Since its inception, Gowanus-based Threes Brewing has been nothing if not ambitious. Constantly bustling with the goings-on of brewers, servers, baristas, chefs and happy patrons, cracking open Threes’ heavy Douglass Street doors can sometimes feel like a journey into the pages of The Busy World of Richard Scarry. And now, the folks behind the gargantuan production brewery/cocktail bar/coffee shop/pop-up restaurant/event space are gearing up to add even another dimension to their already prolific venture: a state-of-the-art, 21st century beer garden, complete with a landscape design to appease even the greenest of urban nature lovers. And they’re asking for your help to build it.
Much has been written lately about the integrity of crowd-funded campaigns, a debate fueled by everyone from wealthy entertainment industry professionals aiming to bypass the wrath of Executive Producers to a dude who just wanted to make some $55,000 potato salad. While these critiques are undoubtedly valid, Threes’ specific approach to running a Kickstarter appears to jive nicely with the modern craft beer ethos, where community building, local production and face-to-face interaction reign supreme.
“Kickstarter, when I think about the direction they’ve come,” says Andrew Unterberg, one of Threes’ co-founders. “You know, originally, they were all artists looking for support to produce their art. Then there’s been the nonprofit side–and there’s people who still view Kickstarter in that regard. But now, it really has been transformed, and you see small, local businesses using it. It’s an opportunity to really engage your patrons, to sort of activate the people that want to be a part of this and, with the rewards system, give them real things in return, products that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.”
Currently, Threes’ backyard is a half-finished space of impressive proportions, littered with construction debris, loose gravel and empty planters. If they reach their $20,000 goal, however, Threes plans to get started on transforming the garden into a naturalist’s paradise in time for the summer crowds to enjoy. Specifically, pledges will go towards buying soil, seeds, flowers and ivy, various saplings, a towering 16 foot hop-covered trellis to shelter drinkers as well as an upgraded irrigation system vital to growing anything on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
“When first looked at the yard, we thought, ‘Ok, this is a pretty big space.’ We could have just gone ahead and put tables on the asphalt, and that would’ve probably satisfied our initial startup purposes,” Unterberg explains. “But, we saw an opportunity to make a garden that was really going to take years to mature and become something great, and well, we don’t own this building–we’re in a lease, so time is not infinite for us. So, we sort of put it out to everyone and said, ‘Listen, this is what we’d love to do. We’re not really in a position to do it ourselves right now, but if this is something that the community wants to be a part of, let’s see if we can raise the money together to make it happen.’”
While increased development around the Gowanus, much like the rest of Brooklyn, has proliferated with the spread of gentrification in recent years, Threes’ plans are actually deeply rooted in New York’s cultural history. During our city’s first beer boom in the mid-to-late 19th Century, traditional German beer gardens served as refuges for a cramped urban population eager to escape their drab tenements to bask in a little greenery, share a cold, refreshing mug of lager, read the paper and enjoy a salty lunch of schnitzel and pretzels with family and friends.
“You know, for us, there’s the experiential part of it and then there’s the symbolism,” says Unterberg about his project’s larger goals. “I mean, we’re in the middle of Gowanus. We are a manufacturing business in a traditionally toxic area–all of our plants have to be planted above ground in containers of clean soil to avoid the heavy metals. So we see it as a community space, as a symbol for responsible manufacturing. We wanted to create something green out of this lot that was literally just, you know, rubble. People recommend turning it into a parking lot and we thought, ‘That just doesn’t feel right.’”
As for how the space will be used, Unterberg imagines–quite fittingly, given Threes’ present model–a multitude of activities throughout the day. “Right now, people set up shop at 9th Street Espresso and they work here all day but they’re totally separate from the rest of our bar and the beer that we’re making,” he says, referring to the coffee shop operating of out the building’s elevated front room. “Now we’re envisioning people coming in and sitting down outside at 7 a.m. with a coffee, doing their work all morning and when they’re ready for a beer, we’ll have that beer waiting.”
If you pitch in, rewards range from branded merchandise like T-shirts, growlers and glassware to invitations to private midnight soirees and swanky parties put on exclusively for high level supporters. Kickstarter backers can also visit the brewery and see their pennies at work, as the guys have already broken ground on the backyard build out. Just this week, they installed the beginnings of a massive trellis that will hopefully one day supply head brewer Greg Doroski with a very special ingredient.
“I am most excited about this hop trellis,” says Unterberg with a smile. “In terms of harvesting, we’ll see what the yield is, and maybe we’ll be able to get one brew out of them or maybe just some pilot batches. But, regardless, if our ivy and hops grow the way we think they can, we’re going to have this amazing structure back there that our patrons have been a part of, that they then get to enjoy, that they’re drinking underneath. That’s pretty cool.”
Threes’ Kickstarter runs through Friday, May 8th and, as of today, they’ve raised just over 50 percent of their goal. To learn more and get in on the action, visit Threes’ campaign page here.
Threes Brewing, 333 Douglass Street, Gowanus