Hoboken boasts an overwhelming population of young people, and if there’s one thing that almost always holds true about young people, it’s that they enjoy drinking beer. But in the city that once was home to North America’s first brewery, young people today are often overly complacent with their tastes – settling for inexpensive brands like Coors, Budweiser, and Miller.
Now, three Hoboken men are testing a theory that if they were exposed to better beer, Hobokenites would quickly catch on.
902 Brewery, named for the Washington Street apartment building where it was founded in 2012, so far lacks a brewer’s license and an official headquarters. But its founders raised more than $35,000 on Kickstarter.com, and are close to signing a lease on a Hoboken space that will provide enough room for a seven-barrel brewing system and a 500-square-foot tasting room.
For now, Andrew Brown, Colby Janisch, and Tucker Littleton, 902’s founders and head brewers, are perfecting their recipes, giving out samples at local events, and banking on a dream.
“What’s driving this project is a desire to turn people on to good beer,” said Brown last week. “It’s almost like ‘The Matrix,’ where we have to wake up the masses.”
Brown explained that almost anyone, if drunkenness is their objective, can pound back 12 bottles of Coors Light. He and his partners believe that people would have an equally good time drinking a few craft beers, which usually contain higher alcohol content and a more nuanced taste.
“As long as you’re trying and tasting new beers, there’s a chance you’re going to enjoy it.” – Andrew Brown
902 has thus far perfected five recipes which they’ve served (for free, one of the drawbacks of not having a license) at contests and charity events in New Jersey and New York. Three of the recipes – a stout, a porter, and a holiday spice – are standard, but the Pale Ale True Hoboken (PATH) and the Black Dynomite IPA are true specialties.
“Both beers are fantastic,” he said. “The Black Dynomite is bitter up front and sweet on the back end, almost chocolaty. The PATH is stronger than your average pale ale and a bit hoppier.”
‘The only thing Hoboken’s missing’
902 Brewery – formerly known as Corcoran Rooster – was originally founded in the basement apartment of 902 Washington St., which Brown described as “Hoboken’s own Playboy Mansion” because of its retro-style interior design and its inclusion of a bar, a sauna, and back courtyard shared with a neighboring church.
Janisch and Littleton moved into the space after graduating from the University of Delaware in 2005, and soon began home brewing beer as a hobby. They became involved with the Jersey City Brewers Club, where they met Brown on a walking tour of home breweries in Jersey City and Hoboken. Brown, primarily a beer lover at the time, was interested in learning to brew, and when Janisch and Littleton told him of their plan to turn their home operation into a for-profit enterprise, he was concerned over the name.
“It made no sense. Neither of them was named Corcoran, there was no rooster; it just sounded wrong,” he said. “I told them that with my experience in marketing and sales and their brewing expertise, we might have a shot.”
Almost three years later, 902 (now complete with a motto of “Hoboken Born and Brewed”) is on the verge of breaking into the market.
“It’s kind of crazy that a city like this doesn’t have a brewery, especially with its rich history,” said Brown. “We don’t just want to be a brewery based in Hoboken; we want to be Hoboken’s brewery.”
Once 902 begins its distribution, said Brown, its beer will only be available to Hoboken bars and restaurants, in an effort to not only sustain the brand as exclusive to the city but also to hopefully attract visitors from out of town. The brewery will also offer tours, and sell beer in growlers (take-out jugs).
New law makes it easier
Brown said that he’s no fan of New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, but that a law the governor signed into law last year has made it increasingly easier to open a brewery in the Garden State.
Under the law, the cost of a brewer’s license is now proportionate to the amount of beer it brews, as opposed to a much higher fixed cost. The law, Brown said, is small business-friendly, and has led to an increasing number of microbreweries around the state.
Two such breweries, Kane Brewing Company in Ocean Township and Carton Brewing Company in Atlantic Highlands, have served as 902’s unofficial inspiration, and are currently Brown’s favorite breweries nationwide. A third brewery, the North Bergen-based New Jersey Beer Company, has also leant its wisdom to the boys at 902 without asking for anything in return.
“It is competition, of course, but it’s friendly competition,” said Brown. “As small breweries, all three have business models that we can learn from.”
For now, 902 is focused on securing its space and getting its brewing operations fully underway. Brown, Janisch, and Littleton, all of whom have full time jobs, are still working out logistics, like which one of them might have to quit to dedicate as much time as possible to their new business. Still, Brown said he hopes to begin distributing beer to Hoboken establishments some time in 2014.
For more information, visit www.902brewing.com or the company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/902BrewingCo.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org