Keeping Up With Harrisonburg’s Three Brothers Brewing Company

3 Brothers Brewing Harrisonburg VAAdam Shifflett was the first to ask what was in the two, one gallon Ziploc bags I was holding.  “Here”, as I lifted one to near eye level, “are some toasted coconut flakes, and in the other, toasted almonds”.  With no true brewing experience under my belt, I had been invited to visit Three Brothers Brewing Company in Harrisonburg and help “design” a small size cask beer – or more to the point, and thankfully for my limited skills, simply add a couple ingredients to a small batch of the brewery’s new Russian Imperial Stout.  All morning I had been wondering how the two ingredients would go over.  At the very least, I hoped that I simply wouldn’t be in the way.  After all, Adam and his brothers, three guys who had been home brewing for most of their adult lives, and who now own and operate a brewery that had begun distributing to restaurants and stores in central and southwestern Virginia – were guys who actually brew beer.  I was just showing up with two Ziploc bags.  The cask, as long as my ingredients didn’t make it unpalatable, was to be featured at the brewery’s tent at Roanoke’s 16th annual Microfestivus in a couple months.  I kept feeling that my involvement was a bit like looking over the shoulder of a successful painter and saying… “um, hey buddy, don’t you think you ought to add a little more green over in that corner there…?”  But Adam shook my hand, graciously welcomed me to the brewery, and seemed to be perfectly fine with a couple of somewhat random food items that I would soon be pouring into his brewery’s newest beer.

Inside the 3 Brothers Brewing TaproomLater that afternoon in the brewery’s taproom, over samples of several Three Brothers beers, I got a chance to chat more in depth with Adam and his brothers, Jason and Tyler.  There was an obvious sense of excitement about what they were accomplishing at the brewery so far, but it was tempered, lying underneath a steady and confident “there is work to be done” focus.  Undoubtedly, the growing crowds of hometown supporters who had been coming out to the brewery to sample their beers and meet the men behind the brewery had been giving the brothers a sense that they were onto something good.  Three Brothers had been building itself upon a core group of beers, including their Great Outdoors Pale Ale, Hoptimization IPA, Admiral Imperial IPA, Tri Briathair Scotch Ale, and Elementary Porter.  But even as distribution was opening up within Virginia, Adam and his brothers were already looking well down the road.  As Adam poured another sample, he mentioned an interest in barrel aging future releases, which the Three Brothers has since plunged into – a flavorful Rum barrel aged Belgian Dubbel has been available on draft here in Roanoke off and on for some time now.  Just recently, the brewery has produced a sour style beer, called Savage Blonde, also aged in rum barrels.  Branching out into releases such as these certainly reflects the brothers’ own personal interests in different styles of beer, but they also of course recognize that they are not alone in their curiosities.  No longer just fans of all the varying beer styles out there, as the core team at a growing brewery, Adam, Jason and Tyler know they need to respond to the ever evolving tastes among the craft curious.  As Adam mentioned in an email after my visit, “…the biggest hurdle that we (Three Brothers) and other Virginia breweries seem to be facing is that there are so many drinkers want to always have something new.  [We try] to keep things fresh and still grow the brands that we think form a great backbone for the brewery.”

Draft list in the taproom at 3 BrothersA few months ago, evidence of “keeping things fresh” surfaced in the form of a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout called Resolute.  First released in larger markets such as Richmond, reviews were immediate and stellar.  Some commented in online forums about the beer, comparing it to similar beers from more widely distributed, more nationally known breweries, comparing it even to Goose Island’s revered Bourbon County Stout in head to head tastings.  A couple weeks ago, the beer appeared, momentarily, on draft here in Roanoke, and certainly lived up to the reputation it had quickly built.  Luxuriously rich, sips of the beer came across with a decadent weight to them, like local farm, whole chocolate milk, and showed off a formidable and grand mixture of semisweet chocolate layered with bourbon and roasted malt.  No one flavor stood out on its own, instead linking arms together as one, as it came at you, immediately getting your attention, and then respect.  Needless to say, the beer did not disappoint.

3 Brothers RIS Firkin Display at MicrofestivusA few months after my visit to Three Brothers, I found myself making a bee line for the Three Brothers tent at last summer’s Microfestivus, where the cask I had helped with was located.  Considering that I had a hand in making the beer, albeit a relatively insignificant one, I hoped that the beer was at least good enough to get through a two ounce pour.  As it turned out, it was delicious.  But then again, I had only thrown a couple of ingredients in, which were barely noticeable in the background.  Adam and his brothers had produced a fantastic stout, the proof of which lay in the fact that it didn’t last long into the festival.  Looking back, I shouldn’t have worried.  After having tasted several of their beers, from the samples at the brewery to more limited releases like Resolute, faith in just how delicious the beer from Three Brothers is has been an easy thing to come by.

Check out the brewery’s website.


~ by thebeerroad on February 24, 2014.

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