Departed Soles opened over two years ago, in the summer of 2015, and shares their ground floor space with neighborhood favorite Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co at 150 Bay Street, but the burgeoning brewing company in the Powerhouse Arts District is still under residents’ radar despite their beer being on tap around town.
I finally visited Jersey City’s very own craft brewery and was greeted at the counter by the “Entrepre-Brewer” and founder Brian Kulbacki who laughed when I said it seems people still don’t really know about Departed Soles. “That’s exactly right,” he said. “No one knows we’re here, and we don’t really advertise, but as long as I can feed the dog, it’s all good.”
The dog is a friendly mutt named Bogun who eats plenty of treats made of spent grain from the process and Departed Soles is very much here in Jersey City, brewing an impressive number of beers on-site, including gluten-free options which are the inspiration for the entire operation.
Brian’s goal was to elevate gluten-free beer to the level of a craft brew that could compete with any good, traditional ale. The tasting room does offer many “definitely not gluten-free” beers, but A Dark Night (GF black IPA) and GoodbIPA: Four My Homie (GF floral and citrus IPA) are always on tap and, as their names suggest, they are lasting tributes to Brian’s best friend Chris who died unexpectedly in 2010.
Best friends, beer lovers, sneaker fanatics, and experienced industry professionals, Brian and Chris dreamed of opening a brewery, and after Chris developed a gluten intolerance, they dreamed of brewing gluten-free beer. Compelled by friendship, Brian attended the American Brewers Guild in 2012 and became the first graduate to specialize in gluten-free beer–Departed Soles’ mission is clear. And every ounce of beer is brewed by Brian himself who starts work most days at 5 am.
“Not every beer is for everyone,” says Brian. “But if you don’t like it this week, next week we’ll have different beers.” Flights are served on mini skateboards and include a full-size pint of your favorite brew. Chilltown pride murals brighten up the space and at the communal tables inlaid with diamond plate, you’re not more than 50 feet from where the beer is brewed.
Classic 80s and 90s rule the decor and music. And plenty of board games, including a cool, oversized Connect Four and an impressively complete edition of Risk, will turn one pint into many. The crowd is diverse and a group of regulars definitely keep the Tasting Room Manager Chris busy. The first of only two employees, he attended The Culinary Institute of America and has several beverage/wine certifications, but he “likes beer, especially Brian’s beer,” and began as a volunteer, painting walls and putting furniture together.
Departed Soles is a heartstring operation with great tasting beer to boot and Brian’s excitement and pride is infectious. “It’s so cool getting to see people drink and experience beer,” he said as he was closing up for the night. “I want to be a community brewery.”
At the end of September, stop in for a brand new brew inspired by German Helles Lager, honoring the start of Oktoberfest and cleverly named Helles Island. Brian admits it’s experimental territory and it takes longer to ferment, but he is definitely up to the challenge. Also starting soon will be a running club and a yoga club that will trade sweat for suds–sign up!
Departed Soles, Jersey City’s ONLY Brewery & Tasting Room has extended their hours and is open Wednesday & Thursday 5-9 pm, Friday 4-10 pm, Saturday 2-10 pm, and Sunday 1-7 pm.