The craft brewing scene is a house afire in New Jersey, and Bordentown City was heating up on Labor Day Weekend — despite the drizzly weather — when it welcomed a new brewery to town with open arms.
Common Sense Brewing opened to considerable enthusiasm on Saturday, Sept. 2. Guests packed the newly opened venue from wall to wall and from opening to close. Response was so strong, in fact, that Common Sense ran out of beer and had to close for several weeks after opening.
They were back open by October, and things appear to have gone smoothly since. Eric Eaves co-owns the brewery with his stepfather, Marc Selover, and his mother Robin Selover. He says he was blown away by the crowds that showed up for opening weekend.
“We did not expect the community to give us that much support. I think being the first brewery in Bordentown had a lot to do with it. (Visiting breweries is) becoming a more popular way for people to enjoy beer,” he said in an interview at the brewery in the weeks afterward.
Eaves, 37, is Common Sense’s brewer. He says he learned everything he knows about brewing from Selover, whose recipes were the basis for the brewery’s six varieties on offer for the opening. Eaves says he and Selover have been avid homebrewers for 10 years.
The name Common Sense is a nod to Bordentown’s most famous former resident, Thomas Paine, Founding Father and author of the revolutionary-era treatise of the same name. The brewery opened with six beers on tap in its tasting room: two India pale ales, a blackberry blonde ale, a porter, a saison and a cream ale.
More recently the brewery has featured selections including pumpkin pie ale, cranberry ale, and Hessianweizen, a German wheat beer. Visitors can order the beer either in pints or in flights of four five-ounce glasses for tasting in house. New Jersey law also allows breweries to sell beer directly to customers for carry-out consumption.
On opening day, both pints and flights were in abundance at tables throughout the large tasting room at 102 Farnsworth Ave. Breweries are not permitted to sell food, although as Eaves points out, there are plenty of places to eat nearby.
“We just want to give people a different look at how craft beer is made,” Eaves said. “Our main thing is to have a place where people can get together and enjoy themselves and maybe learn something about the brewing process.”
Eaves admits he had to get up to speed working on a larger scale with professional-grade equipment, after years working with a homebrewer’s setup. He spent the weeks before the opening trying to perfect his recipes on the new system. The Hamilton resident said he’s very happy with how the beer has turned out, and he believes it will only get better.
“I love our beers right now, but I definitely want to improve on everything we do,” he said.
Eaves is married to wife Gina, a sales consultant. The couple have lived in the area off Arena Drive for four years. He said Gina is not much involved in the brewery, although she has helped out with social media.
Eaves spent many years working in bars on Long Beach Island and elsewhere. He said he’s worked a number of jobs, usually in customer service, over the course of his career, but declined to be more specific. Selover is a geologist and engineer specializing in environmental cleanup and remediation.
Before Common Sense could open, the duo had to refit the building, which had been the site of a karate dojo. It took more than a year to do the necessary work and get the permits needed to open.
They were hands on in installing new drains, new electric, new floors and a long, stone-topped bar that goes half the length of the room. The hard work paid off: the large tasting room was able to accommodate the enormous crowd that flooded in on opening day.
Eaves said the craft beer community is a supportive one, and that he received plenty of encouragement and benefited from the know-how of several other area breweries, including Third State (Burlington), Village Idiot (Mount Holly) and Broken Goblet (over the river in Bristol). The breweries gave advice on everything from brewing equipment to techniques to talking Common Sense through the permitting process.
Eaves also said he’s felt very welcomed by the Bordentown business community. He’s been in touch with a number of area restaurants, including Oliver’s and The HOB Tavern, discussing anything from special coordinated menus to a beer garden.
“[Common Sense Brewing] was for me another piece in our puzzle,” said C. J. Mugavero, owner of the Artful Deposit on Farnsworth Avenue and vice president of the Downtown Bordentown Association. “We’ve been looking forward to a quality brewery coming in. They came into town with absolutely a delightful personality, where they were very hopeful and very excited to be part of the business community. They wanted to become a part of us here in Bordentown City.”
Common Sense Brewing hosted live music on its opening weekend, something Eaves hopes to do more of in the future. The brewery is open Fridays from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 2 to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit commonsensebrewing.com or visit their Facebook or Instagram. Phone: (609) 526-8651.