It all began with a European road trip. The summer of 1994 found three friends rattling around the continent in an old Peugeot, affectionately dubbed “Hotel Le Car.” An improvised itinerary landed the trio unexpectedly in Belgium, on the night of Brussels’ Ommegang festival. It was here that Brian Purcell—today Three Taverns’ founder—first discovered the wonder of beer brewed by Trappist monks. It was in that moment a seed was planted, though it took many more years to take root.
Two subsequent moments of serendipity continued to tug at Brian’s heart. In the late ’90s, an unexpected stop at Decatur’s Brick Store Pub and a glass of Le Trappe beer stirred his dormant memories, reawakening the wonder that first surfaced in Brussels. Shortly after that experience, Brian would travel to Portland, Oregon for the wedding of another member of that road-trip trio.
Experiencing this friend’s home-brewed beer in the context of Portland’s legendary craft beer culture inspired the purchase of his first homebrew kit… which spent the next few years gathering dust.
It wasn’t until 2005, after Brian moved to a Decatur neighborhood within walking distance of his now-favorite pub, that the homebrew kit came off the shelf. With the first batch, Brian marveled that brewing satisfied something in his soul that he didn’t know was missing—and a love affair was born. This revelation became an obsession. Eventually the conviction that this hobby could be his vocation took root and strengthened. So after years of brewing and planning, a return trip to Belgium, an inspired idea of hiring a Belgium brewer, and finally finding a perfect location, Three Taverns Craft Brewery was born. The first official beer was poured to a welcoming public on July 19, 2013.
Three Taverns was a real place some two thousand years ago on the Appian Way, just outside of Rome. It was a traveler’s rest and is mentioned in the book of Acts. We don’t know much about it, but from stories we’re told it was a place of thanksgiving and communal hospitality. The Latin phrase for the place, Tres Tabernae, could also be translated “three shops,” which historians say would have been the blacksmith, the general store and, of course, the refreshment house.
We imagine Three Taverns as a place weary travelers in the ancient world found rest, community, and conversation—centered around food and drink at the table. Though the world has changed immensely since days of the Roman Empire, the culture of the table has been a constant throughout the ages.
At Three Taverns, we believe, as we gather at the table and share our lives together over good food and drink, we are formed at our best as humans.
And beer is often a participant in these moments—from thousands of years before Roman times to the present day. Our conviction is that the beer served at the table should be worthy of the moment, not just compatible with the culture of the table, but something that elevates it… because our human experience deserves it.
Before there was Three Taverns, there were Brian Purcell’s backyard gatherings. Brian’s invited guests were the only ones who had the privilege of tasting his homebrewed offerings. For Brian, who ran an incentive marketing company at the time, brewing was an opportunity to do something with deeper meaning. His brews had as much to do with his heart, soul and passion as they did with barley, hops, yeast and water. For him, it was only natural that beer and hospitality would go hand in hand, and his guests agreed.
After years of dividing his attentions, helping clients market themselves during the day, and brewing increasingly complex, Belgian-inspired recipes at night, Brian began to entertain the idea of knitting the two pieces together. What if he could extend the same culture of warmth and hospitality as a professional brewer, and also use his marketing expertise to help make the enterprise a success? This idea was the seed of Three Taverns.
It took many more years of brewing experimentation, careful business planning, and capital fundraising to turn the idea into a reality. Yet Brian arrived in the promised land of professional brewing uniquely prepared for the role, having launched and run two other successful businesses. In between, he joined The Coca-Cola Company’s marketing division.
Strangely enough, it was church that encouraged Brian to embark upon a life making and selling beer. After taking on a leadership role in his local congregation, he was energized by work that came from his heart. After that, though previously he’d thought the idea of professional brewing “far-fetched,” he first began to wonder if he could marry passion to vocation and make it work.
Three Taverns Brewery is the answer.
Joran Van Ginderachter
There are only three Belgian brewers working in the U.S., and two of them are related. Joran Van Ginderachter follows in the footsteps of his uncle Peter Bouckaert, who today works at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado and who helped introduce his young nephew to brewing. This is how Joran ended up talking to Frank Boon (of Boon Brewery in Lembeek, Belgium) for his high-school senior paper on lambic and gueze beer. From that a passion-fueled career was born.
After earning a degree in chemistry from the University of Gent, Joran interned for his uncle at New Belgium, then took a job close to home at Brouwerij van Honsebrouck, then Brouwerij Bockor while co-founding his own side project, Brouwers Verzet (translated “Brewing Resistance”) in 2011. While Belgium’s beer culture has a freewheeling past, the industry Joran encountered was steeped in tradition. As a result, moving to the U.S. to find more freedom had an undeniable appeal. As he has said, “If you want to be in the beer industry, you have to be in the USA at the moment. There's so much interesting stuff happening here.”
As it happened, Peter Bouckaert met Brian Purcell at an Atlanta event, where the latter expressed his need (practically a pipe dream) for a Belgian brewer to help bring Three Taverns to life. Peter immediately thought of his nephew and a connection was made. Joran was intrigued by the prospect of working for a start-up, and he began the near-two-year process of applying for a work permit and visa to make the move.
At Three Taverns Joran oversees the brewery’s day-to-day operations, and has been heavily involved in every aspect of new product development and testing. He also oversees Three Taverns’ barrel-aging and sour program, having long had a fascination with sour ales.