The microbrewery trend sweeping the Garden State is finally coming to downtown Rahway, possibly before the end of this year.
Wet Ticket Brewing signed a five-year lease for space in the former Woolworth building on Main Street. Founder Tim Pewitt expects to submit building plans later this month and hopes to open by October.
Discussions have been in the works for more than a year. If you recall, we reported last summer when City Council amended the Central Business District (CBD) redevelopment plan to allow a brewery as a principal use.
A senior-level executive during his career at Chase and AIG, Pewitt has been a homebrewer for 25 years. “It’s a passion of mine.” Wet Ticket Brewing will be a new full-time venture for him, the vision for which he started in 2013.
“You want a town to want you, the right building, and the right landlord. We found all three,” said Pewitt, who grew up in Chester and lives in Monroe.
Wet Ticket will occupy about 3,600 square feet. The space currently occupied by The Gilded Lillie will be split, with Wet Ticket on the left and the antiques and auction shop on the right. Landmark Companies, which built the 159-unit Park Square downtown, acquired the former Woolworth building in 2006, under the name Main Street at Rahway, LLC.
Typically, a microbrewery can be an industrial site with big garage doors or a restaurant/pub style. “Our model is about halfway in between, but we wanted to be downtown,” Pewitt said. Wet Ticket will be a production brewery with a tasting room, eventually selling kegs to bars and restaurants, with pints, samples and growlers for individual sale.
“We can’t serve food but you can bring your own,” Pewitt said, adding that he hopes to make it a community space as well, available for private events.
Wet Ticket aims to offer at least four styles of beer when the doors open “and then as many as the market will support,” possibly eight or more, according to Pewitt. There will be American styles including IPAs (Black/Session/Imperial) and Belgians and he said he also makes a popular watermelon wheat. “It will be a moving target depending on the season, hop availability and what we feel the market is looking for. We will also be focused on feedback we receive at the tasting room in terms of both future and current releases,” he said.
Pewitt expects to brew 500 to 1,000 barrels in the first year. That’s pretty typical for most of the newer breweries in New Jersey, which brew anywhere from 400 to 1,500 barrels. For comparison, J.J. Bitting in Woodbridge, which also has a restaurant and bar, brews 650 barrels a year.
There are 31 operating microbreweries and 15 brewpubs in the state, according to New Jersey Craft Beer, many of which have opened in the last five years. There are another 38 startups in various stages of development, including Wet Ticket. The largest craft breweries are also among the oldest: Flying Fish and River Horse brew 14,000 and 12,000 barrels, respectively.
Pewitt is confident there’s room for another microbrewery in the Garden State since it has among the fewest breweries per capita in the United States thanks to antiquated laws. A change in 2012 is credited with the recent boom in microbreweries.
The Brewers Association (BA) last summer reported that it’s probably the first time the United States has eclipsed 3,000 breweries since the 1870s (there were 4,131 breweries in 1873), and nearly all of the 3,040 breweries are small and independent. The majority of Americans lives within 10 miles of a local brewery and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is going to climb in the coming years.”
For an explanation of the name Wet Ticket Brewing, check out their Facebook page.