Two popular Meadowlands breweries once again joined more than 60 beer makers from around the country for the racetrack’s annual festival, this year coinciding on Kentucky Derby Day May 6.
Ghost Hawk Brewing Company has participated in the racetrack’s beerfest every year since the Clifton-based company launched April 20, 2019. At that time, they were the first production brewery in Passaic County since the days of prohibition and one of 100 in the state.
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Four years later, the total is 144, with production breweries in every county, according to New Jersey Craft Beer data. The Meadowlands region has seven breweries: four in Bergen County, one in Passaic County, and three in Hudson County. (Monmouth County has the most.)
Ghost Hawk Brewing and Clifton
Tom Rachelski, president and co-founder of Ghost Hawk, said being in Clifton next door to Silk City Distillery is a perfect spot. Not only is it easy to find, with good accessibility, he added that it also offers some variety for people in groups.
Plus, Clifton is where it all began, where the co-founders grew up, and the reason for the brewery’s name. It almost wouldn’t make sense if Rachelski and co-founder and childhood friend Steve Bauer launched their business in any other city.
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Ghost Hawk is named in tribute to Bauer’s younger brother Danny, who died in 2016. Tom was actually Danny’s childhood friend but of course knew Steve as well. After Danny’s death, Steve and Tom discovered they were both at a crossroads in life and knew one thing for sure: they weren’t returning to the office.
The Ying & Yang of Ghost Hawk
Between Tom and Steve, they have a couple of degrees in business and finance as well as solid job, side hustle, and life experience. Plus, they both have all that knowledge that people can only get if they live a few years.
Tom is an Army Veteran who used some of his many skills in war-torn Kuwait. Steve is an artist who took his expertise to the music and skate boarding scenes. Tom’s a money guy; Steve a creative type. They’re a natural fit to start a business together.
When they decided that a brewery was the business they should start, they were both smart enough to know what they didn’t know. And that was how to make beer. They only knew what they liked to drink.
Enter: The Brewmaster
That’s where multi-award winning brewmaster Chris Sheehan comes into the picture. He quickly went from being a hired brew consultant to becoming a full-fledged Ghost Hawk co-founder and onsite brewmaster.
The multi-award-winning brewmaster had already filled his resume and had become the envy of those in the the field. Becoming an owner seemed like a natural segway.
The former brewer at Chelsea Brewing In Manhattan, Sheehan was a star in California at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley and 20 Tank Brewery in San Francisco.
Ghost Hawk, Beer Festivals & Meadowlands Racetrack
Now that Ghost Hawk has been around for a few years, they’ve been to enough beer festivals to know the ones worth repeating. The event at the Meadowlands Racetrack is a winner.
“We’ve scaled back because it’s impossible to do everything. This one we love,” Tom said. “It has a good mix of unique beer and it’s a good crowd of people who enjoy beer.”
He said people can expect a mix of beers at the festival on Saturday. “We like to offer a taste of our flagship larger as well as something new.”