King’s Road Brewing Company, a five-partner group of Haddonfield residents, has been cleared to establish operations for the first microbrewery in the borough. Opening is scheduled for the fall.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 22, 2017
Like most local government meetings, zoning hearings are typically sparsely attended and staid affairs.
But on Tuesday night in Haddonfield, when the local body decided the fate of King’s Road Brewing Company, the room erupted with a celebration worthy of the final moments of Hoosiers.
A 6-1 vote cleared the way for the microbrewery in the borough, as the board certified its operations as a zoning-compliant retail use within the borough central business district.
The quarter-million-dollar dream project of five Haddonfield partners—Vicki Jensh and Neil Cummins, Jeff Farrell, Pete Gagliardi, Markeim Arts Center executive director Bob Hochgertel, and former Local Market owner Chris Thomas—King’s Road can now proceed with its license application to the state division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
With a six-to-12-month lead time, that process has King’s Road targeting a fall 2017 opening for its storefront at 127 Kings Highway East, the former site of the Serendipity boutique.
Testifying at the hearing, Hochgertel described plans to establish the nanobrewery as a limited-use local amenity that will help generate destination traffic and retain local business.
“The hope is by having it in town, surrounded by restaurants, we’re going to keep more traffic here,” Hochgertel said. “We hope it brings new traffic here.”
A 3.5-barrel brew system will produce an estimated 180 gallons of beer per week for onsite consumption and growler fills.
Its limited onsite footprint—about 880 square-feet—means King’s Road won’t be kegging or canning its beers for broader distribution.
With a two-to-three-week turnaround time between batches, production capacity will be just enough to sustain four-days-a-week operations.
“Think more like a tasting room in Napa Valley than a corner college bar,” Hochgertel said.
Restoring the historic Gibbs Tavern to use as a brewery offers an opportunity to “embrace the town’s history,” which could be reflected in colorful names for its brews, like Indian King IPA, Mountwell Maibock, Elizabeth Haddon ESB, he said.
“We want it to fit in the town,” Thomas said. “Let’s bring that building back to life. Let it be a tavern; that’s what it was built to be. It’s going to be able to live again for its purpose.”
The interior design of the space will retain several of the architectural features of its previous ownership, including a two-story, skylight ceiling.
The stainless-steel brewing system will be a point of interest as well, encased in a glass workroom.
Interior renderings showed a short service bar with wall and café seating for 24.
Final design details have yet to be determined, but the group will not renovate the exterior of the building.
Farrell said he too is looking forward to the brewery as a means to support the local restaurant community.
“It changes the landscape of Kings Highway forever,” he said. “If people come in, have a pint or pick up a growler and head to the restaurants, we can start to affect the bottom line.”
“We all come to these bars surrounding us,” Thomas said. “It’s all leaving town. Let’s make it so we can keep that money in town.”
Thomas, who will enjoy a two-block commute to the brewery, was a driving force behind the annual “Tankard at the Tavern” promotion whereby beer was poured at Haddonfield’s historic Indian King Tavern once a year.
In the time since, the borough has embraced wine tasting events, several of its eateries have signed winery distribution partnerships, and the local Rotary has hosted annual beer garden fundraisers.
The change doesn’t mean that Haddonfield forfeits its historically “dry” status, a holdover from the Prohibition Era, and not any legal ordinance. Under New Jersey state laws governing microbreweries, King’s Road operations only cover beer produced onsite. The business doesn’t pour wine, hard liquor, or any other brands of beer.
The ownership group said it’s in talks with a brewmaster but declined to identify whom.
Thomas, whose connoisseurship dates to the establishment of Monk’s Café in Philadelphia, one of the first beer-Bible bars in the region, said King’s Road would have six to eight beers of various styles on tap, including session and double IPA’s, Belgians, wheat beers, saisons, and English Ales.
He would also like to feature a cask-conditioned ale or a hand-pumped ESB.
“We’re taking the town into the 21st century,” Thomas said. “Now the work starts.”
Get more local news that matters. Check out NJ Pen on Facebook and Twitter, or click here to become a supporter.