A brewery over a century in the making
Many years ago, and several before meeting my husband and moving to New Jersey, I found myself lost and wandering through Salem County. Travelling along the main thoroughfare of Woodstown, I happened upon a gorgeous historic bank building that embedded itself in my memory as somewhere I wanted to remember to return to later in life.
When I moved to Woodstown a few years later, I saw that the building was for sale; uninhabited and forgotten by time and industry. When I asked my now husband, and lifetime resident of the town, Dan Serwan, what it's deal was, he painted the sad story that no one had the gumption to turn it into what we both imagined it could be someday: a place for the citizens of town to gather for events, perhaps a restaurant, or maybe someday a brewery.
First National Bank of Woodstown
Chartered in 1864 | completed in 1892
Photo Credit: Unknown
This early 1900's photograph shows, in somewhat blurry detail, what the cornerstone of the town looked like in its early days.
Now Farmers & Bankers Brewing
Winter 2022 Snow Day | Mid-Project
Photo Credit: Natalie Serwan Photography
I can only imagine that I stood in nearly the same place as the photographer of the photo before mine, comparing them now, the perspective is nearly identical.
For the past 12 years, I have driven past this building, daydreaming about what it could do for the town. I saw the nightlife in Pitman, Swedesboro, and other small towns in New Jersey and hoped that one day Woodstown would have that kind of appeal. We needed something, and it seems that for nearly the same length of time, Rebecca and Michael Melniczuk had similar dreams and desires.
When the buzz started getting around town that someone had purchased the old bank building, I was desperate to find out what they intended to do with the it. When the news came out that the Melniczuk family intended to turn it into a brewery and event space, the collective joy that poured from the citizens of this town and the surrounding area matched my own enthusiasm.
Meet the Melniczuks
Proprietors of Farmers & Bankers Brewing
Rebecca and Michael Melniczuk live in Pilesgrove, NJ with their two children, Matthew and Sarah. Michael left his career in engineering to bring his dream of bringing new life to the historic First National Bank with his wife Rebecca, a physical therapist at Woodstown Physical Therapy.
Together they have done a great deed for the people of Woodstown and Salem County, and they couldn't have had better timing. With the recent Rail Bike and Woodstown Central Rail announcements, Farmers & Bankers is going to have a lot of fresh faces stopping in and taking a break in the great downtown we have to offer.
When you stop in, make sure to thank them for their hard work, and be sure to take in the beautiful interior of the taproom that Rebecca designed.
A toast to the host
As soon as my husband and I arrived to the brewery, the celebrations and speeches from Woodstown borough officials and Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer began. After being presented with certificates recognizing the occasion, the family cut the ribbon with the Salem County Chamber of Commerce's "Official Ribbon Cutting Scissors". Having recently had my own grand opening supported by the chamber, I can tell you those scissors are real.
While I went off chatting with the lovely Salem County Amy, as well as Alyssa Caltabiano (Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for the County of Salem), and her counterpart Kirsten Engstrom (Zeus Creative), about how amazing this brewery is for the local economy, my husband travelled off to get us a flight of what the brewery had to offer. Both of us love craft brews, and even more we love supporting local small businesses.
While I was too wrapped up in the moment to remember to raise my glass, I'd like to take this moment to do so in hindsight. Here's to the host!
"This is the second earliest I have ever had a beer"
-Dan Serwan, Woodstown Resident (and husband of the writer/photographer)
I had intended to remember what Dan's reviews of the brews were, but honestly I took a few minutes to enjoy tasting the flight and having a spontaneous mid-week lunch date with my husband. We tried the Angry Pig 4.9% ABV Pale Ale, Gateway 5.7% ABV American Pilsner, Short Change 5.3% ABV, Czech Pilsner, and Dougie Fresh 7.5% ABV, New England Style IPA. Out of all of them, my overall winner was Angry Pig, mainly because I'm a sucker for a great pale ale, and I'm not much of an IPA fan. Pilsner I'm coming around to, and the two we tried certainly put them on my radar. The next time we stop in, I hope to try the Cow Tipper 4.4% Milk Stout, also available on Nitro, and the Wolverine Wheat 5.7% ABV Wheat, while I'm guessing Dan will have One More for the Road 7.2% ABV IPA. Oh, and I have GOT to remember to try the non-alcoholic Rootbeer!
FROM HOMEBREWER TO BREWMASTER
Brewmaster Michael Duva (the other Mike) is also a local Pilesgrove resident. Having enjoyed the hobby of homebrewing since 2013, he has honed his craft to bring us the selection of 7 beers (8 if you count the nitro) that comprise the initial lineup that Farmers & Bankers Brewing has to offer.
The brewery has a 5 barrel system that allows them to brew small batches of 150 gallons at a time. Mike can have up to 6 recipes fermenting at one time.
I'm excited to see what other recipes he has to bring to the table, including perhaps a sour in the near future. From what we tried today, I am certain that Mike has put in his 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at his craft.
What's to come? What about the old building?
"Phase 2" of the project includes continuing the rehabilitation started years ago in the historic bank building attached to the new taproom. Eventually they hope to open it for use as a private event space, but are still finalizing the plans. Soon, more brews will be added to the menu, along with a variety of sodas created for those who would rather a non-alcoholic reason to visit the brewery.
Personally, I am overwhelmed with happiness and well wishes for the success of this brewery. You can tell that this project is a labor of love and is going to be around for years. The impact it will have on our downtown will be known soon and hopefully we'll be able to attract food trucks and other types of small business to our wonderful small town in the heart of Salem County.
About the authorPhotographer Natalie Serwan
Natalie is the owner of Natalie Serwan Photography and lives with her husband Dan and their two year old son, Christopher, in Woodstown, New Jersey.
Visit Natalie and ask for a tour of the DBJ History of Photography Museum located in her recently opened studio located in Swedesboro.
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