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This week, Philly’s newest brewery got closer to becoming reality. On Friday, Triple Bottom Brewing exceeded its Indiegogo goal of $25,000, making it a sure thing the startup beermaker will have the funds it needs to apply for proper licensing and sign a formal lease.
The exact location has yet to be determined, but it will definitely be within the city limits, per co-founder Tess Hart, a native of Haverford who returns to the area after earning graduate degrees in business and environmental studies from Yale. Good candidates for Triple Bottom’s brewhouse/taproom so far include Francisville (the fast-developing area above Fairmount on the west side of Broad) and Point Breeze, perhaps along Washington Avenue.
Being embedded in the urban fabric is key to the brewery’s mission: To not only make great beer, but to do it with as little environmental impact as possible while also playing a central role in the local community and helping less privileged people get ahead.
“I visited a lot of craft breweries, and they all had this fantastic sense of community,” Hart says, explaining why this was the industry she picked when she decided to start a business with a social justice component.
“People, planet, profit,” she continues, concisely describing company’s “triple bottom line” objective.
Yeah, pretty lofty goal — although when Hart describes how it’ll work, she makes it seem potentially feasible and not just the pipe dream of an idealistic 29-year-old who wants a new excuse to sip suds.
The taproom won’t have a full kitchen — Hart is planning to serve snacks and also enlist a rotating cast of food trucks to set up outside — but the building will be equipped with a set of washers and dryers. No, that has nothing to do with making beer. It has everything to do with helping equip brewery employees with tools to make their own lives better.
According to the Indiegogo page, Hart chose Philadelphia for her brewery experiment because “it has the fastest growing millennial population and the highest poverty rate of any major US city.”
A percentage of the staff — at first two or three people, eventually more — will be hired from cohorts that usually face barriers to employment, like formerly incarcerated people or those who are experiencing homelessness. Plans call for the workday to be interspersed with educational or advice sessions, teaching financial management or other life skills. There will be those washing machines. Triple Bottom has already signed on local nonprofit partners to help facilitate this, including Project HOME, and it’s built into the business plan presented to banks who’ll be providing the loans needed to get it all off the ground.
Key to the whole thing (the profit part) is that Hart and her business-partner husband, Bill Popwell, have already snagged themselves a fine brewer to put the beer side of the equation on solid ground.
Kyle Carney comes with an impressive beer pedigree, especially considering he’s only 28. “I started homebrewing at … an early age,” admits the Bucks County native, who is described on the Indiegogo page as having “14 years” of brewing experience.
After graduating from the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, he briefly worked at Weyerbacher in Easton before heading out to Stone Brewing in Southern California. After five years in various brewer positions there, Carney was ready to come back east. He found the Triple Bottom job listing on the ProBrewer message board, met with Hart and Popwell, and hit it off.
“It seemed like the perfect match,” he says. “I liked their business philosophy and they liked my brewing philosophy.”
That philosophy can be summed up in one word: Drinkability.
“We want people to come to the taproom and hang out for a while,” Carney explains, “and for that you want sessionable beers that don’t kill your palate or knock you out.”
His plan is to fill Triple Bottom’s beer lineup with various styles that are all balanced, with no extreme flavors or zany ingredients. Plans call for purchase of a 10- or 20-barrel brew system (about the same size Weyerbacher had when it launched two decades ago, and what Delco’s 2SP Brewing currently uses), but for now, he’s testing recipes on a spruced up version of his old homebrewing system.
So far, he’s created a white IPA and a saison, and both are top notch.
His Alba IPA (6% ABV) has an almost creamy feel, thanks to wheat mixed with the pilsner malt, and a hoppiness that’s citrusy instead of bitter — a flavor characteristic of the Sorachi Ace hops added during fermentation. It finishes dry, but there are some lingering sweet notes due to orange peels added late in the mix.
A version of his Saison 122 (5.5% ABV) brewed with the same yeast used in famed Saison Dupont has muted fruitiness, but is subtly spicy. It has a bright, clean finish, likely from the dry-hopping with both Hallertau and Hull Melon hops, and has good carbonation after six weeks in large, 750-mL bottles. This beer was made from a mix of barley, wheat and rye, with the last two grains from Deer Creek Malthouse in Glen Mills, Pa.
Finding as many ingredients as possible locally is one way the brewery will try to minimize its industrial footprint, as well as by buying its energy from alternative renewable sources.
Carney is targeting a first-year output of around 1,500 barrels. That’s not a whole lot — Yards Brewing puts out more than 30 times that much beer annually — but Triple Bottom isn’t planning to distribute, at least not at first.
“Almost all of our beer will be sold on draft at our taproom,” says Carney, with a small percentage bottled on site so patrons can take it home or give it to friends and help spread the word.
Triple Bottom Brewing is aiming for a late summer 2017 launch.