Well, this one hurts. Just shy of ten years in business, DC Beer has learned that this is it for 3 Stars. We suggest you pay them a visit this weekend.
3 Stars was the third production brewery to open in the District’s craft beer boom, behind DC Brau and Chocolate City Brewing Company. They join the latter in closing. This sucks, and we make no claims to objectivity here. These are friends.
Like a lot of businesses, it comes down to money, which has been an issue since co-founders Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey struck out on their own, having met at The Big Hunt, where Coleman bartended and ran the beer program. “We were forced to open with a fraction of the capital that some of the other breweries in the DMV had when they started,” Coleman told us in 2019. Building out the brewery was a communal affair. On off days from my day job I’d help paint and sand; the co-owners bought a walk-in cooler for under $2 from a defunct brewery in Virginia and trucked it to DC.
3 Stars opened in August, 2012, on a ten-year lease at 6400 Chillum Place NW. Several rounds of funding from investors and a Small Business Administration loan allowed them to expand into a neighboring space… just in time for the pandemic to hit. 3 Stars bet on on-premise, and they were badly, perhaps mortally, wounded by COVID. I checked out the space on March 7, 2020. It would be the last brewery I set foot in for more than six months. 3 Stars launched a CSB, Community Supported Beer, like a farm share CSA, but for beer, and received Paycheck Protection Program loans, hustling and grinding to stay afloat like so many small businesses in the area, and around the country.
As people got vaccinated, and perhaps got less cautious, the event space took off, hosting a popular plant swap among other programs put on by Lyn Holland and Mary Doherty, but in December 2020 internal struggles came to a head and co-founder Dave Coleman left, as did the entire sales team. As far as we know, Coleman still owns a portion of the brewery despite no longer being employed there. The Coleman-McGavey split was not amicable, no doubt the fallout from that plays a role in closing. Without a sales team, 3 Stars distributed their flagship beers via Premium, hoping to draw people to the brewery with specialty releases. It wasn’t enough. “The wholesale and distribution market would pick up for a few weeks, and then a [COVID] surge would hit and sales would dip,” McGarvey told us in early 2021.
It’s clear the old guard from the DC craft beer scene’s golden age are taking their lumps right now,”Bill De Baun
It’s cold comfort to know that some 3 Stars beers have never tasted better. Good As Gold is as fine an IPA, with all New Zealand hops, as you can find brewed in the District right now, and Chillum Lite is similarly dialed in. Shuriken, a kellerbier collaboration with Georgia brewpub Hopstix, has been a go-to for much of 2022. Chillum Lite is in distribution, for the other two we suggest you pay the brewery a visit this weekend.
This news follows recent developments at Atlas Brew Works’ Ivy City taproom, which will close for retooling on-premise consumption, as well as the shuttering of Adams Morgan craft beer mainstay Smoke and Barrel. Hellbender has reopened, but is sans outdoor space for now.
“I try to be parsimonious about reading discrete events into patterns, but there’s a trend developing in the DC craft beer scene and it’s not a good one. Sure, we’re seeing closing balanced by, for example, the opening of new brewpub outposts in Navy Yard (Solace’s taproom, the aforementioned Atlas) and Logan Circle (Aslin), but with this devastating news about 3 Stars, it’s clear the old guard from the DC craft beer scene’s golden age are taking their lumps right now,” says Bill De Baun, our former editor.
There are a lot of questions we don’t have the answers to here. We don’t know what will happen to the space, to the beer in barrels in the funkerdome, and where brewery staff will go to next. When we know more we’ll cover it. Stay tuned, and join us at the brewery this weekend. We’ll be paying our respects. Rest in peace, 3 Stars, and thanks for everything.