Haddonfield resident and King’s Road Brewing Company owner Bob Hochgertel remembers the first time that his friends were talking about the possibility of starting a brewery. All he could do at the time was laugh. There was no way that a brewery would open up in Haddonfield of all places.
“My friends and I were talking about what we can do to make a difference in town,” recalls Hochgertel. “And my one friend Chris Thomas, who is now my business partner, jokingly said let’s open a brewery. We all laughed because there was no way that Haddonfield would let us open a brewery.”
Like many other towns in the Delaware Valley, Haddonfield has its roots in the Quaker religion. The Quakers held strong beliefs in regards to being anti-slavery and helped with protecting runaway enslaved people who made it to the Underground Railroad stop in neighboring Lawnside.
The Quakers also held strong convictions on abstaining from alcohol, and many cities that were once Quaker hubs are considered “dry towns” meaning that no alcohol sales were allowed in those cities. Haddonfield voters in 1873 voted to ban alcohol sales in the Camden County city, and the rest was history. Or so we thought?
Thinking that their idea had no chance of succeeding, Hochgertel and company changed the conversation over to Chip Kelly and the Birds. While it doesn’t take a lot for Eagles fans to drink, talking or thinking about the Chip Kelly years will make any Birds farm grab some booze. A month later ,the brewery idea came up again, and the friends came up with the Haddy Special to get the idea past the goal line.
“A month later we all were watching a game and having beers,” explains Hochgertel. “My friend Michael Plunkett, who is a lawyer, asked us if we were serious about opening up a brewery. We were kind of shooting the breeze, and he said ,‘I researched why Haddonfield is dry and I researched the governance of a New Jersey brewery license, and they bypass each other.’ He said, ‘I think you can do this.’”
Plunkett and Hochgertel realized that Haddonfield isn’t dry the same way that shore town Ocean City is dry. The friends discovered that Haddonfield chooses not to administer liquor licenses to prevent chain restaurants from coming into town. But ultimately Haddonfield would have little say in the matter because the duo also realized that they needed a brewery license, and Trenton handles the distribution of brewery licenses, not the local city.
Hochgertel still had to present his plan to the zoning board, and anyone who has been to a zoning board meeting in Jersey realizes that those meetings should be tied with the WNBA or MLS for the fifth professional sport in America. Zoning meetings are where dreams are crushed or the board uses their power to push controversial projects past the finish line. Understandably, Hochgertel was nervous.
“My wife and I open the door to the courtroom and it’s standing room only,” says Hochgertel about the board meeting. “Every seat was filled and people are lining up against the walls. I lean over to my wife and say, ‘It starts.’ What I mean by that was I assumed all these people there are the people with torches and pitchforks who would be like, ‘We don’t want a brewery in town,’ and it wasn’t that way at all. They were all there to support us, and the theme of their message that night was that we need to focus on the town they want to be instead of the town they used to be. One by one, person after person got up in front of the microphone and supported us. We didn’t arrange that and they showed up organically to support us.
“It was an amazing night and I still get the chills thinking about it. Other than the birth of my two daughters, and my wedding it was the best night of my life.”
Haddonfield’s support of a brewery in town wasn’t all talk either. The brewery opened up in December of 2017, and two years later in 2019 they moved two blocks away to a bigger location to meet demand. In 2021, King’s Road opened up a second location in Medford to increase distribution.
In 2023, that demand is still there, and when I visited on a miserable March day that reminds you that the early part of the month is still winter, the place was packed. King’s Road serves as the meeting spot in town for several different organizations.
Indeed, Hochgertel wanted the brewery to serve as the spot to meet in Haddonfield, but there was a larger goal in mind when he started King’s Road and that was to drive visitors to Haddonfield after dark.
Unlike neighboring Westmont and Collingswood, Haddonfield would taper off at night, and it was something that Hochgertel wanted to fix.
“The one thing I noticed about this town, and again I love this town, is that the town would shut down at 6 p.m.,” says Hochgertel. “I mean everything would shut down including restaurants. Here we have this incredible downtown, and everything is shut down at 6.”
Since the opening of King’s Road Brewery, chefs and restaurant owners in town have noticed a difference in more people coming to town. Andrew Bodi, a chef at Verona, an Italian restaurant on King’s Highway has noticed a difference.
“Since Bob relocated Kings Road to the prime location on the corner of Mechanic Street, everything has changed,” says Bodi. “Our restaurant is seen populated with diners who have just made their way over from the brewery and elect to spend their night out in Downtown Haddonfield. Regardless of the season, evenings are now full of lively crowds that embrace everything that Haddonfield has to offer.”
There’s also another reason why King’s Road attracts a crowd and it is because of their beer. Hochgertel doesn’t have a homebrewing background, but being a former college professor, he learned about the process pretty quickly. He has hired brewers from established breweries such as Victory, Yards and Neshaminy Creek. Hochgertel and business partners went to breweries in towns that have a reputation for being “dry” such as Collingswood and Pitman to learn more about the process. They also visited nearby Tonewood.
The beer itself is well-refined and -crafted. The intro beer at King’s Road is King’s Gold, which is a 5.2% ABV lager, and it’s the brewery’s top-seller.
“It’s our number-one seller in the tasting room and our number one seller in cans.,” Hochgertel says. “It’s a basic light American lager, and it’s a craft version of the mass produced beers. People always come in and say, ‘What do you have that is like Coors, Miller or Yuengling?’ I say, ‘Well, nothing, but I think you’ll like King’s Gold, and they do.”
King’s Gold will pave the way for you to try bigger tasting beers at King’s Road. Possibly 10.5% ABV type of big. Sinful Deeds is an imperial stout with a chocolatey aftertaste. With big beers comes big responsibility and that is something that Hochgertel understands.
“It’s a little boozy and every year we make a big imperial stout,” says Hochgertel. “This one was fused with chocolate and vanilla. We won’t serve this beer in a pint or a mug because it’s at 10.5%. It’s really strong and delicious. We split the batch and half of it is on tap, and the other half we put in maple barrels to age it. We are aging it six months in maple barrels, and we think it’s gonna be really special when it comes out.”
All in All, King’s Road is a great place to get a beer and hang out with friends, and the location makes it shine. Haddonfield has a quaint downtown with loads of good restaurants and small shops. It feels a little like Princeton’s cousin from South Jersey. There’s ample parking and public transit access from the Camden County burbs, Downtown Camden, and Center City Philly via PATCO, so there’s little reason not to go. So do it.