A persistent spirit carried the craft brewery through three years of development to a planned fall opening. Now its founders want to emphasize consistency of product and quality of experience.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 11, 2022
When they first announced plans to bring a craft nanobrewery into the heart of Haddon Heights, the team behind Tanner Brewing wasn’t anticipating a three-year project timeline.
But for all the delays in construction, fit-out, and permitting that followed, the partnership among Local Links owner Joe Gentile, his colleague at H.I.P., Fabian Brown; and brewers Ray Burr, Matthew Torbik, and Robert Wilson, flourished.
“I’m glad it happened organically,” Gentile said. “I don’t think we would have gotten out of this concept what it is right now if we’d forced it.”
What the group has delivered in the former furniture manufacturing facility at 222 West Atlantic Avenue is a contemporary craft brewery built around a 5-barrel, digitally regulated brewing system and a split-level tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating.
As the fit-out dragged on amid novel coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdowns and supply chain delays, the group learned to embrace patience. The determination that fueled their work yielded a slogan that Gentile said the brewery will embrace in its marketing: “One beer at a time.”
“You don’t get to drink that many beers in a day,” he said. “The ones you drink, you want them to be awesome.”
Tanner Brewing intends to keep a steady rotation of 10 to 12 beers on hand, Gentile said. Initial recipes include a Margarita sour gose, Tanner Leichtbier, and the OEJ Mosaic Pale Ale, with more to follow, including house-made non-alcoholic sodas and seltzers.
More than anything, however, he said the group wants Tanner to offer a sense of place along with high-quality beers.
“You’re here to taste beer,” Gentile said.
“I feel like there’s got to be consistency in the product, and there’s got to be consistency in the experience.
“That’s something we want to adhere to.
“People who are drinking beer are becoming more mainstream, and they are more educated regarding craft beer,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing. It keeps the people who are making craft beer accountable.”
Aesthetics in many craft brewery spaces parallel their industrial surroundings, but those at Tanner have the feel of a speakeasy or cocktail lounge.
That’s thanks to interior designer Danielle Lange of Lakeside Drive Design Co., who took her style cues from vintage railway elements in the borough downtown.
Half a block away from the Station Avenue railway crossing, and within sight of the train depot from which that roadway takes its name, Lange pulled inspiration for Tanner Brewing from its historic surroundings.
“I started looking at interiors of train stations and vintage train cars, and started paying attention to the mixed metals and different woods, fabrics, and stones,” she said.
Lange also hand-painted a map of the surrounding area on the back wall of the brewery, which she will populate with different landmarks related to nearby breweries in neighboring communities.
It’s a nod to the collaborative environment in which the project was hatched, as well as helping to anchor Tanner in the continuum of South Jersey craft breweries.
“We wanted the overall design to be a connection to the community,” Lange said.
A secondary accent wall harkens back to the railway as inspiration point. Its three-dimensional feel is achieved by alternating metal and woodwork in a geometric design reminiscent of a train track. Above the custom bar, the brewery tap list will be posted on a wall display styled after the split-flap transit departure board in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.
Brass-and-glass wall sconces conjure up the similarly vintage mood of an antique rail car, and dimmer switches will help create a moody atmosphere in the evening. During the day, however, custom glass garage doors let in natural light for a different feel; in good weather, they can be opened to allow air flow and connections to the outside world, al fresco seating, and bicycle racks.
“It’s a nice balance of what you’re going to get from the day versus what you’re going to get at night,” Lange said. “I’m so excited for the doors to open, and for everyone to come check it out.”
Brown, who shares Lange’s and Gentile’s excitement for the work they’ve put into the project, agreed that, “the anticipation is well overdue.
“I’m really excited about the players in the room,” he said.
“I went to high school with Bobby, Matt, and Ray; and Bobby, Joe, Danielle, and I all worked together as teachers.
“Everyone gets to bring their own unique superpowers to the table to do what they do best,” he said.
“Together, we make a pretty cool team, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
Tanner Brewing is targeting a November 2022 opening. Hours of operation are tentatively slated for 4 p.m. through 9 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, follow the brewery on Instagram.
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