shop on Philadelphia Avenue in Egg Harbor City.
He will taste the product at various stages to make sure things are progressing smoothly. The first stage, after hot water is run through milled grain, is incredibly sweet, he said.
“It’s like waffle syrup, a sweetness like that,” Grigus said. “The yeast eat those sugars and turn them into alcohol.”
It takes about four weeks to go from the early brewing stage to the finished product, D’Abate said.
Tomfoolery’s new home has a heritage in the beer-making business. It’s located on North Washington Street, in the former bottling plant of the long-closed Eastern Brewing Corp., which was best known for its Old Bohemian beer.
Dave Tomasello is opening Three 3’s Brewing Co. across Washington Street from Tomfoolery. Three 3’s is waiting for his state license, Tomasello said this week. He’s a few months behind his neighbor in the process, but he hopes to start brewing by the end of the year.
“We’ve put a lot of time, effort and money in to get it nice in there,” Tomasello said. “All the equipment is in, and we’re having final hookups with the electrician. By the end of the month, we’ll be ready. It’s just a matter of the license.”
Brothers Lou and Joe Giansante plan to open Pinelands Distillers, specializing in bourbon but also making other liquors, in the town-owned former Major Muffler building on South Egg Harbor Road. That location is within a block of both the Eagle Theatre on Vine Street and the downtown restaurants and shops on Hammonton’s Bellevue Avenue.
Lou Giansante said negotiations with the town on the terms of the lease have prevented the partners from starting work on the building. But, he said, he believes those terms are now settled.
Hammonton Solicitor Brian Howell said the town is close to resolving the last of the issues, and he hopes Town Council will approve the lease Oct. 26.
On Monday at Tomfoolery, a neighbor of Grigus and D’Abate was helping the couple get the first batch of beer going. Eric Schmehl, of Hammonton, was working the grain mill and helping Grigus repair a problem with a belt.
Schmehl is a homebrewer and an accountant for his day job.
All three are members of the Brew Jersey Homebrew Club, which meets monthly in members’ homes. This month, the club is holding an internal contest to see who can brew the best coffee beer.
D’Abate said Tomfoolery will first offer the pale ale, then an India pale ale, an amber beer and a brown ale, along with a small batch of Imperial Pumpkin.
Soon after, they will brew a Christmas/winter beer and plan to offer a Moocha Stout later — flavored with both coffee and chocolate.
Other than Shawn & Gayle’s Pale Ale and the Moocha Stout, they haven’t named their products yet, D’Abate added.