Ghost Hawk Brewery: Passaic County’s First-Ever Craft Brewery

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Born from a passion for delicious beer, Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is the first-ever craft brewery in Passaic County. After about 21 months of hard work, the brewery opened its doors in April of 2019 and has been serving delicious brews in Clifton, and all over New Jersey, ever since. While Ghost Hawk is a beloved local brewery, the inspiration behind the name and the business is something bigger than beer. Keep reading to learn more about Ghost Hawk Brewery, a craft brewery in North Jersey.

Meet The Owners

Ghost Hawk Brewing

(Photo credit: @ghosthawkbrewingco)

It’s a true team effort at Ghost Hawk Brewery with four partners as part of the operation. Clifton native Steve Bauer is the Founder/Vice President and has a business degree from Montclair State University. His older brother Tim Bauer is a silent partner. Fellow Clifton native Tom Rachelski is the Founder/President. Tom attended the Citadel and has an MBA in Finance from Rutgers. He is a US Army veteran who served in Kuwait. Chris Sheehan is the brewmaster, and through mutual friends, he became the team’s brewery consultant and eventual partner. 

The Story Behind Ghost Hawk Brewery

Ghost Hawk Brewing

(Photo credit: @ghosthawkbrewingco)

“Ghost Hawk is far from just a couple of random words on a logo. It’s a dedication to my younger brother, Danny, who passed in 2016,” Steve Bauer told The Montclair Girl

After suffering the loss of a close friend in 2014 and then his brother in 2016,  Steve decided he needed to start living his life to its fullest. “I quit my office job where I had been working for nearly a decade because I could no longer justify living in a cubicle. I gave up the salary, the benefits, the paid vacation. I went to the shelter and rescued an awesome dog. I threw care to the wind and threw myself into the wild. There were a lot of ups and downs, but for the first time, I was living life on my own terms,” Steve recaps. 

Read More: Montclair Bars + Beyond to Visit Based on Your Drink Preferences

As kids, Steve, Tim, and Danny would take many hiking and camping trips with their dad. From an early age, it gave them a true appreciation of nature. Through those times, an animal they grew a great respect for was Red-Tailed Hawks. “Even in our adult years, my brother and I went to a bird center and held hawks together, and Dan (Steve’s younger brother) had a large tattoo of a hawk on his arm.”

Ghost Hawk Brewing

(Photo credit: @ghosthawkbrewingco)

After Dan passed in January 2016, Steve began to see hawks in very strange scenarios in his life. “I’m not one to believe in mumbo jumbo by any means, but I truly believe those hawks carry my brother’s spirit,” Steve stated.

That’s when Steve knew a hawk needed to be incorporated into this venture. “One day, after weeks of pondering ideas, that name just hit me like a ton of bricks. GHOST HAWK. When I finalized the concept, I showed it to Tom and he loved it. I sent it to my mom and she cried.”

While Tom and Steve explored New York state as the home for Ghost Hawk because there are much better laws in NY for the brewing industry. At the end of the search, Clifton gave them the home-field advantage. “It’s a great town, and the reception we got like a couple of hometown guys opening the first brewery in Clifton and all of Passaic County, we wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Steve explained.

The Brewery + The Beers

Ghost Hawk Brewing

Steve and the Ghost Hawk team are constantly serving up good vibes in Clifton. The brewery welcomes both kids and pets. With an incredibly friendly staff, feel-good music, and tasty beers, Ghost Hawk is everything you’d want in a brewery.

“By far, our top-selling beers are Ghost Hawk Lager and Apex Predator NEIPA. But we make a bunch of seasonal beers and one-offs to keep the lineup diverse and always have something new to try. We never wanted to be an IPA-focused brewery. Don’t get me wrong, we love IPAs. But you don’t need 10 different ones on tap,” Steve described the beer selection.

Ghost Hawk Brewing

(Photo credit: @ghosthawkbrewingco)

You can also find Ghost Hawk beer canned locally, plenty of North Jersey bars and restaurants carry the team’s brews.

MG Pro Tip: Make sure to try the Cherry Daedalion – it’s the perfect brew for summer.

See More: Departed Soles Brewery: Jersey City’s Trendy Brewhouse

The Impact of COVID-19

Ghost Hawk Brewing

During the brewery’s first year of operation, business was booming. Pre-COVID, Ghost Hawk was on tap at over 120 locations and growing. “Luckily we had already established a serious following when the pandemic hit,” Steve mentioned. 

And the loyalty has never stopped. “We had to shift gears during COVID and start canning all of our beers, as the market demanded it. But we were able to adjust and restructure as needed,” Steve said. The only downside: Ghost Hawk is actually running out of room with the high demand. “A lot of logistical challenges from here, but nothing we can’t handle. We’re up for the challenge,” Steve added. 

The Future of Ghost Hawk Brewery

Ghost Hawk Brewing

(Photo credit: @ghosthawkbrewingco)

While Ghost Hawk has created quite the buzz in North Jersey, Steve said the brewery’s plans are to stay humble, stay focused, and keep growing the brand. Ghost Hawk recently added a canning line to its system this past winter. And the next system expansion will be a second larger tank, so the team can start pumping out different small-batch lagers, pilsners, and much more. “We’ll continue to make great beer. And with the taproom reopened now, we’ll continue to keep the good vibes flowing.”

PS – The brewery’s location is right across the street from New Jersey’s famous Rutt’s Hut hot dog eatery. So make sure to come hungry for a Ripper. 

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Taylor is an {overly} proud Jersey girl, who has been lucky enough to call Hoboken home for the last three years, and Jersey City for two prior. Originally from a small town in Hunterdon County, Taylor received her degree in multimedia journalism from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She also spent some time in Miami, but always knew she’d find her way to Hoboken. Taylor has a career in sports, digital, and social media strategy in the NYC area. A lover of all things local, she has a long list of favorite restaurants and coffee shops where she spends a good chunk of her time. You can also catch her running on the waterfront, walking her new pup, watching reruns of Real Housewives, or making a trip to HomeGoods