RVA #25: Brewers from Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d Brewing talk expanding to RVA and their vision of a collab-brewhouse

by | Jul 22, 2016 | EAT DRINK

Charlottesville-based Three Notch’d Brewing has been a Virginia favorite since opening its doors in 2013 — so much so that they opened their second location just a year later in Harrisonburg — and now Richmond will get a first-hand glimpse of what makes this brewery so special.

Charlottesville-based Three Notch’d Brewing has been a Virginia favorite since opening its doors in 2013 — so much so that they opened their second location just a year later in Harrisonburg — and now Richmond will get a first-hand glimpse of what makes this brewery so special.

This article was featured in RVAMag #24: Spring 2016. You can read all of issue #24 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.

Three Notch’d will open up their third location in Scott’s Addition in 2017 and while this location will serve many of its popular beers, such as the Hydraulion Red Ale and 40 Mile IPA, the focus here will shift away from Three Notch’d itself, and highlight collaborations with other beloved breweries, something that’s bound to make them favorites in the booming scene of Scott’s Addition. We caught up with Head Brewers Dave Warwick and Stefan McFayden to get more insight into their philosophy with the Richmond location as well as their take on Virginia’s beer scene in general.

What inspired branching out to Richmond, and why a collab-only brewery?

Dave Warwick (Head Brewer): I kinda brought that to the company when we were coming up with Three Notch’d three years ago, when we were coming up with ideas, coming up with concepts. I begged the guys for a pilot system, and the initial answer was like, “I don’t know if that’s going to be in our budget.” Then I told ’em about all of the opportunities we could have to brew and have these relationships with local bars and restaurants, other breweries, and it would be a great way to reach out to local home brew communities. The pilot system allows us to brew small batches of anything we want. It could be test batches for something much larger, it could be for charity events… it gives us a lot of freedom to brew so many different beers with so many different people. So the more that they got thinking about it, and the more they got sharing that with the local investors and all, the more that they got excited about it and the next thing you know, they fit it into the budget to give us a nice pilot system. It’s done really, really well for us. A lot of breweries don’t have the capacity to cater to every home brewer that comes along with a recipe, and to have a relationship and do a collaboration brew with so many restaurants and bars and all that. I’m really glad that the owners let me facilitate that, because it’s really worked out well. We’ve built a lot of relationships, and so many beers tell so many more stories now because it’s not just me coming up with recipes — it’s restaurant managers and bartenders all over the state really. Tying that in… it’s worked out so well for us, and we wanted to be a part of the Richmond beer market. Richmond is the greatest beer city in the whole state and we want to be a part of the whole state. We’ve really wanted to be a part of Richmond and Scott’s Addition is something special. It’s really awesome to get the opportunity to do it. We came up with the idea to really just own the thing we’re doing with the collaborations, and just make it a collab house. We really wanted to come up with a different concept, ’cause there’s a lot of great beer and there’s a lot of great breweries in Richmond, and it’s getting harder to stick out with great beer, because there’s so much great beer there. Every brewery does a lot of collaborations, but no one has really just owned it and said “We’re a collab house. We brew with the community.”

I had never heard of that before.

DW: I’ve always said that drinking beer is better with friends, and so is brewing. Brewing beer is a hobby, and Stefan and I are fortunate enough to get paid for a job that a lot of people do on their own time, their own dime, as a hobby. It’s just better doing it with friends. It’s a really cool opportunity to meet a lot of new people, make a lot of new friends.

What sorts of groups or people are you excited to work with? I know you mentioned restaurant groups, restaurant managers, that kind of thing. There’s a meadery here, cideries, coffee roasters…

DW: All of them. All of the above. We want to target, if you will, collaborations with anybody that shares the same passion for craft beer, and wants to be involved, and wants to brew with us and share our story. We’ve worked with all that you’ve mentioned, except a cidery. We’ve already actually done a collaboration with Bill Cavender from Black Heath Meadery. We did a braggot last year and we’re going to be doing that again this summer. A braggot is essentially half mead, half beer. You mentioned coffee roasters. Shenandoah Joe is right across the street from here and he supplies the coffee for our flagship, and we’ve probably done eight or ten or even more beers on the pilot system with his coffee in it. Bars and restaurants, absolutely. Home brewers, other breweries, non-industry organizations, charity organizations, non-profit organizations, absolutely. Anybody.

Stefan McFayden (Collab House Head Brewer): Each one provides something different; they can provide a great collaboration idea. If we do something with a restaurant, it’s likely that we’ll probably send some beer their way so they can serve it in their own restaurant. If you do someone like a musician, then it’s a completely different experience, because they could potentially come in and play a show. That happens quite a bit up here in Charlottesville. The symphony came in here not too long ago.

So a collab brewhouse is sort of the endgame for the Richmond location. You’re not looking to start a production facility, right?

DW: Correct. The production facility will always be here in Charlottesville, and what Stefan’s going to have in Richmond is going to be much, much smaller tanks, so he doesn’t have to commit to do too large of a batch, where you bring money and time into it. He’s going to always have small vessels and small batches so he can crank out all kinds of new fun stuff all the time.

So Hardywood is coming to Charlottesville — what does a brewery coming to Charlottesville need to know to succeed?

DW: That’s a good question. Charlottesville loves local. As I’ve always said, Charlottesville loves Charlottesville. Richmond, being only an hour down the road, is certainly local. There’s no doubt in my mind that Charlottesville will immediately embrace Hardywood. I mean, Hardywood already has a really strong presence here and does really well, so they’re not the newcomers. Everybody already knows who they are. Charlottesville really loves to support businesses that rally behind other local businesses, support charities, incorporate local ingredients. Charlottesville is all about locals. Hardywood is going to have no problem making that transition into Charlottesville.

How far will the Collab Space reach? There’s Lickinghole Creek in Goochland, Steam Bell that’s opening up in Chesterfield… Is it going to reach that far or is it just going to be within the city?

DW: I don’t want to put any parameters on it. If there’s a story, and there’s a friendship over a beer that’s gonna be there, then absolutely. We did a collaboration with Oskar Blues, which is a brewery in Colorado. We did Black and Goldings, because the brewmaster is a Steelers fan, and so am I. We brewed it together in Pittsburgh. He [Stefan] can tell you about his cousin in South Carolina, which is going to be a really great collaboration opportunity. But yeah, no parameters at all. We’re going to focus local, but if there’s a great brewery, or organization that we want to support and brew a beer with, then yeah, absolutely.

SM: Yeah, and the possibilities in Richmond are endless so we’re not going to have any problems finding any collaboration ideas down there. It’s very exciting, because I grew up in Richmond, and there are so many companies that I just love, and I would love to support their business and work with these guys. Some of them happen to be my friends, and things like that, so it’s great. But as Dave was saying, there’s really no boundaries. My cousin is a part owner of a brewery down in South Carolina and he also owns a yeast lab down there, so Dave did a collaboration with him. Was that last year?

DW: That was two years ago.

SM: So yeah, really just anyone that shares the same passion, has a great idea, and is willing to work together to make something great.

Is there any specific brewery that cemented the idea that you need to move into the area?

DW: That was a little bit out of my hands. I think Scott [Roth, President & Founder] and George [Kastendike, CEO & Founder] did a lot of the searching. We’ve been looking at Richmond for the past year and a half, maybe two years. Scott’s Addition has been growing so fast, with Hardywood just outside, and Ardent and Isley there, and then just all of a sudden, more popping up. It’s on this side of town, for the most part. It’s just becoming a mecca for craft beer. I don’t want to speak for Scott and George, but that’s one of the main things they had on their minds, is just that they want be to a part of it, I guess. I’m sure there was other factors, y’know, real estate… [Chuckles]

SM: There’s so much great industrial space there. I used to live right down the street. That’s where I grew up, over in Northside. I used to bike over there. I would go around and see all of these empty buildings, and it’s fantastic that it’s changed so much, in such a positive way.

DW: One thing that I love about the craft beer is — this kind of epitomizes what Richmond is all about, what Scott’s Addition is all about, what craft beer is all about — when The Veil opened, their opening day, they were packed. Ardent was packed. If you drink Coor’s Light, your father drank Coor’s Light, your grandfather drank Coor’s Light, then your kids better drink Coor’s Light if they know what’s good for ’em. Bud Light and Miller Lite are just horrible, awful beverages…

[Stefan laughs]

DW: But with craft beer, it’s completely different. Everybody tries something different, and they’re always trying somebody else’s, and they share the love. Nobody has had a 40 Mile IPA that hasn’t had a Great Return, or hasn’t had a Champion Missile IPA. They try everything. The better The Veil does, the better Ardent does, the better we do, the better Black Heath does, because it’s going to expose so many more people to craft beer and bring everybody into town. If they come all the way into town for a brewery, they’re not going to one brewery and leaving. They’re gonna go “Oh, three blocks away is another brewery. Let’s go there.” Craft beer drinkers share the love.

Given Devils Backbone’s recent sale, would you ever consider a sale to a larger company?

SM: I think I can guess the answer, but go ahead. [Laughs]

DW: That is not in Stefan and I’s hands at all. That would all be up the investors and the owners, for sure. That wouldn’t be our call at all. I can say that we have no interest at all, right now. We’re in no talks with Anheuser-Busch, as some people think we might be, but we’re not. It is an interesting phenomena though, with how everybody’s reacting. It’s been an interesting sociological experiment.

How different are you anticipating the crowd to be at this collab house, as opposed to Charlottesville or Harrisonburg?

SM: I think that’s really not going to change that much. Obviously it’s a different population. I’ve visited Harrisonburg, and they have such a neat little culture themselves, with that whole downtown area. I know they get a lot of support, by the students, and also the people that live there year-round. Richmond has a bigger population. When I go to breweries, I think there are regulars there. Some VCU students, some young professionals that work in the area, some people from the service industry, so I think there’s a huge mix of people that we’re expecting to see in Scott’s Addition. I don’t know if it’s really going to be that different. We’re going to try and put on as many fun events and releases as we can, and hope that people come in and have a good time, and enjoy the beer that we put so much effort into and brew with the community.

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for RVAMag.com from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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