The seven-barrel microbrewery at the corner of Haddon Avenue and Powell Lane is the first to brew in Collingswood in nearly 130 years, say Anthony Abate, Kathy Ganser-Abate, and Gilles Lortie.
By Matt Skoufalos | Photos by Tricia Burrough
As the first beers were being poured at Devil’s Creek Brewery in Collingswood, Anthony Abate was trying to put into words a complex mix of emotions.
He settled on excitement, relief, and, above all else, gratitude.
“We’ve been at this for a year,” Abate said. “People built this place out of the goodness of their hearts.”
A plaque on the wall commemorates “the 1888 Founders,” a dozen of the most hands-on helpers who lent their labor to bring online the first production brewery to operate in Collingswood in more than a century. The dry-by-ordinance town had to come through some changes of its own to facilitate its operations, first closing and then reopening local zoning laws to allow for a brewery in the central business district.
In the eight months since Abate and his partners—his wife, Kathy Ganser-Abate, and friend Gilles Lortie—signed their lease on a 1,500-square-foot commercial space in the newly completed Collings at The Lumberyard, the trio has been hustling to get the business up and running.
Some details are still being polished up. At a preview party Friday evening, Ganser-Abate pointed out that a hand-scraped flooring hadn’t been installed. The solid bar top was wrapped in plastic sheeting, still awaiting its final finishing.
Other elements, however, have struck the touches that she called “rustic” and “harkening back to the 1800’s.” Reclaimed wood and corrugated metal adorn the walls, Edison lightbulbs and wall sconces project physically into the space as well as illuminating it, and repurposed tin ceiling tiles double as pillar wraps around columns.
“A lot of the stuff we have in here is upcycled and recycled,” Ganser-Abate said. “There was an idea in my mind of how I wanted this to go, and I went online and pieced it all together.”
In the rear of the tasting room, construction of the seven-barrel brew house was led by Lortie, who’s spent his life making brewery equipment. He was quick to praise the efforts of his partners in helping build the first brewery that he could call his own.
“For me, it’s not more of a passion than it is an accomplishment to be able to build a brewery like this,” Lortie said. “I’m very happy to be with who I wanted to be with to do business, and that we’re working so great together.”
For Devil’s Creek, much will hinge on the success of its 45-seat tasting room. With its limited production capacity and capital reserves—the owners needed two kicks at the Indiegogo crowd-funding can to pull in an extra $14,000 from local supporters—the brewery is banking on its novelty and quality to sustain operations going forward.
They hope that partnerships with neighboring businesses and a lock on the municipal beer market will give them a foothold in the downtown business district.
“We were trying to find some small, Main Street town where we could put a brewery,” Ganser-Abate said.
“Any time we have the doors open, people stop us and say they can’t wait, and they’re coming over,” she said. “A lot of people said they were looking forward to us coming here for a long time.”
“We love to be part of a community,” Lortie said; “a large family that we’ll be able to embrace and have fun with people. Just support us, and we’ll love you back.
“The reward is going to be working with all the other people,” he said.
Several of those partnerships have been quick in coming. Chef Franco Lombardo of Sapori donated trays of food to the Devil’s Creek launch party. Chef Angelo Lutz of Kitchen Consigliere donated $2,000 in gift cards to his restaurant as incentives for the crowdfunding campaign. Double Nickel brew master Drew Perry lent the use of his keg washing system so the brewers could get their production off the ground.
“It’s all been really great,” Ganser-Abate said. “I have to say thank you.”
Devil’s Creek launches with a quartet of beers, available by the flight, pint, growler, or keg.
The malty 1888 Old Ale pays homage to the date in which Collingswood was incorporated, with a finish of treacle for the sake of tradition. The Mandarin IPA blends citrus and hops flavors, while the Brown Sugar 69 specialty ale packs a bourbon-y punch with notes of caramel and chocolate.
Ethereal Wheat hefeweizen, the lightest of the four, finishes with notes of bananas and clove.
Devil’s Creek Brewery will showcase those brews weekly on a limited basis: the brewery is only open to the public from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 12 noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. The other days of the week will be reserved for brewing operations, private parties, and continued refinement of the space, said Ganser-Abate.
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