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By Philip Runco. All photos by Franz Mahr. Revisit our original Tap Takeover here.

It’s a Sunday afternoon and Dave Coleman is preaching to the choir.

“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but there’s now a big fucking farmhouse in the brewery.”

In response, several hundred people pin pints of beer against their torsos and erupt in applause.

“Did you guys see that when you came in?” he prods sarcastically, feeding off the energy in the former autobody shop. “I don’t know, it’s pretty small.”

The 3 Stars Brewing Company co-founder is always a boisterous, swaggering salesman, but today, in Internet parlance, it’s lit.

The brewery is hosting a welcome party for members of the 2016 Illuminati Reserve Society, a club of 434 members who have each paid $115 in exchange for five exclusive bottles of barrel-aged beer and a card that entitles them to 10% off on-premise purchases. Of all the DC breweries, 3 Stars has arguably the most impassioned – bordering on devout – following, and these are the cream of that crop.

“You will be in the company of 400 like-minded individuals with a passion for great beer and brewing innovation,” the brewery wrote in its e-mail invitation for this event, and it’s hard to disagree with the “like-minded” bit. This crowd knows to cheer at the mention of a tasting room that’s built to resemble a rustic farmhouse. This crowd knows to jeer when Coleman discusses hiccups in the acquisition of 16-ounce cans or distribution roadblocks in Montgomery County or the fact that Nats Stadium is rebranding the Red Porch as the Budweiser Taproom. Whatever stands in the way of more, less-expensive, and easier-to-find 3 Stars beer deserves a good boo.

At Coleman’s side is Mike McGarvey, his even-keeled counterpart in 3 Stars. Together, through two microphones and dingy speaker, they are providing what amounts to an investor meeting and Q&A session with those who have financially and emotionally bought into this brewery.

There’s a lot to discuss.

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“This company has the personality of a person,” Coleman tells me, sitting at a high top in the tasting room while Illuminati members begin to check in. “You start off and you’re headstrong. You think you know what you’re doing, but over time you learn and you find some opportunities that you might have missed, and you grow more confident. The brewery is kind of it’s own thing. We’re just going, ‘OK, kid, do your thing.'”

In the thirteen months since I last sat down with Coleman and McGarvey, their kid has been stretching its legs in a number of new directions. There’s the recently finished sour room, which they’ve affectionately dubbed the Funkerdome. There’s an expansion into cans – a move Coleman had previously sworn off. There’s that aforementioned “big fucking farmhouse,” which 3 Stars is angling as a place to host private events like weddings and birthday parties. And, as has come to be expected of this brewery, there are a bunch of new beers.

First and foremost, though, there are some new faces behind the scenes. “This year, one of our focuses was fortifying the brew staff,” McGarvey says. “We grew a ton in two years. We were trying to build production, but we were also trying to maintain a level of creativity. Dave and I ended up getting spread pretty thin. Now we have awesome new team members, but with that comes some new tastes and ideas.”

Chief among those hires is Nathan Rice, who was brought in to manage the day-to-day production as lead brewer. 3 Stars also recruited Allison Lange – formerly a beer scientist at Port City – to focus on quality assurance and control. “She makes sure that beer that are meant to be clean are clean,” McGarvey explains. (The brewery notably had to recall a batch of Pandemic Porter for “unintended flavors” last May.)

The new tastes and ideas that have come with this growth have already begun percolating through the brewery’s portfolio, but 3 Stars’ most ambitious expansion into previously uncharted waters is one that McGarvey and Coleman have been planning for years.

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“We’ve wanted this from day one, but you have to do it right,” Coleman told a scrum of beer writers last March.

He was standing in front of a collection of metallic boards that were beginning to form an encased structure at the back of the brewery – a room solely for the production of sour beer.

“You have to keep it separate from the clean beer,” he continued. “You have to do all of these things to protect yourself, because if you fuck it up, the next thing you know, Pandemic is sour. Nobody wants that.”

Nobody wants spoiled Pandemic, but these days, it seems like everyone wants sours and wild ales. Or at least that’s the case at bars that cater to discerning craft beer drinkers.

