It was simple. They just liked to make beer.
When they started six years ago, there was no grand plan, no investment strategy. The only plan was to make the beer good and then make it better and even better after that. Not to sell, but to drink — maybe give some to friends, but never at a charge. After all, it was just about the beer.
Gradually, however, Justin Fleming and best friend Dave Domanski realized they not only enjoyed the process but discovered that they were pretty good at it too.
And from that first batch — using nothing more than a cheap homebrewing starter kit purchased off the Internet — the group is now preparing to open what will be the first-ever brewery in the borough’s 110-year history.
The brewery, Kelly Green Brewing Co., is expected to open this coming March and will be located in the downtown on South Broadway, two doors away from the Bus Stop Music Cafe — whose owner Fleming also knows well.
The brewery will feature “eight to 10 taps full of homegrown craft beer right from the heart of Pitman. There will be stouts, porters, sours, IPAs, pale ales, wheats … and some surprises as well,” Justin said.
There will be a tasting room, along with growler fills — a 64-ounce fill that patrons can purchase and take to any BYOB restaurant in town.
“We love beer, we love talking about beer and we gave it a chance,” he said.
Justin was born and raised in Pitman and has a 7-year-old daughter named Zoe.
“Essentially, it’s the only place we wanted to be,” Justin said. “I love the idea of waking up in the morning, going to the brewery … and being able to put the (“be right back”) sign to go pick up my daughter from school down the street.”
Justin handles the design aspect of the brewery, while Jeannette handles the business side with Domanski focusing on the brewing.
He said being raised in Pitman and now raising a family in the borough, he has a real stake in the community and wanted to be a part of something that would help boost its economy.
Mayor Russell Johnson said he’s excited for the brewery to open and he too believes it will be excellent for the borough’s economy.
“I think it is going to blend in with the theme (of) the restaurants and the wineries,” he said of the downtown and surrounding areas.
He called on residents to come out and support the brewery when it opens.
“We need to support these businesses (and) this will be new and different,” he said.
The brewery recently received certain approvals from the borough’s planning and zoning board by a unanimous vote. The three are now in the permitting process and waiting for the state to approve their application.
Even though breweries differ from bars and liquor stores, in that they do not require a liquor license, residents in the past have nonetheless expressed opposition toward the sale of alcohol in the borough.
In 2008, roughly 60 percent of borough voters rejected a referendum to allow for a liquor license. But New Jersey’s limited brewery license does not require voter approval. State legislation in recent years has made it easier for the establishment of breweries and brewpubs, an industry that has been rapidly growing in popularity in the last 20 years.
The Bus Stop Music Cafe became the first establishment to legally sell alcohol in the borough. Pitman has had a BYOB policy at its restaurants for years and in 2013 that policy was expanded to include sidewalk dining.
Johnson said several residents had questions about how a brewery differed from a liquor license.
However, he said once he explained it to them, most seemed to understand and come around to the idea.