COLTS NECK – A young couple hopes their family’s pre-Revolutionary War farm will be the future site of the second farmland microbrewery in the state, but township officials are looking to douse the plan.
Duck Hollow Farm, a 101-acre parcel of land dating back to the 1730s, spans Montrose and Bucks Mill roads. It is the perfect spot to expand a hobby into a business, said Dan Dittmar.
“There’s a lot that the property has to offer,” said Dittmar, 27, of Freehold. “Not just a beer experience, but allowing people to come and have more of a natural, rural experience.”
Although Dittmar sees a microbrewery as the best plan, he and the township do not see eye to eye.
“We’re opposed to it, and Dan knows that,” Colts Neck Mayor Russell Macnow said last week.
Macnow says the micro-brewery would not be in compliance with zoning regulations in that section of Colts Neck – Montrose Road is a farmland and residential area.
“(Brewing beer) is not what that property is intended for, and not what the residents in that area expect to be permitted in that area,” Macnow said.
A popular roadway for bicyclists and joggers, Macnow does not personally approve of having potentially impaired drivers on local streets, as well as delivery truck traffic coming in and out of the site.
Colts Neck has a long track record of alcohol distilling and distributing. The Laird’s Applejack distillery has been brewing in Colts Neck since 1780. According to Laird’s, their initial site was at the current Colts Neck Inn, but reopened in 1851 at its current location further east on CR-537.
4JG’s Winery, located on Hillsdale Road, first opened in 1999. After creating its first barrel of wine three years later, the winery has gone on to win numerous awards. 4JG’s just reopened for the spring season this past weekend.
The Colts Neck Stillhouse received approval from the township last June. Located in the business section of Route 34 South, the whiskey and gin distillery has yet to break ground.
Macnow said he views the idea of a microbrewery as an asset to the town, only if built in the proper location. “From an elected official’s perspective who is obligated to represent the residents, I can’t advocate deviating from our zoning requirements,” he said.
“I think it’s a relatively new industry in the state,” Dittmar said, “and it’s certainly a newer use for farms to be pursuing.”
The only other farmland microbrewery in New Jersey is also found in Monmouth County – Screamin’ Hill Brewery in Cream Ridge, which opened in 2015.
“I think it would be unrealistic for people to not have any questions or concerns,” said Dittmar. “It really comes down to some education towards the industry and who we are, and how we intend to conduct ourselves.”
Dittmar’s father, George Dittmar III, and aunt, Trudy Dittmar, purchased the Duck Hollow Farm property in 1949 from the Probasco family, the original owners. The farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 for its historical Dutch significance.
On Feb. 14, Dittmar received his first approval for a microbrewery through the Monmouth County Agriculture Development Board. A deed interpretation for a farmland preservation easement was unanimously granted, saying that a brewery is consistent with uses allowed for the land.
Per a memorialized resolution, Dittmar provided what he called “in the ballpark” terms for the establishment. Twenty-two acres of land will be dedicated to growing wheat, barley, rye and other related grains for beer brewing – 51 percent of all products for the beer must be grown on site. He currently has a four-acre test patch of barley growing, which will be farmed later this spring.
A 10-barrel brew house with a tasting room will be built, along with a 31-space parking lot, grain silo and septic field.
Dittmar expects the microbrewery,which remains nameless for the moment, will generate 500 barrels of beer annually from six acres of barley in the initial years.
Beer would be distributed in 1.5 ounce samples, 22 ounce bottles, and kegs, with wholesale distribution through kegs. On-site sales could be conducted from 1 to 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays.
Dittmar has yet to provide the township with any site plans or blueprints, as he said the business is in its early stages. To get final approval for the microbrewery, he would either have to receive zoning variances from the township, or go back to the Agriculture Development Board and obtain site specific approval.
According to Dittmar, he and his business partner and girlfriend, Brittanie Liebold, traveled the East Coast looking for the right way to start their new company. Dittmar has been home-brewing for years, and the family property seemed like the right spot to expand.
“We were looking, as a family, at how to make the farm as sustainable as possible,” he said.
This article was first published in the April 13-20, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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