As a soon to be father of a daughter, it’s nice to be able to talk to a man who has three daughters of his own and can give you advice.
Of course, when that conversation also focuses on beer, that’s just a win-win situation all around.
I recently, finally, made it over to St Petersburg, home to one of Florida’s fastest growing breweries, 3 Daughters Brewing. Those three daughters, and the brewery they’re named after, belong to one Mike Harding and his wife Leigh. They, along with friend/chef/head brewer Ty Weaver, opened the brewery after lengthy careers in the restaurant industry.
I was able to sit down with Mike for a nice, long conversation about the brewery, being a father, and plans for the future (Leigh was supposed to be there, too. Unfortunately she was out sick). Before talking about all the fun of discussing meeting your baby girl(s) for the first time, the discussion started with a tour of their brewing facility.
As of right now, 3 Daughters cans and releases Bimini Twist IPA and their signature Beach Blonde Ale statewide. They’ve started canning and releasing Rod Bender Red Ale in the St. Pete area, and I’m hoping that will be available statewide in the very near future. There are plans for more cans; I’ll report as soon as I have details.
Part of the brewery floor has been set aside for quite the array of table space and games. Cornhole, giant Connect 4, and a stage for live music is all available in the back. It’s a pretty sizeable chunk of real estate for a brewery to set aside just for visitors, and on busy nights every inch of it gets used.
According to Mike, this is all going to be accompanied by an additional production facility that is starting construction very soon. It will contain a number of 120 bbl fermenters, greatly increasing the output of which 3 Daughters will be capable. This will also be accompanied by a large outdoor patio area with more fun stuff for patrons. Of all ages, really.
Remarkably, the brewery is very family friendly, a trend that is (thankfully) gaining a lot of traction in the craft beer community. 3 Daughters features a nice line up of non-alcoholic drinks, including juice boxes for the little crowd. Interestingly enough, when my wife and I were there, the next patrons over were three little girls enjoying their apple juice boxes. Their moms were next to them enjoying a beer, and it was perfectly natural.
I’m amazed on how family-centered the brewery is as well. Part of the bar has a brick from the brewery that Mike’s great-grandfather used to own. Plus, not only do Mike and Leigh own and run 3 Daughters, but Ty’s wife and daughter work there, Mike’s father works there, and even the three girls come around once in a blue moon (clearly they’re not employees). Mike’s father is at the center of some pretty big news; hopefully I’ll be able to report on that soon.
Another nice feature of their St. Pete facility is the on-stage lab. Both Mike and Leigh have mentioned that brewing one batch of beer is easy, but making sure every batch of that beer tastes exactly the same as the first batch is hard. That’s why they have a quality control lab, run by Dr. Jim Leonard, a retired pharmaceutical scientist and adjunct chemistry professor in the Bay Area.
The lab is also part of the new Brewing Arts Program being offered by the University of South Florida. Made for budding brewers, the program shows students the complete ins and outs of running a brewery, from sanitation to cost effectiveness. The faculty list reads like a who’s who of Bay Area Brewing, including Mike and Ty for 3 Daughters.
All of which is great. But now it’s time for beer. Mike gives Ty considerable amount of free reign when it comes to what is brewed exclusively for the tasting room, which is a good thing. Here’s everything I was able to try when we visited:
Strawberry Cream Ale (Cream Ale, 5% ABV) – On nitro, no less. I’m a big fan of cream ales, since they’re pretty smooth, light, and very manageable to new beer drinkers. The cream ale from 3 Daughters is all of that. Low on hop bitterness, low on excessive yeast funkiness. They added strawberries to this, and the strawberry is very prominent in the aroma of the beer. It’s only lightly present in the flavor, which is good.
Belgian Blonde (Belgian Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV) – This is a straightforward, no-frills entry into the rapidly expanding base of Pales and IPAs brewed with a traditional Belgian yeast. My big concern with some of those beers is that the overly hoppy nature of the base beer tends to drown out the sometimes delicate and complex Belgian yeasty goodness. Not so here. The hops are prominent but muted, and blend quite nicely with a lightly aggressive yeast. Nice light biscuity aroma.
AWAKE Coffee Blonde (Blonde Ale, 5% ABV) – This is easily one of the best beers I’ve had from 3 Daughters, especially since I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s a coffee beer, but it’s not a stout or a porter. It’s a light Blonde Ale, and I never even thought to do something like this. The coffee flavors are quite prominent, and very strong against the light hops and golden breadiness of the blonde ale. Plus, since it’s a blonde ale, there’s no big roasted malts to fight against. It’s all coffee, and it’s all good.
Brown Pelican Dunkelweizen (Dunkelweizen, 5.7% ABV) – This is the beer I’ve been waiting to try ever since Leigh told me about it, and it did not disappoint. It’s got a great mix of light, bright, peppy wheat flavors and dark, red roasted caramel malt. It looks like it’s becoming a year-round favorite, which is great. Now, if only I could persuade them to release this in cans…
Dock of the Bay Brown Ale (American Brown Ale, 4.9% ABV) – This was one of the best, all around classic beers 3 Daughters had to offer. It’s a simple, sweet brown ale that both instantly recognizable and wonderfully refreshing. Big on notes of roasted caramel, deep honey, and toffee. It’s simple, inviting, and wonderful.
Stern Line Stout (Stout, 5.2% ABV) – This is actually the recently renamed Summer Storm Oatmeal Stout, which I previously reviewed. But you cannot have too many oatmeal stouts.
It took me far longer than it really should have to make it to St. Pete, but it was worth the trip to go to 3 Daughters. The facility is gorgeous, the beer is fantastic, and the hospitality is overwhelming. Thank you so much to Mike and Leigh for everything.
Now to prepare for my own daughter.
Drink Florida Craft,