Three Heads Brewing: 5 Essentials

5 Essentials by | Aug 2016 | Issue #115
Photos by Dave Jones

According to the idiom, two heads are better than one. As for three heads, well, the jury’s still out on that one. Although for a trio of friends living in upstate New York but enamored with West Coast ales, Three Heads went from homebrewers’ dream to reality in 2010. Combining a funky attitude with a generous dose of IBU, Three Heads steadily won over drinkers, growing its production of beers like The Kind IPA and Rochestafarian Wee Heavy Ale to 3,400 barrels in 2015. Earlier this summer, Three Heads opened its own $4 million facility with a 30-barrel brewhouse on Atlantic Avenue in Rochester, transitioning from contract brewing at CB Craft Brewers in Honeoye Falls. Now that the ribbon has been cut, here are the five things that partners Dan Nothnagle, Todd Dirrigl, Geoff Dale and Brian Johnson (who joined the company later) say they can’t live without.

1. Live Music
“Music has always been at the core of what we do,” says Dale, himself a guitarist. “Early on, we made it a point to include live original music in any major event we do. It creates energy and takes a tasting and makes it an event you cannot miss. Everything is more fun when music is involved and drinking beer is no different.” Nearly every weekend the new brewery hosts performances from local acts like Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Moho Collective, and Subsoil.

Three Heads Brewing2. Label Artwork 
With colorful packaging featuring carefree hippies, laid-back yetis and rampaging pandas, Three Heads stands out on the shelf. According to Dale, it’s all part of the plan. “Marketing matters,” he says. “You need to give people a reason to pick up your bottle when you’re not there to talk about the beer. Our artist, Allen Firlit, captures our essence in his artwork. It has been a big part of helping to spread our brand.”

115FiveEssentials23. The City of Rochester
When they decided it was time to open a brick and mortar brewery, the partners knew exactly where to build. “We are all proud children of this city,” explains Dale. “It is and always will be our home. We have named many beers after local landmarks or people from [Rochester]. For a long time when we grew up, there was a certain level of disdain toward the city by its residents. In recent years, that has changed, and we’re proud to be a small part of the local pride that is growing here.”

Three Heads Brewing4. A Distribution Partner
While contract brewing at CB Craft Brewers, Three Heads lacked the ability to sell its beer directly to consumers. This made finding the right distributor even more important. “Lake Beverage has been an incredible partner in our city,” Dale insists, adding that the two companies have worked together since January 2014. “From the moment we signed with them, we have created a great partnership. We have great communication and have been able to adjust our brewing schedule constantly to help meet their needs.”

Three Heads Brewing5. Our Fans
More than half a decade in the beer business has given Dale a lot to reflect on. But the first thing that comes to mind is gratitude. “Our fans are what truly makes this brewery,” he insists. “The level of support we receive from the community is overwhelming and it comes from all walks of life. They have always gone out of their way to get our beer into establishments [and] they spread the word across the nation. They are the reason we have been able to go from a basement to a 20,000-square-foot facility in under six years. We’d be nothing without them.”