FROM HOMEBREWS AT APARTMENT 902 TO NEW YORK CITY SKYLINE VIEWS
902 Brewing Company got its start way back in 2012 in Hoboken, in Colby Janisch’s apartment—number 902. “We had a brew room, and we did a lot of homebrewing,” says Janisch, COO of 902 Brewing. “I built a lot of the original equipment, which is actually still sitting in the back,” says Janisch, pointing to the back of the taproom where pallets of empty cans sit, waiting to be filled with Jersey City’s finest craft brews—the old brewing equipment just beyond it, as much a testament to the founder’s ingenuity as it is a sentimental homage to the company’s roots.
It was never meant to become a full-time operation for Janisch and Don Vogt, CFO, who met one summer while sharing a shore house in Belmar. “It was kind-of just a Saturday hobby we were doing for fun, just to make beer and we had a little kegerator at the apartment for homebrew kegs—essentially just a passion project at first,” says Janisch. “Then we did a bunch of competitions, won them, and we decided, ‘You know what, let’s make a business out of this,’—ten years later and look where we are,” he says, sitting at one of the tables in the 902 Taproom alongside Vogt. 902 Brewing Company is centrally located in a burgeoning area of Jersey City that will soon feature new apartment complexes, restaurants, bars, and other retail spaces—the entire area shows signs of development. The 902 Taproom sits comfortably in an old warehouse building in Jersey City, beneath the shadow of the New York City Skyline where, against all odds, 902 Brewing Company is fermenting success one beer at a time.
Outside of the normal ebb and flow of business operations as a craft brewery in New Jersey, Janisch talked about the unique challenges faced by microbreweries in the state: “We opened two days before the Covid shutdown so unfortunately, we spent the first two years between learning Covid rules and the second things (with Covid) finally calmed down, [the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)] put these Draconian restrictions in place,” says Janisch, referring to the ABC Special Ruling that restricts things like the ability to advertise Scheduled & Private Events at the brewery, access to food, and the ability to serve coffee or soft drinks to patrons, just to name a few. The imposed restrictions on craft breweries are suspected to be at the behest of restaurant and bar lobbyists, who feel that if craft breweries were allowed free reign to operate their business, as breweries do in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania—contributing $4.2 billion (4th) and $5.3 billion (2nd) to their respective state’s GDP annually—then they would threaten the success of the restaurant and bar industry in New Jersey.
902 Brewing is a MADE in NJ Manufacturer and recently got involved with NJMEP to revitalize their social media and digital presence. “Now, the exposure is finally an actual business challenge we have to deal with instead of something that’s been thrown at us unnecessarily like government regulation,” says Janisch. Don Vogt adds, “It makes it a lot easier to have to deal with business challenges than regulation challenges.”
When talking about how 902 Brewing Co. got involved with NJMEP, Janisch says, “I think we reached out about grants, then we met with an Account Manager, and we started talking about marketing packages, and started working on R&D Tax Credits,” he says, “And we got the whole overview of what NJMEP was about and it’s in our lane, so wherever we can get help from [NJMEP] we’ve been trying to get it.”
The project is just beginning, but one thing is certain of 902 Brewing Company—the view of New York City’s Skyline from atop 902’s Taproom is certainly worth the climb up the warehouse steps to access the rooftop bar, where, within the restrictions of the ABC’s Special Rules pertaining to limited scheduled events, you can listen to some tunes and enjoy a nice cold beer on a hot afternoon.