“We’ve seen it skyrocket to the point where we almost can’t find enough sour beers to keep several lines running, which is what our customers are looking for,” says Jace Gonnerman, beer director for Meridian Pint, Smoke & Barrel, and Brookland Pint. “Generally speaking, when people are drinking craft beer, they want big, bold flavors, whether it’s the bourbon character of a barrel-aged imperial stout, the big citrusy character of a hop, or the nice sour punch of those beers. People’s palates have continued to evolve, and sour beers are kind of a natural progression there.”

As the beer buyer for Roofers Union and Ripple, Dave Delaplaine fights to meet that demand, too. “I can never stockpile enough sour beer,” he shares. “I don’t want to have just one sour at the list – I want to have four or five. If someone makes a sour, I’m probably going to buy it, and if I like, I’m going to keep buying it.”

Looking back on the construction of the Funkerdome, McGarvey marvels at the effort that went into the endeavor. “It was really like building another brewery,” he shares.

Within its walls are a couple of steel tanks and what Coleman calls “the mother of our sour program:” a 35-barrel French oak foudre procured from a Tuscan winery. The wood of this oversized vessel allows oxygen to seep in, which feeds the wild yeasts and bacteria in the beer, in turn producing more pronounced tart and funky flavors. “We’d wanted one for over a year, but they come and go really fast,” McGarvey says of the purchase.

“Everyone wants one of these, because everyone knows that sour is a huge component of the market,” Coleman adds. “More importantly, brewers really like sours.”

But even if most breweries wish they could launch a full-fledged sour program, few are willing to take the financial plunge and more general risks involved.

“It takes a certain amount of bravado to do what 3 Stars did,” Delaplaine notes. “You risk a lot of loss with sour beers. You’re also worried about contamination, which means you’re not just worried about whether a beer will succeed – you’re worried about whether that beer will affect the other beers you’re brewing. You have to do what 3 Stars did, which is build that huge thing, and that’s a hard and expensive thing to do.”

While 3 stars produced a sour last year – a dry-hopped rye Berliner weisse called Dissonance – the full power of the Funkerdome is only now coming online. “We’re doing a lot of different barrel-fermentation, ranging from pure lacto fermentation down to brett-only beers,” McGarvey says of 3 Stars’ plans. “You’re going to see a lot of different things. Some of them will be one-offs – because that’s the nature of sour beers – and some of them are going to be more consistent, ongoing stuff.”

Speaking to the Illuminati crowd, Coleman teased a sour collaboration with Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing, in addition to a more steady offering. “We have a beer that we’re developing in the foudre that you’ll probably see on a regular basis,” he shared.

The crowd buzzed.

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“When you position yourself in the market as the boutique brewery, you better deliver,” Coleman observed last January. “We have to continue to do very unique stuff, and that stuff takes a lot of fucking effort.”

In the past year, that effort has manifested itself in a number of new beers from 3 Stars – a farmhouse pale ale, a double chocolate stout, a revamped double IPA, a barrel-aged Kentucky Common, that Berliner weisse.

“I hadn’t thought about just how many beers were new last year,” McGarvey admits. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, what beers have we done this year?’ And, actually, there are quite a few that have become staples.”

“They’re making good beer across a wide range of styles,” Gonnerman observes. “For a long time, people sort of looked at them as a dark beer brewery, with Southern Belle and Pandemic. But lately, between the sours and all of the different iterations of saisons and what they’ve been doing with hops, I don’t think it’s fair to pigeonhole them as a dark beer brewery. Their portfolio is super diverse.”

“3 Stars’ beer is awesome and innovative,” Delaplaine adds. “They’re not afraid to do something outside the box. And there are just so many breweries, so that goes a long way.”

In Coleman’s mind, it’s this sense of adventurousness that attracts and fosters the brewery’s cultish following.

