In preparation for a few days off for my upcoming birthday, 3/12/14 was perhaps our busiest day of brewery visits to date. We started off early morning at Midnight Brewery then promptly made our way through the country to Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery before noon. We then managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello prior to finishing the day off with a stop to see the fine folks at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in nearby Charlottesville. The city is home to the University of Virginia as well as a burgeoning craft beer scene. Three Notch’d is the latest to open its doors in the area, launching for business about 6 months prior to our visit. The company was founded by Derek Naughton, Scott Roth, and George Kastendike with Dave Warwick taking over the helm of all things beer. The founders all share a passion for great beer and thought to taking up homebrewing to create the perfect beer for their tastes. Thoughts traveled further as they dreamt up ideas of how to finance their habit by selling beer to local pubs and eventually made their way to the only logical conclusion – opening up a brewery. At that time there were no distribution breweries in the city so they set to work with the business plan. We were privileged to get the occasion to speak with both Derek and Dave on this chilly Virginia evening.
The brewery is housed in an old brick building that used to serve as a dairy production facility and is less than a mile from the UVA campus. They naturally embrace the rich history of the region, working that history into the brewery name, the beers, and colorful artwork. The Three Notch’d name is derived from a colonial era road that ran through central VA, the original location of which is less than a quarter mile from the brewery. The trail was marked by three axe chops and came to fame following ‘Jack Jouette’s Ride’. The midnight rider made his way down the trail in June of 1781, the destination being Monticello and Charlottesville, in order to warn Thomas Jefferson and other key legislators of the British troops secretly on the way to capture them following the sacking of Richmond. The brewery hopes to honor the rich history of central VA and make their own impact on the beer community, taking it forward with their slogan “Leave Your Mark”.
Dave, who previously worked for Rock Bottom Brewery, utilizes a 20 bbl brewhouse as well as a one barrel pilot batch system for experimentation. They opened up with all of their year-round recipes established and ready for production and locals have recognized the consistency in product for such a young operation. Those year-round beers include: No Veto English Brown Ale – a tribute to Patrick Henry, who argued against the King’s right to veto colonial laws and famously stated, “Give me liberty, or give me death”; The Trader Crystal-Hopped Saison pays homage to the trading farmers of the region; Hydraulion Irish-Style Red honors the name of the first and sole fire engine created by UVA in 1828; 40 Mile IPA is a West Coast style IPA named after the number of miles traveled in Jack Jouette’s midnight ride; Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout is the base beer for Jack’s Java, sans the espresso; and Jack’s Java Espresso Stout is Oats McGoats made with a special cold infusion coffee blend from the brewery’s neighbors, Shenandoah Joe. Seasonal varieties are rolled out as the first year progresses and are set to include Sweet Winter Ale, Brother Barnabas Belgian Tripel, Killer Angel Double IPA, Michelle’s White Wedding White Ale, Three Chopt Pumpkin Ale, and Hansel & Kettle Imperial Oktoberfest.
During our visit, we just missed a taste of their Dunkelweizen but were able to sample all six of the year-round beers as well as the Sweet Winter Ale seasonal and a specialty beer, Mosaic India Red Ale. That beer was the creation of Loren Moulds & James Hansen who won a local homebrewing competition, the prize of which being the honor of making their beer at the brewery. Homebrew for Hunger was presented by Fifth Season Gardening Co. and hosted late last year in Charlottesville, though the festival originated in Chapel Hill, NC. The annual festival serves as an opportunity for homebrewers to showcase their creations next to area craft breweries as well as a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. On the note of charity support, Three Notch’d is currently looking into pairing up sales of their Hydraulian Red with an organization to support our brave firefighters. Just under a month prior to our visit, Three Notch’d began canning their flagship IPA and Red Ale and has plans for bottling later this year. The brewery is currently distributing to accounts throughout Charlottesville, Waynesboro, Staunton, and Harrisonburg, VA regions.
Regarding recent and upcoming events, the brewery has launched their Silly Axe Gluten Free Honey Ale so all of-age patrons can enjoy a drink in the tasting room. The beer is made with sorghum, brown rice, honey, and is hopped similarly to the 40 Mile IPA. In addition, Moon Sisters Maibock was released this past April 15th in collaboration with Brew Betties, an all-female craft beer enthusiast club in Charlottesville, and the Of, By, For the Pilsner will be launching at the end of this month. Keep an ear to the ground for another collaboration – an American Brown Wheat IPA made with nearby Devils Backbone called Havok – which should be released to launch a busy week of events for American Craft Beer Week in May. Other events for that week are scheduled to include a trivia night, comedy night, beer 101 class, homebrewing competition (the winner of which will get to brew their creation in house much like the previously mentioned Mosaic India Red Ale), and, capping off the busy week, they will host the Hog N’ Brew party with food, live music, and, of course, plenty of beverages to go around. Sounds like a pretty epic week that you won’t want to miss but, for all of you out of towners, make sure to stop by for a drink when your travels inevitably bring you to this historic region. The taproom is open every day except Monday and is a very comfortable space to enjoy a beer and a conversation with friends old and new. Thank you so much to Derek and Dave for being so welcoming to us upon our visit, sharing the unique Three Notch’d stories, and for showing such patience with my slow writing.
Author: Brandon Wurtz