Chillum Place NW is a narrow, potholed street of auto repair shops and plumbing supply companies that back up to Metro's Red Line tracks. It's the last place you'd expect to find a farmhouse, but that's exactly what 3 Stars Brewing Company has created with its new tasting room.
Faced with pine shingles and topped with corrugated metal, the Urban Farmhouse contains a full bar with 10 taps, custom-built chandeliers and tables, and space for more than 100 people to hang out. (The Nov. 6 grand opening features half-price pints, live music and the debut of a new beer called Starsky and Dutch -- a chocolate stout made with Dutch cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and a touch of lactose -- from 4 to 9 p.m.)
The brewery's popular Peppercorn Saison was originally called Urban Farmhouse, until 3 Stars was contacted by another brewer who already made a beer with that name. But the 3 Stars owners liked the idea of an "urban farmhouse," co-founder Dave Coleman says -- the way the phrase calls to mind fresh local farm products being reused in the city.
The creation of a standalone tasting room is a natural progression for 3 Stars, Coleman explains, given how the D.C. brewing scene has grown. "When we opened, people would come in, get their 12 ounces [of samplers], buy a growler, and go," because breweries weren't able to sell beer to be consumed on-premise. When the city passed legislation allowing breweries to sell pints of their beer, "we saw more people coming in, having a pint and making a day of it," especially when 3 Stars began hosting food trucks.
But the 3 Stars experience was sometimes awkward: "We had jockey boxes" -- temporary taps used at beer festivals -- "set up on work tables, and in the summer, when it got hot, they'd foam over" as the lines warmed up, and the resulting mess meant took forever to get a growler filled. 3 Stars eventually built a tap system, but then lines of people waiting to get their 64-ounce growlers filled would snake through the brewery, annoying people who just wanted to grab a beer to sip with friends.
The Urban Farmhouse strikes a better balance: The 10 taps will dispense pints and tasting flights, with cans, bottles and 3 Stars merchandise also available for purchase. Customers who want to buy beer to-go can head to the growler station, elsewhere in the brewery, to get their jugs filled. It's also climate-controlled, which Coleman is really happy about. "In the summer, it's like 110 degrees in here, and in the winter, you freeze," he says.
An extra benefit of the tasting room is that the brewery now has a space to host special events. Ever since 3 Stars announced plans for Urban Farmhouse, "I've been getting calls from event planners and wedding planners," Coleman says. The first wedding takes place Friday, Nov. 13, and they're already talking about holiday parties.
The opening of the tasting room caps a busy year for 3 Stars, which has included the release of the brewery's first canned beers and the creation of the Funkerdome, a facility within the brewery for the creation and aging of sour beers. A giant wooden tank called a foeder arrived from Tuscany, and it sits next to dozens of 3 Stars beers aging in cider, bourbon, gin and apple brandy barrels.
The brewery has even more in the pipeline: Saturday, Nov. 14, is #Crafts4Kidz, a fundraiser for Children's National Hospital with bands, beers, cocktails and works by local artists. (Tickets are $20 and on sale now.) The annual Artists and Artisans holiday market returns in December, showcasing the wares of local crafters and producers for anyone needing to pick up a last-minute gift or just wanting to hang out at the brewery, listen to DJs and drink a beer.
Finally, Coleman says they're about to reopen membership in the Illuminati. It's the best kind of secret society: Members pay $100 and receive five limited-edition beers throughout the year. In 2015, they've included Madness Old Ale aged in Green Hat Ginavit barrels, and a saison aged for a year in chardonnay barrels. With the growing Funkerdome, Coleman says, "I think they'll see some sour beers" in Illuminati releases in 2016. The exact date for sign-ups hasn't been finalized, but Coleman expects the limited number of slots to sell out quickly.
When all that's out of the way, 3 Stars will turn to renovations of its on-site homebrew supply store. But first, these guys deserve a beer.
3 Stars Brewing Company, 6400 Chillum Pl. NW. www.3starsbrewing.com.