“Why do I think that we have such diehards? Why do I think I’ve got 450 or so people who spent over a hundred bucks for a membership in a club where they don’t even know what the beers are going to be? I think it’s because we do such different shit,” he shares. “I’m not saying anything about the other local guys, but I think that’s where Mike and I have differentiated ourselves from the beginning. We don’t want to make four round-the-clock flagships. I want to constantly be putting new shit together, coming up with different ideas.”

“When you’re taking about breweries less than five-years old, you want them to continue to grow, to continue to progress, to dial things in, and I think there’s no question that 3 Stars has done that from the first batches to now,” Gonnerman says. “They just continue to get better. They continue to do new things, and I think that’s very apparent from the beers we’re getting from them at this point.”

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Another thing that’s changed in the past year is how 3 Stars delivers its beer.

Last June, the brewery rolled out 16-ounce cans of white IPA Ghost and self-explanatory Citra Lemon Saison. This was hardly a revolutionary business decision, but before it could happen, Coleman needed to get over his well-established distaste for the shiny containers.

“I’ve been bitching about cans for years, but we got to a point where we were like, ‘This is what’s right for the brewery. This is what’s right for the product. This is what’s right for the market,’” he admits. “At a certain point, it’s not about me. You can’t go pig-headedly into the night, saying, ‘No! No! No!’ Because the market will be like, ‘Fuck you, you’re not listening to me.’ And people don’t like not being listened to.”

So far, entry into canning has been both a blessing and a headache.

On one hand, cans have gotten 3 Stars into more bars, grocery stores, and specialty markets.

On the other, there’s the lengthy lag between ordering and receiving cans (nine to twelve weeks), the additional coordination that comes with contracting a mobile canning line, and the hefty commitment of $20,000 per order.

It’s the kind of dichotomy that can lead Coleman to say “Cans are the worst” and “I love having cans” in the span of five minutes.

An additional complication that’s entered the picture since 3 Stars commenced canning is the pricing within the industry. As Coleman explains, when Crown Beverage Packaging – the largest domestic manufacturer of cans – entered into a massive contract with AB InBev, it was forced to cut loose many of the craft breweries it had been working with. “They just said, ‘I can’t make your cans anymore, because AB has basically cornered my market and production schedule,’” Coleman recalls.

In response, the remaining can manufacturers have raised their prices upwards of 35%, which has put a squeeze on craft breweries like 3 Stars. “They know that all of these breweries need 16-ounce cans and they’re taking advantage of it,” he says. “If I package 16-ounce cans through one of those manufacturers, canning becomes almost unsustainable. We would start losing money. We would literally lose our profit margin.”

So, while 3 Stars has prototyped a can for its farmhouse pale ale Above the Clouds and hopes to put its double IPA Two to the Dome into a 16-ounce aluminum container, those plans are on ice.

Regardless of the receptacle, 3 Stars beer will be spreading further this year. “The focus is still close,” McGarvey says. “We have a lot of ground in Maryland and Virginia that we’ve just been able to start focusing on.”

Coleman, meanwhile, has his mind set on territory beyond the 3 Stars’ roots. “We have our eyes on several markets,” he told the Illuminati faithful. “Some of them are close, some of them are far. We don’t want to do a mushroom cloud that expands from DC outward. We’re never going to be big enough to do that. What we’ll do is select satellite markets and do more of a spider web expansion.”

Regardless of where 3 Stars takes it beer, Coleman proudly posits the idea that the brewery’s offerings aren’t for everyone.

“When you ask people why they’re here, when you ask them why they’re Illuminati members, they’re like, ‘It’s because I love this fucking brewery. I love what these guys are doing. It’s super interesting,'” he continues. “On the flipside, that’s why we’re not in every bar and restaurant across town. There are plenty of people out there who just want to drink a Miller Lite or a kolsch or whatever.”

For the Chillum Place brewery, this is a fair trade-off its willing to make.

“If you make really differentiated shit, it sets you apart, but it also sets you apart. You’re not part of that massive, group collective,” Coleman reflects, leaning back. “Not to get all philosophical, but that’s something that can be said about creative people when they’re children. When you’re creative and you’re young, the nice way to say it is that you ‘set yourself apart,’ but, really, you’re an outsider because you don’t think and behave like the herd. I don’t want to be a part of the fucking herd. I never have. Fuck that shit. If you’re not leading, the view never changes.”

