The mission of Three Taverns is to unlock and inspire the pursuit of a more transcendent experience of life, inviting our friends and neighbors to join us at the table of discovery and raise a glass in gratitude and merry celebration. From inception, the slogan for Three Taverns has been transcendo mediocris, or “surpass the ordinary.” It is deeply woven into our very being and expresses itself in everything we do.
To be truly artisanal, we must first learn to taste beer with our taste buds and our hearts, combining the evidence of our eyes and our memories and our imaginations with the experience of our salivary glands. Our effort to craft beers that amaze and inspire requires us to be deliberate about each and every thing we do.
Artful care defines the styles we brew and the glasses we use, the stories behind the names and the label designs, the way we mash grain and produce wort, our selection of hops, the spices and sugar sometimes added to the boil kettle, and finally, the careful, almost spiritual attention given to the fermentation process where yeast transforms wort into beer.
While the advances of modern science and technology allow us to see how the living organism called yeast actually turns sugar into alcohol, there is still a mystique to the creation of beer—as humans, we are dependent on something outside of ourselves for the fermented drink. Little wonder that throughout history, beer has been understood as a gift and associated with the divine, leading monastic brewers in the dark ages to give yeast a name, “Godisgood.”
The Belgian Way
What do we mean when we say “Belgian inspiration?” To us, and many others, “Belgian” connotes complexity, experimentation, artful refinement, and openness to possibility. Unlike its northern European neighbors such as England and Germany, Belgium’s beer culture has been one of wide-ranging experimentation and innovation. From the wild ales brewed in Brussels with yeast literally drawn from the open air, to bottle-conditioned monk-brewed ales with candy sugar-aided fermentation, this tiny country has been a hotbed of brewing variety and artful refinement for hundreds of years.
We have found it both inspiring and humbling to stand on the shoulders of this brewing heritage, which still has new things to teach us. Yet it gives us the courage to attempt our own experiments. In many ways, America’s freewheeling brewing culture is the philosophical descendent of the Belgian tradition. Like Belgium’s monks, wild-eyed entrepreneurs, and scions of famous brewing families centuries ago, American craft brewers approach their work thinking “hmm… what if?” We at Three Taverns are no exception.
Every 750 ml bottle we ship contains “live beer.” This means, just before bottling, there is an addition of yeast and candy sugar that allows the beer to slowly and naturally carbonate in the bottle, producing effervescence and ensuring more depth of flavor over time. This practice, common at the Belgian breweries that inspire us—particularly those run by Trappist monasteries—rewards patience and makes for more complex beer. We begin this process of secondary fermentation in the brewery’s warm room, under conditions that allow the yeast to thrive. It’s time consuming and labor intensive, but it’s central to our craft and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We barrel age some of our beers to bring about additional flavor, aroma and greater complexity. Whether aging in spirit barrels or fully fermenting in wine barrels, as beer seeps into every crevice of these wooden barrels over time, it absorbs the flavors and adopts the character of the wood, including remnants of what was present before. These residual flavors and lingering microflora from the previous tenant can enhance and deepen the beer’s aroma and taste. Throughout the process, some of the beer is lost to evaporation, a portion called “the angel’s share” by our forebears.
This concentrates the flavors inherent in the beer and makes for a richer drinking experience. Whether producing beer matured in bourbon barrels, or wild ales fermented and aged in wine barrels with yeast cultivated from the air, barrel aging is an enormous gamble, and it’s impossible to predict what may happen when a living ale spends months or even years in a wooden vessel under constant temperature. That said, we think it’s a risk worth taking.