Details matter in the beer world. For instance, which combinations of hops to use, the temperature of the boil and the right amount of carbonation each make a huge difference in the final result. For the guys behind Wet Ticket Brewing in Rahway, their focus is constantly on the details – even the ones that don’t necessarily have to do with making beer.
Local guys Tim Pewitt and Al Povalski love every aspect of craft beer, even down to the merchandise for the holiday season. What they love even more is being part of a slowly revitalized downtown Rahway. With a prime location directly across from the train station, it’s the perfect place to sample some tasty beer.
Pewitt’s introduction to the craft beer world came when a coworker at his then-job brought up the topic of homebrewing.
“I love everything about it. I love to cook, and homebrewing is about creating recipes. Then there’s science to it and you can play with all these fun gadgets,” Pewitt says as he points to the towering tanks in their brew house.
Homebrewing was a way to get Pewitt’s friends over to his garage to socialize. Eventually, he and his wife began visiting New Jersey breweries, where his wife pointed out that Pewitt’s beer was just as good as the local craft breweries.
“One day sitting on my couch, I put everything together and told myself that I should go into the brewing business,” he said. “Things were going well at AIG, but I just loved the thought of running a brewery.”
As for Povalski, he was more straight-forward about his introduction to craft beer.
“I’ve always loved beer…and I’m pretty good at drinking it,” he said with a big laugh.
The two were introduced by a mutual friend. Pewitt was looking to move on from the corporate world and Povalski was looking to start a business.
“And we’ve been happily married ever since!” joked Pewitt.
The two knew that they wanted to make their craft brewery a fun experience where visitors could relax and enjoy a beer with friends or just chill out on their own. They were also looking for a convenient location among other restaurants and shops.
As for what Pewitt wanted to brew, that was the hardest part to decide.
“All the beers I’ve made are my babies. I put a lot of effort over the years into perfecting them,” he explained. “I love my hoppy beers, but I love British ales like stouts and brown ales, as well.”
Ironically, the beer that stands out the most is their German kölsch. The style originated in Cologne and is typically served in long, thin glasses. More traditional styles keep the alcohol content low for all-day drinking. It’s your unfussy, nothing fancy social beer.
Wet Ticket also makes a hoppy version that replaces German malts with American and amps up the IBU (International Bitterness Unit), the stuff that gives beer its hop bite.
“I call it the kölsch on steroids,” said Pewitt.
“We wanted to attract people who might not know a lot about craft beer or are hesitant to try something different,” explained Povalski. “A kölsch is a perfect introduction and then we can offer them a pale ale or a blonde.”
In deciding on a location to create their beer, they looked all over North Jersey to find a town that was in need of a craft brewery. They lucked out when they discovered that the old Woolworth’s in Rahway had been converted into smaller storefronts and the town’s mayor was actively trying to attract a brewery.
After settling on the location in downtown Rahway, the two had to come up with a name. Every beer pun they thought of was already taken, which is understandable since there are 5,000 craft breweries in the United States. It was Pewitt’s sister-in-law who connected Woolworth’s to 1920s-30s prohibition and found the term “Wet Ticket.” It came from political candidates who would run on a wet ticket (repeal prohibition) or dry (keep prohibition).
The prohibition theme gave them a foundation to work off of when building their tap room and logo, a modern spin on a 30’s design. Pewitt’s wife, Selina, decorated the storefront windows with vintage goods from that era.
It’s also Selina who suggested one of their more popular beers, Tastes Like Summer Watermelon Wheat, a crisp, fruity and flavorful brew packed with whole watermelons bought from Costco.
“That was an adventure. I felt like the watermelon whisperer trying to get the right ones,” said Povalski. There are a few stray cans available, but a new batch will be made in time for the warmer months.
Since Pewitt craves hops, he makes a West Coast IPA (Spanktown IPA) that uses Centennial hopes for a big burst of citrus flavor. Their Double IPA kicks in at 9.2% ABV and swirls with danky flavors of pine and bitter orange.
Since it’s cold and snowy, they recommend their Kick the Bucket Brown Ale, a creamy and chocolatey British pub style beer made for indoor, by-the-fire drinking.
In anticipation of their one-year anniversary this month, they’ve taken their Imperial Oatmeal Stout, a high-gravity coffee and chocolate concoction and aged it for eight months in bourbon barrels. Expect it to sell out quickly when it’s bottled this month.
“The first year has flown by. Our first day, we didn’t have taps to serve beer. Now, we have 10 lines, more brewing equipment and we’re canning,” said Povalski. “We’re trying to keep up with demand.”
Pewitt joked, “I didn’t have this much grey when I started. Nah, it’s been fun. I wake up everyday looking forward to work.”
With a year behind them, Pewitt and Povalski aren’t getting tired of meeting new customers and introducing their fans to their latest inventions. For Pewitt, the passing of his brother, who helped in the early stages of Wet Ticket, makes the success of their brewing operation that much more satisfying.
“I know he would be really proud of me. I’m always thinking of him and miss him very much.”
Name: Wet Ticket Brewing
Location: Rahway, Union County
Standout Beer: Kölsch
Know Before You Go: Taproom open for pints, flights, growler fills, merchandise and cans and bottles to go. Check Facebook for tap lists, updated hours, can and bottles releases and upcoming events. Outside food allowed. No pets. Parking deck located across from brewery. Street parking also available.
Don’t forget to check out the entire Brew Jersey series here.