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Every beer has a story.
3 Stars tells the stories of its newest beers below.

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022116_3-stars-brewery_064_f_24821295273_oAbove-the-Clouds

3 Stars doesn’t believe in “flagships.” It has “mainliners.”

The difference between the two appears to be largely semantic, with the possible exception that while a brewery’s flagships are always available, 3 Stars’ mainliners are generally available.

These mainliners split between 750-milliliter bottles of beer that the brewery launched with (Peppercorn Saison, Pandemic Porter, Southern Belle) and 16-ounce cans of a newer recipes (Ghost, Citra Lemon Saison). And while 3 Stars my strive to regularly produce different offerings, the mainliner club is somewhat exclusive. In fact, it’s been almost a year since once joined its ranks – Above the Clouds.

Above the Clouds is a refreshing, full-bodied farmhouse pale ale with a hoppy haze. The pitch is simple: “We brew it like a saison, we hop it like an IPA,” McGarvey told me last March.

With Above the Clouds, the brewery’s Belgian yeast strain meets a healthy portion of Galaxy, Topaz, and Amarillo hops – three pounds per barrel – to form citrusy beer with a nice bitter finish. “We wanted something new, especially as we were getting into the warmer weather,” McGarvey says. “If you’re looking for something hoppy, it’s a good alternative.”

The farmhouse pale ale slides into 3 Stars’ portfolio in a spot once occupied by two more traditional American pale ales – Sea Change and The Movement. While the brewery was fond of those beers, they didn’t catch on as hoped. “I loved that beer,” Coleman said of Sea Change last January. “I thought it was great, but the market was just like, ‘Eh, it’s a pale. Whatever.’”

In hindsight, Coleman says it’s for the best. “What we’re trying to be – fuck that, what we are is not someone who produces a pale ale,” he shares. “We’re a high-end, boutique brewery. We’re craft-forward. We’re trying to innovate. Everyone makes a pale ale.”

McGarvey, with typical restraint, simply adds, “It’s a really crowded segment.”

Meridian Pint’s Jace Gonnerman says that farmhouse pale ales differentiate themselves by taking a style that’s been around for ages – the saison – and adding a modern element to it. “I just love what the hops bring in terms of big, fruity aroma and bitterness, and then the yeast just ferments everything nice and dry, throwing off its own estery character,” the beer director observes. “That combination just works well for me, and I think Above the Clouds executes that exceptionally well. It’s one of my favorite beers that 3 Stars makes.”

Coleman calls the style “the pale ale’s refined older brother.”

“I’d say it’s less refined,” McGarvey interjects. “She drives a motorcycle.”

His partner concedes to a middle ground.

“You’re picturing a badass,” Coleman tells him. “I’m picturing a refined badass.”

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022116_3-stars-brewery_066_f_25152420320_oBless-Your-Heart-“So… a lager.”

McGarvey wades cautiously into a discussion of 3 Stars’ latest offering, Bless Year Heart.

“Not something that you would expect from us.”

He sounds somewhere between amused, sheepish, and still surprised.

So… a lager.

For those who have followed 3 Stars since its inception, these are three loaded words.

The brewery – particularly Coleman – has been outspoken when it comes to the six-hundred-year-old tradition of lagered beers.

Simply put, 3 Stars’ co-founders are not fans of the broadly defined style. Or to quote Coleman from last January: “Pilsner and kolsch and lager? God, fucking boredom.”

And true to his words, 3 Stars had never produced a lager prior to a few weeks ago.

“We just always said we weren’t going to make them,” McGarvey explains. “It was for no other reason than lager was not a style that I seek out very much.”

But changes to the brew team brought new tastes, ideas, and voices into 3 Stars. One of those voices belonged to lead brewer Nathan Rice, and he used it to advocate for a Kentucky Common.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kentucky Common, don’t feel bad: It is for all intents and purposes a forgotten style of beer.

