Gowanus’ Threes Brewing officially opened its heavy wooden doors this Thursday, drawing droves of thirsty beer nerds out into the frigid December winds with the promise of a cold pint and a warm welcome. The dimly lit, cavernous Douglass Street outpost is home to a myriad of hip purveyors, including a coffee shop pulling shots of Ninth Street Espresso, a pop up restaurant space set to host the likes of Roberta’s Pizza and Delaney Barbecue and, of course, a fully equipped 15-barrel brewhouse churning out fresh drafts and growler fills of piney IPAs, juicy pale ales, fruity Saisons and more, all fermented in full view of your barstool. As if that’s somehow not enough, Threes’ gorgeous 20-line draft system also features a expertly curated rotation of guest taps, including wildly popular area brews like Carton’s Boat Beer and Other Half’s Hopdeded Imperial IPA as well as international rarities from Hitachino, Mikkeller and Italy’s Loverbeer.
In classic Brooklyn-cool style, the grand opening was free of fanfare: no shiny Grand Opening banners, no balloons bouncing up against the rugged wooden rafters, no loudspeaker announcements thanking everyone for coming. The front of house staff, tasked with navigating swarms of thirsty customers, stubborn wine bottles, multiple seating areas and a new cast of co-workers, was the only element indicating any form of opening day jitters. “I don’t know you well enough to give you shit for that… yet,” a waitress muttered cheekily to a distracted bartender as he typed a covert text beneath the bar. Frustrating, sure, but the crowd was, on the whole, rightfully forgiving. Anyone who’s ever worked behind a bar knows that day one of a brand new operation is rarely a well oiled machine.
At 7pm, the space was just starting to fill up. The clientele–a diverse mix of old and young, hip and geeky, artist and corporate types reflected the gentrifying neighborhood’s cultural mishmash. The after-work crowd, dressed in their finest business casual, gripped elegant stemmed glasses and wandered through the winding rooms. Near the end of the long bar, a group of denim-clad 30-somethings dished about the latest episode of Serial while two wide-eyed bros tugged off fleece pullovers and settled into their stools. “I never had to walk through the ‘hood to find a fancy beer place before. I guess you picked the hot spot, man.” one said, shaking his head. “It picked me,” his buddy replied, studying the tap list with a furrowed brow. “Gotta love Gowanus.”
Sixpoint brewing manager Heather McReynolds arrived around 7:30, flanked by a crew of enthusiastic co-workers who trekked over from nearby Red Hook to check out the space and size up the (friendly) competition. “It’s very, very classy in here,” mused McReynolds, scanning the sharply designed taproom. “It’s definitely distinct for a Brooklyn bar — it has a distinct feel to it. And,” she said, raising her amber-hued Mechanical Spring Saison to the light, “it’s really fairly priced for such a classy environment.”
Sixpoint graphic designer Jack Liaksas nodded in agreement. “I’m drinking the Mechanical Spring, too, and it’s delicious,” he said and pointed to the printed draft menu, which listed a 5.25oz pour for just $3. “I thought I ordered a large one, actually, but I’m kind of glad that I only got the small one because I want to do the whole rundown.” So how does an insider like Jack see Threes fitting into the New York City brewing fabric, crowded as it may be? To put it plainly: he is stoked. “Coming from where we are in Red Hook, I’d just like to see more and more of this kind of thing popping up,” he explained. “Right now there aren’t enough spots where there’s beer being brewed in the back and you can just drink the beer immediately as it’s coming out. I really want to try more of their stuff — talk to me again after I’ve had my third beer.”
As Jack made his way back to the taps, writer Mikey Lenane continued his friend’s train of thought. “With the beers that they brew, they have a total commitment to freshness, because they know all the beer is going to being drunk within a couple weeks of brewing,” he said appreciatively, swigging from a 22oz glass of Arboretum, Three’s crisp, citrusy pale ale. “I’ve noticed that at some brewpubs that distribute, when you drink the beer on site, it’s actually not really ready yet. You get just killed with a blast of bitterness.” He took another sip and gestured to a group of tall steel vessels spaced evenly behind the bar. “They clearly brewed these beers knowing you’re going to drink them right out of the holding tanks, and I think this has a really nice balance.”
The holding tanks separate the barroom from the brewhouse, a state-of-the-art setup visible through a wide picture window adjacent to a sectioned-off dining room. The dining room, decked out with long, industrial-looking communal tables, leads into an elevated coffee shop with a mellower look and feel, sufficiently insulated from the raucous barroom. Down a few steps is a non-descript pop-up kitchen perched at the front of the building, where hungry drinkers lounge in deep, marble-topped booths awaiting their snacks. “I think the space is super interesting,” remarked Chris Mather, a web producer from Prospect Heights who nursed a pale ale near the brewhouse window. “It looks like a small bar in the front and I like that — I like that it’s kind of a surprise, that it doesn’t reveal everything right away. As you go from room to room, you discover little nooks and crannies, like it doesn’t make sense right away. It isn’t boxed out, it’s more textured in the way that it’s not perfect squares.”
In light of the recent proliferation of microbreweries and beer bars, standing out is the best way to resist market saturation, and Threes seems to have carved out a league of its own. “I don’t know of another brewery in the city that has this kind of layout,” Chris continued, moving his gaze from the brewhouse fermenters back to the bar, where a member of the evening’s brass band attempted to carry a tuba through a thick mass of customers. “It’s a bar first and a brewery second — at least that’s what it feels like. But I think that they’re pretty strongly dedicated to making some good beer here, too.
“This is a super interesting concept,” echoed Nathan Cordiero, a Google product manager who stopped by Threes on his way home to Carroll Gardens. “I like the whole feel of the place — it’s nice looking. Though, it might be more suited to North Brooklyn, to be honest. Is that a window into their operation? That’s a bit, like, precious, I think. I feel like I’m in Williamsburg.”
At that, Casey de Pont, a web editor and art director who moonlights as Nathan’s girlfriend, chimed in. “Come on, it’s nice. It’s much more friendly and open than other breweries where it feels like you get in and you fill your growler and then you have to leave, you know? I could spend an afternoon in here,” she argued, a tart Freigeist Gose in hand. “It’s nice to have something like this in the neighborhood.”
“Ok, actually, the concrete floors aren’t really North Brooklyn,” Nathan conceded. “The concrete floors bring you back to Gowanus a little.”
“See, I like that,” Casey said and smiled. “It feels like it fits in Gowanus — the new Gowanus. Nouveaux Gowanus.”
Photos by Jane Bruce.