Their Pints Runneth Over
Three Brothers Taps Into Local Market For Beer
Posted: February 1, 2013
Tyler Spurlock (left) and Tyler Shifflett clean out a stainless steel tank at Three Brothers Brewing, located on North Main Street at the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in Harrisonburg on Wednesday. The brewery was expected to start operations last fall with the tasting room opening in November. But unforeseen issues related to the renovations of the former plant pushed back the dates, said Adam Shifflett, who runs the brewery with brothers Tyler and Jason. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Beautiful Spaces owner Dennis Combs (left) and Fatima Antunez work on building the tasting room.
Adam Shifflett (left) and Tyler Spurlock brew beer at Three Brother Brewing on Wednesday morning.
Since hitting the market in late December, kegs from Three Brothers Brewing on North Main Street have been drying up fast, according to a couple of proprietors of downtown’s most prolific beer-centric establishments.
Patrons have had their choice of Hoptimization, an India pale ale; The Admiral, a double IPA; Elementary, a porter; and Coffee Breath, an English brown blended with coffee.
The beers are brewed at a former Coca-Cola bottling plant in a production room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking North Main near the Washington Street intersection.
Adam Shifflett, who runs Three Brothers with siblings Tyler and Jason, said he hopes to open a tasting room at the brewery within a month.
Aaron Ludwig, co-owner of Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint and Billy Jack’s Wing and Draft Shack, and Capital Alehouse manager and beer buyer Alexander Filicko say Three Brothers puts out a quality product, but people also want to support the brewery because it’s local.
“It’s a community thing,” Filicko said. “There’s just a big demand.”
Ludwig said the phenomenon isn’t new.
“The thing I love about this area is they’re just so supportive of local beers. … You do have people that live here that do take pride in the local beer here, especially when it’s good,” he said.
Three Brothers is the only craft brewery in the Harrisonburg area, filling a microbrew void left by the closure of Cally’s Restaurant and Brewing Co. in July 2011.
The Alehouse moved into Cally’s space on Court Square and offers more than 100 craft beers, including varieties produced by Starr Hill in Crozet and Devils Backbone in Nelson County.
Jack Brown’s and Billy Jack’s, both located just south of Court Square on Main Street, also serve up dozens of varieties of craft beers from throughout the state and region.
In addition to those three locations, Three Brothers is available at restaurants and bars throughout Harrisonburg and is served in Staunton, Lexington and Richmond, Adam Shifflett said.
Three Brothers aims to reciprocate the support it’s gotten from the community, he said.
“We wanted to be here,” said Shifflett, a Penn Laird native who moved back to the Valley recently from Norfolk after an 11-year stint in the Navy. “We wanted to come back to the area, and we think that small businesses, as much as anybody else, have a responsibility to be part of the community in a positive way. So, we’re trying to help in any way we can.”
Once barley is finished with the brewing process, it’s given to beef cattle farmers, and unused yeast goes to a trout farm to feed the fish. Similarly, used coffee grounds were made available to whoever wanted them for mulch, Shifflett said, and 35 to 40 pounds of grounds disappeared quickly.
Local ingredients will be incorporated whenever possible, he added. Coffee from Lucas Roasting Co. in Broadway is used to make Coffee Breath.
“We’re constantly on the lookout for other products we could incorporate into the beer,” he said.
Three Brothers also wants to partner with city restaurants to provide food at the tasting room when it opens.
Initially, the brewery was expected to start operating earlier in the fall with the tasting room opening in November. Shifflett said unforeseen issues related to the renovation of the bottling plant arose, pushing back the dates.
Three Brothers will have an area available to rent for private tasting events and could accommodate business meetings.
Shifflett said it would have a somewhat “rustic” feel, with the furniture being built by him and his brothers.
The bar at the tasting room will be set up for up to 10 taps, with experimental varieties continually rotated along with Three Brothers production beers, Shifflett said.
“That’s the great thing about small craft breweries,” he said. “You can constantly change things up.”
Though still a relatively small part of the market in the United States, craft brew is increasingly popular and a force for change in the beer landscape.
Consolidation of production led to a fairly homogenous American beer market in the 1970s, with light lagers dominating the industry, according to the Brewers Association, a national trade group.
The craft brewer emerged out of the hobby of home brewing. Only eight operated in 1980, according to the association, but by 1994 that number swelled to 537.
As of July 1, there were 2,075 craft breweries operating in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association.
In 2011, the craft brew share of the beer market was 5.7 percent by volume, up 13 percent from the year before, and 9.1 percent by dollars, up 15 percent from 2010, the association reported.
The trade group defines craft brewers as those that are small, independent and traditional: They produce 6 million barrels of beer a year or less, are 25 percent or less owned or controlled by someone in the industry who isn’t a brewer, and have an all-malt flagship beer or at least 50 percent of volume is either all malt or beers with additives that enhance flavor as opposed to lightening it.
Three Brothers could produce up to 2,000 barrels per year, but its capacity will soon double when new equipment arrives, Shifflett said. A barrel equals 31 gallons.
How much of the capacity gets used, however, remains to be seen, he added.
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or firstname.lastname@example.org