Whenever possible, I like to highlight small craft breweries that are doing big things. That is especially true when it comes to breweries located in my hometown of Rochester, NY. I’ve already written about the Roc Brewing Company and all the trials and tribulations that led them to where they are today. Rochester is home to the aforementioned Roc, Custom BrewCrafters, Rohrbach Brewing Company, Naked Dove Brewing Company and the behemoth that is the Genesee Brewing Company.
But, in the last year, a new brewery has started to take center stage in the Flour City. Three Heads Brewing Company is taking the area by storm with their quirky beer names, flavors and bottle artwork. Not to mention the fact that their brews are incredibly well balanced and delicious.
I had a chance to ask Three Heads’ Geoff Dale a few questions about this up and coming craft brewing operation.
What is the history of three heads? How did it get started?
It all started when Dan’s native planet Krypton exploded….oh wait…wrong origin. It does all start with Dan Nothnagle. He has been an avid craft beer drinker for fifteen plus years. He traded online and always was out trying to get his hands on any new and exciting beer he could. Todd Dirrigl, my bro in law, and I moved into the neighborhood and the three of us started hanging out. We’d watch the UFC, football and hockey while drinking these great beers.
About 6 or 7 years ago, we decided we should try brewing our own beer. That is where 3HB really was born. We would do these brew nights on Friday or Saturday and our buddies would come along. Dan would bring his great beers he traded for and the party would start. We’d make beer, drink beer, listen to music and played foosball. It was a great time and I think we all sort of miss those days a little bit.
What sparked the next step was our friends. We started to notice they would grab our beers first over these beers Dan was bringing over. So, on a lark, we entered five of our beers into a homebrew competition. We ended up winning four medals (three golds and one bronze). We then entered twenty or so more beers into other competitions over the following year and won sixteen medals (including a best in show over four hundred and thirty other beers inBuffalo). That was the point where we realized we might be doing something right and that it was time to think about going to the next level.
Who does the artwork for the bottles and who thinks up the names of the beers?
Our artist is Allen Firlit. Todd and I are in a band and Al is the bro in law of one of our members. Al had done some posters for our shows and we loved his style. It was a logical fit to have him come over and handle the labels. The naming of the beer is a collective effort. Many times it will be Dan coming up with an idea and then Todd and I either shooting it down or coming back with a different option. Some of the names have been around since the early stages of this whole process and others just happened. Like most things with this business, we are a group and we all work on it together.
Where do you see three heads in five years?
First off, I need to express how blessed and lucky I feel we already have been. We never anticipated the success we have had and could never have imagined to be this far along in this amount of time. That being said, I can dare to dream on where we are going and where we will be in five years. For certain, I expect we will have our own brewing facility by that time….hopefully much sooner. We currently contract brew with Custom BrewCrafters and it has been a great relationship. But it would be nice to have our own place. I would be shocked if that was not the case in 5 years.
I also see us opening our own tasting room/bar that is not at the same spot as the brewery. Music is a huge part of who we are and we want to be able to have a room open where we could help support the local original scene. We do a lot of events currently with great local bands like The Moho Collective, Audio Influx, Roots Collider, The Filthy McNastys and our own band Extended Family. We would love to keep that vibe going. The bar would also be a place to drink all of our beers as well as a place we would put on other local brews. There are a ton of other great breweries in town right now.
So locally, the goal will be to open our own brewery and room within five years.
Out of the Rochester market?
I would like to see us continue our expansion of where we distribute to. Currently, we are shipping our beer toChicago,Boston,D.C.and the surrounding areas. We will be adding down state by May as well. I would love to see us adding all ofNew Englandand the rest of the states in between these places we are currently shipping to. To be able to distribute to the whole Northeast would be awesome. But the important thing we always focus on is making sure we always take care of home first. That will never change.
Tell me a little bit about the different beers available.
Here we go. We came to market with 4 beers originally.
- The Kind IPA, which is an American style IPA. It is our number one beer and it brings together all the things we love about hops minus that hop burn that many IPAs offer. Light in body and color.
- The Skunk Black IPA is another IPA but it uses dark malts. This gives it a darker, black color and also adds some roastiness to the flavor. It has a very complex taste that seems to be enjoyed by many wine drinkers.
- The Java Sutra Coffee Porter. The irony of this beer is that Dan, who came up with the recipe, does not drink coffee. It has some chocolate undertones and roastiness in the flavor. It is a smooth beer and not to heavy in body like many other dark beers are.
- The Blimey was the last of the original four, but we have ceased production on it at this time. It was a nice nutty English style pale ale.
- We also have tried to come out with a new seasonal beer every quarter. We started last summer and have created the following beers.
- The Ontario Coast IPA, which is a Belgian style IPA. That allows for a spicy flavor and a somewhat bubbly mouth feel. It is a nice clean beer that is perfect for the summer. We stopped making it in fall, but we have plans on bringing it back again soon.
- The Bromigo Smoke Maple Amber is my favorite beer that we make. It has a smoke flavor and maple, but both are just parts of the flavor. Too often, smoked beers are like licking an ashtray. We wanted to not fall victim to that pitfall. The amber body also allows it to be a lighter beer than many other smoked beers. This is like a campfire breakfast.
- The Common Man Special Lager is our most recent offering. All the other beers we have made are 6% or higher with the ABV and are bold flavors. These are more for the craft crowd. The Common Man is actually a beer we hope can bridge the gap between the craft scene and your every day macro drinker. The response we have seen with this beer makes us think we might have hit our mark.
- We are also going to be releasing our Cobbs Hill Black Lager in June for Rochester Beer Week. We were voted best beer at last years Real Beer Expo. It is going to be a smooth and easy drinker that is perfect for summer.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
We love Rochester. All three of us are born and raised here. We hope we can continue to keep having this kind of success and hopefully help putRochestereven more on the map with regards to beer.
We would also like people to keep their eyes out next January as we do our second annual Home grown fest. It was huge last year and this year is going to dwarf that event. Cheers!
*This article originally appeared on drinkingmadeeasy.com. Look for Chris’s articles on wine, beer and spirits there every other week.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn