by Mark Tichenor
in early 2010, three friends took a giant leap. Buoyed by unshakable confidence that the beer they brewed at home was world-class, Dan Nothnagle, Todd Dirrgl and Geoff Dale surmounted the last in a long line of bureaucratic hurdles and 3 Heads Brewing was born.
Fourteen months later, Dale seems pleasantly dumbstruck by how far his beer has come. Not only is it all over Rochester, but you can even get a bottle of 3 heads in Chicago or Boston, where it sells steadily despite being a relative unknown on shelves full of Dogfish Heads and Victorys. For Dale, the growth of 3 heads is a journey, and he still has a long way to go.
“I feel like, we’ve finally reached the point where we’re not getting surprised. We’ve sort of dealt with how the industry works,” he explains, reflecting back on the challenges of building the business from the ground up. “The first year was sort of tough because we all dealt with stuff we haven’t done before.”
Dale is quick to praise his local community and retailers for being supportive as they learned how to schedule their brews, get label approval, and cope with initial demand that was higher, and lasted longer, than projected.
He credits that to the high quality of his beer, and to being friendly, approachable and genuine. “Look at me,” he says. I’m in a dirty hoodie because I’m out delivering kegs. My sales pitch is, we’re drinking some beers” he chuckles.
3 heads partnership with CB’s Brewery also factors into their success. Although long term plans are to open their own facility, all their beer is currently brewed at CB’s in Honeoye Falls. “We’ve really strengthened our partnership with them. We’ve become their biggest customer and they’ve invested in new equipment to meet our demand” Dale says.
Until this point, 3 heads beer has been big and on the strong side (their flagship IPA, “The Kind,” is that dangerous sort of beer that might not pack the hardest raw alcohol punch, but compensates by being deceptively easy to drink). The guys aren’t shy about whimsical flavors, the (bacony smoked-maple “Bromigo”) or style combinations (“Loopy” is an oatmeal-red ale). Every quarter sees an fun, experimental and often downright exciting new seasonal beer. With their next release, “The Common Man,” 3 heads is ready to move in a different direction.
“The Common Man” will be a take on a celebrated American style that’s really only regularly brewed by San Fransisco’s Anchor Brewery. Anchor calls it steam beer (and no one else can or they’ll hear from Anchor’s lawyers), but the broader term is California Common Ale.
“Now we’re coming out with our accessible beer,” Dale explains, and he’s not afraid to speak boldly. “It is the beer that is going to unite the everyday beer drinker and the beer snob. It’s a beer that will cross all those boundaries. It’s going to change who we are as a company.”
Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at https://beercraft.wordpress.com. Find me on Twitter @beercraft. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.