As Jeff Alworth writes in The Beer Bible, the variation of “steam beer” – which ferments at higher temperatures like an ale but then ages for a shorter chunk of time than a traditional lager – was popular among laboring immigrants in and around Louisville prior to prohibition. “It was a strange brew that seems to have been influenced by local bourbon makers who used corn in their wash,” Alworth writes. “Made with 30 percent corn, it wasn’t exactly like a bourbon wash, and it also included caramel color or dark malt.”

While a few craft breweries have attempted to brew Kentucky Commons in recent years, it’s dormancy means that there’s hardly a style guide for it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: It gave 3 Stars some leeway to experiment.

“We approached Bless Your Heart thinking that the beer could turn out a little sour – which is somewhat in the tradition – or it might not,” McGarvey says. “We were going to go either way with it. It turned out to be a nice, super clean lager.”

Bless Your Heart is a blend of two liquids. The first is a more traditional dark lager that spends eight weeks fermenting in steel tanks at 40 degrees. The second lager takes a twistier path: It goes through a two-week primary fermentation in a steel tank  before being poured into Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, where it continues to ferment at room temperature. “We gave it plenty time to dry out and take on some of the characteristics of the wood and bourbon,” McGarvey observes.

From there, the brewery went through several blend tests to figure out the right balance of the two. “You want it to be drinkable and enjoyable,” McGarvey shares. “Sometimes, they’re not the same thing. Sometimes it can be too intense.” (3 Stars settled on a 50-50 split.)

“It’s not a California common – it’s just something a little different,” the brewer continues. “It’s a little more indigenous to the East Coast. We do a lot of barrel-aged beers, so something like that was appealing.”

The name alludes to a phrase that Coleman and McGarvey hear a lot as guys who married women from Georgia and North Carolina, respectively.

“’Bless your heart’ is something that southern ladies like to say when they’re maybe a little less than positive toward you,” McGarvey shares. “It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek.”

Coleman, meanwhile, is mostly sticking to his guns on lagers.

“Lagers are just not my thing,” he says. “But it’s not all about me. You have to foster creativity in your team. When your lead brewer says, ‘I really want to do this style,” you have to give him a shot.”

“And he did a great job with it. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be,” Coleman continues. “I just don’t like lagers.”

Bless his heart.

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022116_3-stars-brewery_074_f_25421852286_oDissonance

The itch to make was so strong within 3 Stars that the brewery couldn’t wait for its Funkerdome to be completed.

Last June, while the sour room was still in the works, 3 Stars released Cognitive Dissonance – since shortened to just Dissonance – a strikingly pale, tart, 3.5% ABV Berliner weisse.

“We wanted to get into the production of sours, and a Berliner weisse was a great way to do that,” McGarvey says.

Of course, as is usually the case, 3 Stars puts its own twist on the style: While the beer is traditionally made with wheat and barley malts, the brewery substitutes rye for a good chunk of the former. Then, to top it off, it dry-hops the beer with the sought-after Mandarina Bavaria hop. (Mandarina Bavaria is essentially the German’s response to citrusy Pacific Northwest and Southern Hemisphere hops.)

“The rye gives it a little spice, whereas wheat leaves more perception of sweetness in the finish,” McGarvey says. “It also sets Dissonance apart from other Berliner weisses in the market.”

But brewing Dissonance without access to a concealed sour room posed challenges. 3 Stars kettle soured the beer, a method that limits the exposure of corrupting agents – or “bugs” – to a system by, first, pitching the bacteria to a kettle, and then boiling it off once the liquid hits a desirable pH. Easy enough, but the catch was that the heightened risk of contamination meant that 3 Stars couldn’t brew other beers during simultaneously.

“We would brew a batch on a Friday, and the bacteria would work on it over the weekend, and ideally by Monday it would be at the right pH and we could boil it,” McGarvey explains. “That means you’re kind of losing two days of production every time you brew that beer.”

Ultimately, brewing Dissonance was such a constraining process that 3 Stars could only produce half a batch every month or two – hardly enough to meet the popularity of the rye Berliner. Now that the sour room is up and running, however, that should be changing. “You’re going to continue to see the Dissonance,” McGarvey told the Illuminati crowed. “That’s something that should be more readily available.”

