Devil’s Creek, the first microbrewery in Collingswood in 150 years, sells its assets to Swedesboro Brewing, which will remodel and rebrand the location as the Raccoon Taproom in early 2024.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 15, 2023
Nearly seven years after it became the first brewery to open in Collingswood since the 1880s, Devil’s Creek Brewing is closing up shop.
The nanobrewery sold its assets to Swedesboro Brewing Company, which will reopen in the Lumberyard location in 2024 as The Raccoon Taproom.
Kat Ganser opened Devil’s Creek with then-husband Anthony Abate in 2016, and has been its sole proprietor since around 2018.
Ganser said the transaction allows her to exit the beer business on her own terms, while still providing for someone else to serve the audience Devil’s Creek has grown in Collingswood.
“I’m very happy that there’s still going to be a brewery, because I think there needs to be a brewery there,” she said. “When I look back on this time in my life, I am 100-percent glad that I opened a brewery and was able to have that experience.”
Ganser’s decision to sell was motivated partly by the difficulties that smaller, taproom-only breweries like hers faced during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closures, as well as shifting regulatory actions from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
Although Devil’s Creek enjoyed the steady support of regular customers throughout, the volatility of the past few years presented broader challenges to the long-term stability of the business.
“I think it’s all related to COVID, and it’s all related to the state’s treatment of breweries,” Ganser said. “If I was going to continue, I would, but I want to do something else.
“It’s literally the perfect spot for a brewery,” she said; “the award-winning restaurants, artists, musicians, and the insane number of festivals.
“Anybody trying to open a business in Collingswood should thrive based on the community.”
Throughout her time at Devil’s Creek, Ganser said, she will remember highlights, like medaling at the Great American Beer Festival in 2019 (“They said my name, and I screamed, ‘That’s us!’ and jumped up.”), as much as the opportunity to create beer that reflected her tastes and perspectives.
“I got to make beers that, for me, were missing as an option — fun beers that, to me, were a niche, and there for people that like that sense of humor and don’t think all beers have to be serious 100 percent of the time,” she said.
“Although I did love our classic German beers, like our Scharzbier and Kolsch, Margarita Gose remains probably in my top three favorites that we brewed,” Ganser said. “I am proud of what I accomplished.”
‘The perfect spot’
Although Swedesboro Brewing has only been around since 2020, it’s enjoyed early success, culminating in a 2022 USA Today 10Best selection among the top 10 new breweries in America.
Owner Marvin Bowe believes the opportunity that Collingswood offers will help the brand continue its growth.
“I just know that if we replicate what we did in Swedesboro, establish that customer relationship, and make sure Collingswood feels the love — that it’s an effort not to just make money in Collingswood, but to keep it there — we’ll be successful,” Bowe said.
The new location will be called The Raccoon Taproom, taking its name from the Swedesboro Brewing mascot, Hoppie the raccoon. After its last day as Devil’s Creek (Saturday, December 16), Bowe said the storefront will shut down until February for remodeling.
He is already in talks to explore expanding the business footprint within the first floor of the Lumberyard, but the Raccoon Taproom will also be expanding production immediately, with the addition of two more 15-barrel tanks.
“One of the things that we will be focusing on is to-go services,” Bowe said. “We’re not as interested in shuffling as many people in there as we are trying to give the right experience to the right people.”
The Raccoon Taproom will launch with a menu of six of the top-selling Swedesboro beers: Flying Steagle (American Lager), Borough’s Best (Euro-style Czech Pilsner), King’s Way (Milk Stout), Queen’s Way (Golden Stout), Piney IPA (West Coast IPA), and Raccoon IPA (Hazy IPA).
As it grows, the Taproom will develop six novel beers unique to Collingswood, Bowe said.
“Every town has its right to have its own unique beers,” he said.
“Most of our beers are session beers; very traditional styles.”
Swedesboro Brewing, which is sold from Eastern Pennsylvania to South Jersey, will continue to deliver on its distribution business, while the Raccoon Taproom will be dedicated to onsite sales in Collingswood.
Bowe is most anticipating the opportunity to introduce Collingswood to “the brewery it deserves,” because “it fits our demographic and our interest,” he said.
“When they built the Lumberyard, I thought it was the perfect spot,” Bowe said. “And Collingswood is a dry town. For a brewery, it’s a great opportunity to set up positive expectations.”
The Raccoon Taproom will open its doors at 1 Powell Lane in Collingswood in early 2024. Stick with NJ Pen for updates.
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