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A Field Guide to 3 Stars Brewing

Last night at ChurchKey, 3 Stars Brewing went live. The festivities continue tonight at The Big Hunt, where founders Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey met, and where the former was beer director. Here’s what to expect from the brewery, which is launching with three beers and a few cask variations thereof.

The Urban Farmhouse is a saison-style ale that is hopped, but not over-hopped, with Centennial and Cascade. Given that no other local breweries offer this style, Bluejacket’s saison is not yet a local brew, kudos to 3 Stars for product differentiation. Green, white, and a handful of pink peppercorns go into the boil, which also includes a generous amount of wheat. The former is obvious on the nose, and plays well with the spicy esthers from the yeast. The latter is clear in the body and appearance of the beer, which finishes with a vegetal aftertaste, almost like biting into a fresh red pepper. A cask of the Urban Farmhouse had orange peel and more Cascade hops, creating big citrus flavors towards the end of the beer, washing away the spices.

Neither Coleman nor McGarvey profess to like brown ales, another locally underrepresented style, but you wouldn’t know it from the Southern Belle, an 8.7% ABV stunner that tastes much closer to 6%. Toasted pecans were added to the boil, and complement the chocolate malts and delicate, effervescent carbonation. One cask of the Belle featured vanilla beans; the taste was eerily reminiscent of pecan pie, not at all boozy, and vaguely suggested lactose. Another cask used lightly toasted oak, adding hints of white pepper, sourness, and a dry finish.

The Pandemic Porter will probably attract the most attention, and have you hollering “two for $5” as if you were in Hamsterdam. Both DC Brau and Port City brew robust porters, but 3 Stars doesn’t have much interest in that kind. Instead you get a 9.6% ABV imperial coffee porter, with a gallon of Qualia cold-brewed Yirgacheff concentrate added to each barrel. Vanilla and coffee dominate this beer, but there’s a quick, dry finish that doesn’t linger, and thanks to the skills of both Qualia and head brewer McGarvey there’s very little bitterness. One cask at Churchkey upped the coffee quotient to the point where I got the shakes. Picture Du De Ciel’s Peche Mortel taken to 11 and you’re somewhat close. Another cask utilized heavily toasted oak, which stood up to the vanilla and coffee flavors, drying out the beer and further hiding the alcohol content.

You can find these three beers all over town, starting on Monday and a few of the casks as well. Coleman and McGarvey have a few other tricks up their sleeves in terms of casks, which will make appearances throughout the week. Be on the lookout.

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