As recently as last year, you could count Brooklyn’s professional breweries with three fingers. There was Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint and KelSo—and there was nothing else. As the rest of America, from Alaska to Alabama, cultivated homegrown brewing scenes, Brooklyn built restaurants with affinities for exposed brick and heirloom potatoes, as well as bars serving drinks in mason jars.
Breweries required space, and space was a valuable Brooklyn commodity snapped up by condo developers. But where some saw daunting odds, others saw a return to normalcy. As recently as 1962, Brooklyn was cranking out 10 percent—10 percent!—of American beer. We made Rheingold, we made Schaefer, we made the country good and drunk. Now, breweries are slowly repopulating Kings County. In Greenpoint, there’s Dirck the Norseman and Keg & Lantern, while Carroll Gardens’ Other Half is hammering out hop bombs lickety-split.
Brooklyn’s breweries now have company, and the newest entrant—slated to open mid-October—is a brewpub named Threes. Like baklava, the name is multilayered. The first one is most obvious: the address is 333 Douglass Street, right off Fourth Avenue in the Gowanus. The second layer is the founding trio: Sycamore co-owner Justin Israelson, tech entrepreneur Josh Stylman and lawyer and playwright Andrew Unterberg. Lastly, there’s Threes’ mission. It’s by turns a brewpub and a coffee shop, but it’s also an event space, a future home to trees and hop trellises, bands, stroller-pushing parents (like me!), homebrewers and any ol’ Brooklynite who likes beer. Or cocktails. Or music. Yes, that’s more than three. But it’s tough to put a number on what the threesome aim to accomplish.
“We all live in the area and wanted a place in our community that we hope will become a pillar in the neighborhood for a generation to come,” Stylman says.
Spread across 5,000 square feet, the massive Threes aims to be a sunrise-to–last call hangout. Starting at 7 a.m., sleepy locals can prop eyelids with Ninth Street Espresso, which will open its first Brooklyn outpost in the building. Then there are the brews. “If we do our jobs, this place will be a Mecca for people who are into craft beer,” Stylman says.
To accomplish that, Threes tapped former Greenport Harbor brewer Greg Doroski. His initial lineup will have a farmhouse focus, featuring beers fermented with saison yeast and funky Brettanomyces strains. “As much as we could be called a yeast-driven brewery, I’d like to think of us as more flavor profile–driven,” Doroski says. And before you start wondering, hoppy beers will certainly be on tap. “We are launching with an IPA, if only so people don’t ask when we’re brewing one,” Doroski jokes.
Given the style’s ephemeral nature, in which aroma and flavor quickly dissipate, Doroski is eager to have full control over his liquid’s life cycle. “We are committed to only serving the freshest IPA and don’t foresee ever distributing it off site,” he says. “We are also ready to pour it down the drain if it gets old.” (There’s also a hoppy pilsner in the pipeline, but given the style’s extended production time it won’t be ready for Threes’ debut.)
This is simply the start. One benefit of Threes’ system is size: 15 barrels. (One barrel equals 31 gallons.) This may seem big for a brewpub (for comparison’s sake, Dirck the Norseman rocks a five-barrel system), but larger batches provide flexibility, Doroski says. He could split batches and ferment half with Brettanomyces, condition beer with a variety of seasonal fruits and, in the future, age beer in wine and spirit barrels. That’s part of the long-term plan, as is bottling and off-site distribution. (Growlers will always be available.)
While house-brewed beers will dominate taps, guest brews from local breweries that the team admires, such as Greenport Harbor, Peekskill, Barrier and Other Half, will fill in gaps in Threes’ portfolio. “That frees us from the Golden, Brown, Black paradigm that can stifle creativity in a traditional brewpub setting,” Doroski says of having to brew, say, a stout or a light-drinking ale. “Without guest taps, I think it would have been difficult to launch with three different farmhouse-style beers.”
To complement the beer, the Threes team enlisted Nick Meyer, a former sous chef at Blue Hill and Eleven Madison Park. Though the menu is still being finalized, one certainty is that food will be cooked in a wood-fired oven. “We hope to be known for our simplicity, unpretentiousness and freshness,” Stylman says.
Concerning the future, plans are afoot to turn the 3,300-square-foot backyard into a garden filled with apple and hornbeam trees, as well as a 16-foot trellis suited for hops and ivy. That transformation will come in due time. For now, the Threes team is focused on getting its doors open, in both manufacturing craft beer and community. From Park Slope to Carroll Gardens and downtown Brooklyn, “we see Gowanus becoming a great central gathering place for all these neighborhoods.”