Shawn Grigus, who recently closed his Tap It Homebrew Supply Shop in Egg Harbor City, will open Tomfoolery Brewing here with his bride of about two weeks, Hammonton native Gayle D’Abate.
They are transforming a former brewery bottling plant at 334 N. Washington Avenue into a craft brewery in the next several months, where they will convert their home brewing recipes into commercial offerings.
Visitors who take a tour will be able to sit at a bar inside and drink the beer. If an outdoor beer garden is approved by the town, they will also be able to sit outside and drink in the warm months.
“We will do pale and amber ales, porter and stout, and everything in between,” said Grigus, who ran Tap It for more than four years.
At the same time, a town-owned former muffler shop on Egg Harbor Road will become a distillery sometime next spring, giving visitors interested in tasting locally made alcoholic beverages a wide variety of choices. The town now has several wineries that offer tasting rooms in and around its boundaries.
Pinelands Distillers is being developed by Philadelphia brothers Lou and Joe Giansante, who said they will make whiskey and other products. They will develop them from the grain to the product, unlike some other area distilleries that take alcohol and boil it down further, said Councilman Tom Gribbin at a recent council meeting.
Tomfoolery Brewing Co. will use a seven-barrel system, and will probably put out 200 barrels of beer the first year. The short-term goal is to work up to about 1,000 barrels a year, Grigus said.
He and D’Abate hope to put out about three to five different beers at a time, and rotate different offerings.
“We were looking in Hammonton, and when we found out this was a bottling plant for the old brewery, we decided that would be perfect,” said D’Abate.
Grigus said the couple has signed a lease, and has started the renovation. He expects to open in about eight months.
New Jersey microbreweries benefited from a state law change in 2012 that allows consumers to buy beer made onsite at breweries and consume it there after a tour, according to the state brewer's guild. Breweries can also sell their product for consumption elsewhere.
Both he and D’Abate have day jobs. Grigus is a biochemist with the Department of Homeland Security at the FAA Tech Center and D’Abate is an electronics engineer at the Tech Center.
Grigus said Tomfoolery’s beer will likely be canned, not bottled. He said that is better for the environment.
The former brewery was called Eastern Brewing Corporation, and it did contract brewing, said Grigus.
“Old Bohemian was one name everyone recognized,” said Grigus. “But they made many, many others. When they closed they were doing 400,000 barrels a year.” He said they stopped brewing in about 1990, and the brewery building itself has since been demolished. Only the bottling plant building is left.
He said it wasn’t a craft brewery but made beers to compare with Budweisers and other major brands.
According to oldbreweries.com, Eastern started as a brewery in 1943, and closed in 1990. But it started as Eastern Beverage Corp. in 1933, the web site said. Other names used by the brewering were Canadian Ace Brewing Co. (1970-1973); Circle Brewing Co. (1956- 1969); Colonial Brewing Co. (1953-1990); Colony House Brewing Co. (1954-1966); Dawson Brewing Co. (no dates given); and Fischer Brewing Co. (1973-1990).
Grigus had been involved in a partnership with Garden State Beer Co. to open a craft brewery in Egg Harbor City, but has left that partnership, he said. Garden State’s web site says it is continuing to develop its plans.
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