This should delight the area’s beer directors, who are especially fond of Dissonance. “That’s just nice and easy-drinking beer, but it still has a big, tart punch of flavor,” Gonnerman says. “The citrus character coming off the hops plays really well with the lemony, lactic character you get with kettle souring. There’s a lot going on, but nothing dominates the beer – it all comes together pretty harmoniously.”

“Dissonance is an awesome beer,” Delaplaine concurs. “It’s got a hint of spice from the rye, but a full-bodied funk and an assertive acidity are there, too. It’s a perfect rooftop beer – refreshing, but you won’t get bored with it.”

And in their line of work, a good low-alcohol beer goes a long way.

“In this job, you’re tasting new beer when it comes, you’re tasting samples, you’re hanging around for events,” Gonnerman says. “Dissonance is right in my wheelhouse: A 3.5% beer that I can sip on over the course of the night – and is still packed full of flavor – without making the next morning difficult”

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022116_3-stars-brewery_065_f_25355078281_oStarsky-&-Dutch3 Stars made its name on Pandemic. As they explained last January, the idea behind the imperial porter was to be brash, and that’s exactly how Pandemic ended up– a big, boozy, malt-heavy beer, rich with coffee and chocolate notes.

In the years since, the brewery has tinkered with that recipe to produce Zombie Date Night (which adds raspberries and is conditioned with cacao nibs) and Desolation (which is essentially dry-hopped with barrel-aged coffee beans).

And late last summer, when 3 Stars was considering adding a second autumn offering, it returned to the idea of a chocolatey dark beer. “We already had Nectar of the Bogs, which is a lighter fall offering,” McGarvey remembers. “You look at what’s going on that time of year, and we’re not going to do a pumpkin beer.”

Instead of another imperial porter, though, it would settle on a stout, and in place of extracting chocolaty flavor from the dark malts, 3 Stars doubled down on actual chocolate.

Working with Ivy City organic chocolate purveyors Undone, the brewery developed Starsky & Dutch, a double chocolate stout that utilizes both Dutch cocoa powder in the mash and cocoa nibs – essentially, the unrefined bean – during post-fermentation conditioning. There’s a little lactose in there, too, which adds a slight creaminess. “The lacose helps to retain the sweetness but not in a overly sweet way,” McGarvey explains. “It helps you to realize it’s chocolate.”

Despite the “double chocolate” tag and 8.3% ABV, Starsky & Dutch is ultimately an easy-drinking beer, especially compared to Pandemic. “Starsky & Dutch is actually a lighter beer,” the brewer continues. “Pandemic probably comes off sweeter in the end, because there’s a higher amount of residual sugar and those big, roasty malts are more caramelly. It’s just a totally different animal.”

Starsky & Dutch debuted at a Meridian Pint release party in November. “When we had it on tap, people absolutely loved it,” Gonnerman recalls. “Starsky & Dutch is the chocolate lovers’ beer: just an intensely rich, decadent, chocolaty imperial stout.”

Of course, Gonnerman says that sort of positive response is par for the course when it comes to the brewery.

“We’ve never had a problem selling 3 Stars’ beer,” he observes. “Ever.”

“When we put one of their beers on tap, it’s not a slow mover. It goes out the door.”

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022116_3-stars-brewery_068_f_25421853096_oTwo-to-the-DomeA few weeks ago, 3 Stars debuted a new beer with an old name: Two to the Dome.

For the 3 Stars faithful, it’s a well-familiar name – it summons the big, hoppy double IPA that has been a steady offering of the brewery’s for almost three years now.

But unbeknownst to most outside of 3 Stars, McGarvey and his team have been working since late last year to overhaul Two to the Dome, and the end result is striking.

“It’s a completely different beer,” McGarvey says.

Coleman nods: “We stripped it down and rebuilt it.”

The original Two to the Dome rose on a foundation of Citra hops, alongside the more common varieties of Centennial and Columbus.

