RICHMOND, Va. – History can be told through liquid, and Three Notch’d Brewing Company will show you how that is done and get you involved in the process when they soon open their Scott’s Addition brewery.
This story begins first with a long road that inspired the brewery’s name.
In 2012, three guys sat around a Charlottesville pub and asked “how could we do this ourselves?”
By 4 a.m. they had agreed to launch a full-scale brewery.
Within a year, they had their head brewer Dave Warwick – who they cornered while he was pouring beer at a festival -- two years later they had award-winning beer and opened a second location in Harrisonburg.
Now, four years later, that road leads to Richmond for a third location, the RVA Collab House.
Three Notch’d Road was an American Indian footpath marked by three notches made in trees along the east-west route; known now as Three Chopt Road.
The brewery’s mantra is “leave your mark” and many of the flagship beers are named with a nod to history.
That’s their story. And now they want to know yours – and then brew seven barrels of it.
THE DISTINGUISHING MARK
Founders Scott Roth, George Kastendike and Derek Naughton have leased a 4,000-square-foot space in the redevelopment project at 2930 Broad Street, where a Stuffy’s was located. Their neighbors will be a co-working office space and hot dog shop.
The Richmond location will have 3.5-barrel brewing system and 12 taps, half of which will feature flagships and the rest will be seasonals and collaborations.
The local Three Notch’d crew --Griffin Johnson, Aaron Thackery, and Stefan McFayden -- casually demonstrate the collaboration process.
They listen thoughtfully as I talk about the CBS 6 tower as a historic landmark; once the tallest freestanding structure in the land, it helps people get their bearings and once upon a time – TV reception.
“Good Reception,” Thackery, the Tap Room Manager, quickly says. “That’s what it could be called.”
Thackery hopes Gov. Terry McAuliffe will want to collaborate, because he knows the governor enjoys craft beer, and thinks he will enjoy the process of brewing it.
I suggest the appropriateness of a November beer.
Johnson, regional sales manager, nods. “An election beer.”
“PresidentALE,” McFayden, head brewer, says nonchalantly.
Johnson segues; “Then it goes from conception to setting a date, to you guys brewing it."
THE ROUTE TO COLLABORATION
Each week a new beer will be released that is the collaboration between Three Notch’d and a restaurant – or company, musician, sports team, homebrewer, artist, or nonprofit. Brew Master Mary Morgan, at the Harrisonburg location, is probably on her 130th batch, and she tries to use local ingredients in every weekly collaboration, Johnson says.
"The idea is to try to have a deeper meaning, find a story, hopefully a story of their company that ties in with us,” Thackery says. "Helps them tell a story about themselves, but helps explain our motto, its meaning of leaving your mark.”
Those who are interested use an online form to explain their concept.
"We want a high level of involvement from the people that we are collaborating with," McFayden says.
McFayden, a JMU grad as well as a Minnesota native who moved to Richmond 16 years ago, was recently announced as the head brewer. The 26-year-old was chosen from over 25 finalists after submitting four homebrewed beers in the interview and dropping off one later that he conceived during the first interview – a smoky brown ale.
SEVEN BARRELS OF BEER…
Those who make it through the first draft, so to speak, set up an appointment with McFayden to talk about their beer. If chosen, they will get in the door physically; throw in the grains, stir the pot – really get the full experience of making beer.
"We will invite them to the brew day; they get to see how the product is made from beginning to end,” McFayden explains. “And we're gonna put a lot of effort forth just to make sure they get to see what happens."
On brew day, a maximum of four people can be present at any given time, and a minimum of two people have to show up for the big day.
Seven barrels will be made on the 3.5 barrel system and the brewing process probably takes about four hours per batch, so expect at least an eight-hour day.
David Hunter, who started the Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries on Facebook, has recently collaborated with Three Notch'd, brewing "Fandom of the Hopera." He called the experience interactive and said the head brewer gave them a high-level overview of what to expect.
"We were involved in every step of the process, from milling the grain to transferring the final product to the fermentation vessel," Hunter said. "Oh, and we cleaned up afterward, too. It was a full eight to nine hour day!"
Most all collaborations have been really well received, Johnson says, a few of them so much so that they are scaled up for distribution. "Zombie Killin' Ale" now comes out every fall at the distribution level and it began as a collaboration with the band "The Judy Chops" out of the Shenandoah Valley. It is a Double Black Rye IPA to the tune of the band's song "Zombie Killing Gal."
No one pays to brew beer, but the collaborator does have the option to purchase a minimum of two kegs of the collaborative beer, and they can purchase up to seven kegs of a seven-barrel batch (14 kegs).
The beer will be purchased through their distributor, Central Virginia Distribution. Technically, they are self-distributing; a choice made in the interest of their brand, Johnson explains.
"When you walk into a place and you see Three Notch'd it's because we have developed a relationship with the place," he says.
The conversation always hops back to relationships with this crew; they’re excited to create a space they say is all about inclusion, about having one beer, and then having another.
“I don’t want it to be people checking off a list that they have been here, but more about that they are coming back,” Johnson says.
Three collaborations are currently underway; a Saison with Fernet Branca spices with the Rogue Gentleman, a Caramel Macchiato Amber with Citizen Burger and Game Theory Russian Imperial Stout with Steam Bell Beer Works.
Drinkers will only find the collaborative brew through the collaborating partner and in the Three Notch’d tasting room, which is slated for a – pending construction – July opening.
Hunter said he thinks the collaborative model will work for the location.
"It will also help build a stronger community within the VA beer industry," he wrote over email. "I like the fact that they collaborate with brewers and non-brewers -- folks who have a passion for craft beer."
Expect trivia nights, events, and games at the tasting room. There will be 64 oz. growlers for sale, and if Thackery’s wish comes true – 32 oz. crowlers.
Don’t expect a huge emphasis on food trucks. The guys point to the walkable feast in the neighborhood – Boulevard Burger, Fat Dragon, The Dog Wagon (soon), Peter Chang’s (soon), Reign sandwiches, Buz and Ned’s, Lunch/Supper, Urban Farmhouse, and Lemon.
They are currently hiring 10-13 beertenders. Thackery says don’t apply unless you are “hard-working, craft-centric and passionate about the concept.”
Thackery, a Northern Virginia native was tapped as manager after a panel type interview with the founders and head brewer, in which he was asked to pitch a collaboration beer. He suggested something revolving around the community landmark, the Byrd Theater. He has served at Capital Ale House, Specialty Beverage, Strangeways, and was involved in the Isley Brewing launch.
He wants beertenders who know about craft beer, but says “buying into the idea is more important."
“Not pretentious beer drinkers,” Thackery says, as Johnson chimes in, “but someone you would want to drink a beer with.”
After all, their mark is about relationships.
A look at past collaborations can be seen here.
To submit your own collaboration request, click here.
In the meantime, Three Notch'd beer can be found through most local Kroger's, both Total Wines, Whole Foods, every bottle shop, many of the small local markets, and nearly every craft beer-focused bar in the greater Richmond area.