CARBONDALE — For craft beer fans in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 2012 was the year things got better. It’s when three regular guys — plus one with a whimsical beard — opened a microbrewery, 3 Guys and A Beer’d Brewing Company, in their hometown ensuring good-tasting beer was more accessible throughout the area.
Since then, Matt Zuk, Dave Oakley, Jon Bronson and Johnny Waering a.k.a “The Beard,” have solidified the area as a contributor to the craft beer game and started an explosive empire that seems unyielding. Their product is available in 16 counties throughout Pennsylvania. Local bars such as Backyard Ale House in Scranton and R Bar & Grill in Nanticoke pour their tap beer to loyal followers. The locally made product can even be found in bars as far south as Philadelphia.
Their latest endeavor is a taproom opening Sept. 25. Waering and Zuk said they hope the taproom will revitalize their hometown and serve as a testing ground for experimental beers. Appetizers, salads and sandwiches will be served along with perhaps the most important item on the menu — beer.
AND SO IT GOES…
It all started about 10 years ago with a group of drinking buddies who got together every other Sunday to brew some beer and barbecue. Zuk and Oakley were working in the culinary industry, Bronson was in the Air Force and Waering was a laborer working a warehouse job.
“It wasn’t easy to get good craft beer around here back then,” Waering said. “You either brewed it yourself or you had to travel to a six-pack shop outside the area to find good beer.”
These friends, who grew up together, decided to brew good craft beer as a hobby. After brewing for four years, they had brewed more beer than they could drink Waering said.
“All of our friends and family loved it, so we decided to see what other people thought,” Waering said. “We had an abundance of beer, so we called different bars and restaurants and asked if they’d mind if we came down and sampled some beer to see what they thought about it. It was a way to get rid of some beer and gain some feedback.”
People loved it, Waering said.
Following a favorable reaction to their product from taste testers, the tight circle of friends began flirting with the idea of turning their pastime into a business.
“One night in 2009, we were sitting on Dave’s porch, having a few brews … and we threw out some ideas of how we could keep good beer around and have it more accessible in the area,” Waering said. “The first idea was to open our own six-pack shop where we could sell our own beer and have a little brewery in the back. Then we decided, ‘Let’s just open a brewery.’”
So they decided to “rock and roll” with the idea, Waering said.
It took a few years for them to get there, but they made it happen. “We decided to do it all on our own,” Waering said. “We didn’t want to borrow money or take out a loan. We’ve been funding this on our own by brewing beer since we started. And we take pride in that right there.”
The 3 Guys and A Beer’d Brewing Company finally opened its doors on New Year’s Day in 2012 — and their product has been thriving ever since.
Opening a taproom was always a goal in the works for the brewing company.
“We wanted to be able to sell pints at the brewery, but we needed a brewpub license,” Zuk said.
“But a certain percentage of your sales had to be food, and we didn’t want to make the brewery a restaurant,” Waering added.
Their license allowed the brewery to sell 64 ounce growlers and cases of beer. But in May, the laws changed, Waering said, allowing small breweries to sell six-packs, 12-packs and pints of beer.
Now the guys are ready to offer an opportunity for craft beer lovers to sit down and enjoy a Carbond’Alien Pale Ale, Chewhoppa IPA or Soul Patch Pumpkin Ale with them — while getting a first look at what the brewing buddies are working on.
“We’ll get to try new beers on people,” Zuk said. “The taproom will be a testing ground for our experimental beers to see what people think of them. If people like them a lot, then it might become a year-round beer. Our Shaving Cream Ale that we did with Loyalty Barber Shop, that started off on the experimental line. It was supposed to be a one and done type thing. People loved it so much, it just made it to the year-round. Now it’s one of our best sellers.”
Waering and Zuk said they hope the taproom will help introduce their product to more people. And for anyone who already has their favorite 3 Guys and A Beer’d brew, they hope they will get exposed to a new favorite. Anywhere from five to nine beers will be available on tap.
“A lot of our beers out there, only a few select bars get it,” Zuk said. “People who know us from a certain bar they might go to will be able to get new beers they’ve never had from us or never tried.”
An example of a limited beer now available is their Oyster Stout, available at Cooper’s Seafood House in Scranton and Cooper’s Waterfront & Tiki Bar in Pittston.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
Waering said he and the guys will never forget where they came from. “We’re local. We’re not a big company,” he said. “We’re still little guys from Carbondale and that’s what we’re always going to be — guys from Carbondale. When we opened up, the community really embraced us. We were very happy for that and appreciative.”
To show their gratititude, they intend to support the people who supported them. Local ingredients will be incorporated into food menu items to be served at the taproom, as it is in their beer.
The food menu will change each week, based on season and available ingredients. One item slated for the menu is a cheese platter.
“I’m picking up cheese from Calkin’s Creaming for our cheese platter,” Zuk said. “They’re out of Honesdale. They use one of our beers for one of their cheeses, too, actually.”
Zuk, who is looking forward to using his culinary skills, raved over the pulled pork sandwich that will be on the menu. The pork will be hand-pulled and cooked in their Chewhoppa IPA.
A grand opening party will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 25. The event will feature a live performance by Tom Graham, with more festivities to be announced.
Regular business hours for the taproom will be from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and noon to 11 p.m. on Saturdays.
Reach Justin Adam Brown at 570-991-6652 or on Twitter @wkdr
IF YOU GO
What: Grand opening of 3 Guys and A Beer’d Taproom
When: 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, September 25
Where: 3 Guys and A Beer’d Taproom, 49 N. Church St., Carbondale
More information: Facebook.com/3guysandabeerdtaproom