3 Daughters Brewing is a high-quality, fast-growing brewery located in St. Petersburg, Florida. They are currently distributing their beers in the Tampa/St. Pete area, with plans to go statewide very soon. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Leigh Harting who, along with her husband Mike, co-own 3 Daughters.
First of all, I can I safely assume your three daughters are the three daughters in 3 Daughters Brewing?
(laughs) That is us.
How do they feel about being the namesake of their parents brewery?
Our three daughters, they’re still pretty young. They’re 11, 9, and 5. They absolutely love it. We are very kid friendly. We have juice boxes and root beer, and the girls come in and see their friends. We have their handprints on one side of our bar.
On the bar?
We have a bar that likes to tell a story. One side has their handprints, and on the other side is a brick from Mike’s great grandfather’s brewery in Kentucky. It closed a long time ago.
How did you get started in craft beer?
We don’t come from a beer background. My husband and I met in the hospitality industry many years ago. I left to do IT marketing, but he stayed in it. He worked at Outback, and then we had an Italian concept restaurant on Beach Drive. My husband and Ty (Weaver, 3 Daughters’ head brewer) were making a beer battered fish recipe for the restaurant, and decided to make the beer they used for the batter. They did, and put the rest of the beer on draft.
When we did that, our beer became 40% of the craft beer we sold. And it was a hit! Mike called me up and said the next business we need to get into is craft beer.
So your head brewer is also a chef?
Ty, our head brewer, is also our head chef. He’s quite phenomenal. He can tell you everything in all of our beers. He’s a genius and has an amazing talent with creating innovative foods and unique craft beers.
When did you open?
We opened in December of 2013. We have a 30 barrel system about 5 blocks from Tropicana Field. We had been brewing for some time and had already gone through a Q&A process, so we had 3 beers ready for the truck. We had our tasting room, but our focus was on distribution.
You have a tap room as well?
Yes. We had thought the tasting room would be that a person would come in, have one beer, and move on. We had no idea how big a deal it would be. Now we have growler fills, live music, trivia nights, darts, ping pong. And it’s right on the brewing floor. It’s a very interactive place. We make great beers and have a place to relax at the end of the day. Creative Loafing posted a list of the Top 25 bars in the St. Pete-Tampa, and we got number one. We were absolutely floored and amazed.
When you started brewing, what were you making?
It’s funny, when we started, it was just Mike and Ty at the time. Mike is a phenomenal operator. When they started brewing, the one that sticks out in my mind is our flagship Beach Blonde Ale. It’s a great crossover beer for people that don’t know craft beer, but connoisseurs really like it to. It makes up about 50-60% of what we sell.
We also came out with Summer Storm Oatmeal Stout. My husband is big Guinness fan, so he wanted a stout. It’s a bit smoother than Guinness and nice and light. That’s a big misconception, that dark beers have to be heavy. That’s not true at all.
What about IPAs?
We didn’t start with an IPA because we thought market was saturated. People asked, and we came out with Bimini Twist. It’s our second biggest seller.
I also saw you have a dunkelweizen. I love those, but it seems like most breweries in Florida don’t make them.
Funny you say that. That beer takes a lot of education for people. Once people are educated, it’s our most requested beer. It’s brewed on a seasonal basis.
What about now?
We have four beers we offer year round, but there’s so much interest in the new recipes that we have stepped up our seasonals. We just released 4 Redemption Barrel Aged Quad. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a big beer, 11% ABV. Of course we’re doing the pumpkin beers, we called ours 3 Punkins.
What about collaborations?
We haven’t done a lot of collaborations yet, but we have kicked around ideas with other breweries. We have done beers with a local coffee brewer, though. We also did a proprietary beer for the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Pete, and we do beers for charity events.
How do you feel about the future of craft beer in Florida?
I am wildly excited. One thing about craft beer, the ground swell is fantastic for everybody. It’s our time. Denver had their time, Oregon had theirs, I think we’re ready and this is the time. The proof is all the craft breweries that are opening up in Florida and everyone is doing well.
Do you think there are too many breweries in the state?
I don’t think there are too many. Look at San Diego, and they have a lot of breweries per capita. There will be a continual shakedown.
Look at Rapp Brewing (in St. Petersburg). They have a small system in the back, they brew fantastic beers, they distribute locally, and that’s fine for them. Honestly I think it’s great for everyone. At the end of the day your beer has to stand on its own. There’s so much beer here in Florida you don’t need to bring in beers from other states. Florida beer stands on its own.
That’s the interesting thing about craft beer. It’s such a great community. You work closely with other brewers. We borrow, we give. We had another brewery come in to brew an IPA because we had capacity.
How do you ensure 3 Daughters stays consistent?
We have two golden rules we put up front. One, we are never going to short anyone beer. We will never exceed 80% capacity. In fact, new tanks are on their way. The day you short and can’t meet an order, you have ruined the impression with that person.
Two, if you like our beer today, you’ll like it in a month, and you’ll like it in 3 years. Our lab ensures consistency. They will actually put the yeast under a microscope and count the live yeast cells for our beers.
You have a lab?
Yeah! We partnered with USF-St. Pete and an adjunct professor there, Jim Leonard. He has PhDs in Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Biology. Craft beer is his passion.
We partnered to put in the first ever internship for beer. We screen candidates with biology background and good grades, etc. Now breweries like Cigar City, Green Bench, etc. are starting internship programs, too. All of those interns are coming from USF-St. Pete as well.
You’re releasing your beers in cans, right?
We decided to go with cans. I was voting to go with bottles because I like the ritual with opening them. But, with Florida and beaches on both coasts, you can’t use glass.
There was a time that every beer commercial was a bottle coming out of a cold stream. But there’s so much that can go wrong with bottles. I don’t know how some breweries distribute their beers in clear bottles. Cans have made a huge comeback. PBR remade themselves, and cans have really come back. Your beer is a lot better off going in cans than bottles.
Your beer names tend to be very beachy. Is that intentional?
It seems to be a common theme. All our brewers and our brand ambassador, if they’re not in the brewery, they’re in the water. That’s our passion. We want to have a Florida feel. Our tag line is “Florida Inspired, St. Pete Brewed.”
Drink Florida Craft,