The redux swaps out Citra and Centennial for increasing sought-after, more tropical hops: Australia’s Galaxy and the Pacific Northwest’s Azaaca. And the beer has been dried to place more of a focus on them.

“In some ways, we’ve made Two to the Dome a little unbalanced, but that’s kind of what a big, double IPA should be,” McGarvey says. “We loved the old Dome for what it was, but over time there was a change in our palates and opinions, so we felt like we wanted the flavor profile to change, too.”

Gonnerman observes a similar evolution across the craft beer industry as a whole.

“The first version of Two to the Dome was almost an old school double IPA,” the beer director observes. “Even though it used Citra – which is still relatively new – it had quite a bit more caramel malt. It was a little bit sweeter and darker in color. It was very, very good, but the trend in IPAs right now is that they continue to get drier and lighter in color, with bigger aromatics and less bitterness, and that’s exactly the route 3 Stars has gone with the new version.”

Another attribute consumers have grown more savvy to when it comes IPAs? Freshness.

Here again, 3 Stars is playing ball, as it plans brew only small batches of Two to Dome. “We want it in and out of the market,” Coleman says. “As we run out, we’ll have more coming, but we’re really trying to focus on the best quality.”

Freshness only goes so far, though. At the end of the day, either you have a great double IPA or not.

“I like the old Two to the Dome, but I really like the new one, too,” Delaplaine says. “It’s so clean for an imperial IPA. There’s not a ton of malt on it, but it has this great, assertive bitterness to it. It drinks lighter than it is.”

Gonnerman doesn’t hedge his opinion, either. He recalls a trip to 3 Stars early this year where Coleman handed him a glass of mystery beer. It was something big, bright, unfiltered, saturated with tropical and citrusy hops – a beta version of the new double IPA.

“It was still in its tinkering phase, but it was already great,” he remembers. “I didn’t know that it was going to become Two to the Dome 2.0; I just knew that it was a double IPA, and I knew it was great.”

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022116_3-stars-brewery_073_f_25355077131_oRaspberry-DissonanceGrapefruit-GhostIn Germany, drinking establishments will often leave a canister of fruit syrup on tables so patrons can sweeten their Berliner weisses. These are tart beers, and that hit of extra sugar helps cut their sourness. It’s in this tradition that 3 Stars developed a fruity counterpart to Dissonance.

Of course, instead of distributing syrup bottles with each sixtel of the Berliner weisse, Raspberry Dissonance is brewed with – spoiler alert – raspberries.

Why raspberry?

“I just love raspberries,” McGarvey says. “But I would expect you’ll see some different fruits as we continue to brew sours back there.”

“It’s everything that’s good about regular Dissonance – just with some very nice, very authentic raspberry flavor added to the mix,” Gonnerman says of the variation. “It’s taking a good thing and making it even better.”

Another 3 Stars beer to receive a fresh fruit twist: Ghost white IPA.

Across the craft beer industry, as brewers increasingly utilize citrusy hop varieties in their IPAs, fruit juice – be it grapefruit, tangerine, or even pineapple –  is also being added to compliment those flavors.

But according to Coleman, the catch with a lot of these beers is the small print on the ingredient list. “A lot of people are doing grapefruit this or pineapple that, but they’re using concentrate to create those flavors,” he shares. “Some really great breweries are using powder. Why use that when you can use the real thing?”

The use of natural ingredients has long been a source pride – and a selling point – for 3 Stars.

“When we do that kind of stuff, it’s always with the real deal,” Coleman continues. “We’ve felt that way for a long time.”

It’s no surprise, then, that 3 Stars’ grapefruit sibling of Ghost would use real grapefruit. Equally unsurprising: It’s a pain in the neck to make, according to McGarvey. “There’s the added cost of procuring and processing the ingredients,” he shares. “And then there’s the refermentation, which takes more time.”

Still, the subtle beer – which premiered late last summer – is worth the effort, whenever 3 Stars feels like brewing it.

“It’s a specialty, but I’m sure it will come back, ” Coleman assures.

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