CLIFTON, NJ -- The line began forming over an hour before the official ribbon cutting and grand opening. And by the time the doors officially opened Saturday afternoon, over 100 beer lovers were on line, around the corner and down the sidewalk for Passaic County's first craft brewery.
Ghost Hawk Brewing Company officially opened its doors with a grand opening and ribbon cutting, attended by Mayor James Anzaldi, its co-owners, families, and employees. The day included music by a DJ and local band later in the day.
Of the 21 counties in New Jersey, Passaic was one of two counties which did not have a local brewery. After Saturday, only Salem County remains without a local brewery.
Its been a labor of love almost two years in the making for its co-owners, Tom Rachelski and Steve Bauer, who originally planned to open five months ago.
"It's been crazy," said Bauer, co-owner and vice president. "I would have never imagined it would have taken this long."
"It wasn't an easy ride as we thought two years ago," said Rachelski, co-owner and president. "And overcoming all these challenges just makes it a more amazing experience."
Those challenges included an extensive power and utility upgrade which delayed the opening.
One of the initial challenges for Rachelski and Bauer was finding a brewmaster. Through networking, the partners were introduced to Chris Sheehan, whose professional brewing pedigree includes Chelsea Brewing in New York City, as well as breweries in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is also part-owner in the venture, along with a silent partner.
"The beer reviews have been phenomenal," said Rachelski. "All our beers have a greater than 4 out of 5 rating. That's 100% attributed to Chris Sheehan, our brewmaster, who has 29 years of experience."
"The fun part was researching Chris' brewing history," he continued. "We went to different breweries he used to work at, we sampled some of his old recipes. And every brewery we went to, everybody recommended we hire him."
The brewery will offer six flagship beers: a lager, an IPA, a stout, a wheat and cherry wheat beet. In addition, there will be seasonal ales.Ghost Hawk beers can also be found in some 20-plus bars and restaurants through north and central Jersey, according to Bauer.
The partners also plan on working with the local community, including with local artists, musicians, and the animal shelter that Bauer adopted his dog from.
"We do want to use this to give back as well," he said.
"We're excited to bring industry back to Clifton, bring jobs back to Clifton," added Rachelski, who is also the vice president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. "The great thing about breweries is that it's very conducive to other local businesses, and local restaurants. We buy grains from local farmers. Our spent grains we donate to a bison farm in Sussex County. It's a whole circle we're glad to be a part of."
He pointed out the bar was crafted from re-purposed wood from a 120-year-old Amish barn.
What do the partner hope that people take away from the new brewery?
"We want them to experience the brew-making process. Unlike some breweries where they have separate brewing areas, people can come in and see the tanks, understand the brewing process and feel that they're involved in the final product," said Rachelski.
"I want them to see we're making some great beer here. This is going to be a fun place where people can come, enjoy time with their friends and family and share beers together," said Bauer.
Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is located at 321 River Road, Clifton, NJ, and open Wednesday through Sunday. Learn more at the website Ghost Hawk Brewing.
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