When Brian Purcell launched Three Taverns Craft Brewery in Decatur, GA in 2013, he opened with a handful of traditional core beers, including a Belgian-style Single called Single Intent, and a Belgian-style American IPA called A Night in Brussels. But it was his Imaginarium Project series that quickly pushed his and his brewers’ skills, offering adventurous selections like rhubarb sours, Belgian Dubbels with coffee, and Grodziskies.
It’s that latter project that has now encouraged a new kind of ambition and inspiration for Purcell.
Three Taverns announced this morning that an upcoming second location, the aptly-named Imaginarium, will open in the much-buzzed-about Atlanta Dairies development on Memorial Drive in ATL’s Reynoldstown neighborhood. The new location will allow Three Taverns brewers to push their creativity, Purcell says, and offer “a fantastical world of freedom of ideas we could enter and explore and create.”
The brewery hopes to complete the buildout of the 3,500-square-foot brewhouse and taproom, plus a 1,000-square-foot patio, in 10 months. The Imaginarium will house a 10-barrel brewhouse with a canning and bottling line. In addition to 4-5 of the brewery’s core beers on tap, Purcell says they’ll have a rotating list of 20-25 experimental beers “exploring many different styles, ingredients, and brewing techniques.” He adds that they’ll “complement [the] beer offerings with small food plates from rotating kiosks or pop-up stations.”
“I never imagined it would be an actual location,” he tells GBH. “[When] I first started to have a vision for a smaller space that would allow more creative expression and exploration, I realized I was turning the Imaginarium Project into a real brick and mortar.”
Thanks to game-changing legislation passed in Georgia in Sept. 2017, Peach State breweries and brewpubs can now sell beer directly to customers in their taproom, including to-go. The result has meant renovations, increased revenue, and new business models, including a handful of forthcoming Georgia beer makers planning to barely distribute their beer at all.
Purcell, whose brewery is one of the larger in the state, says that the legislative changes were critical to his ability to control his growth strategy and have a flexible plan for the future. According to the Brewers Association, Three Taverns produced 8,005 barrels in 2017, a 31% increase over 2016’s production.
“While we’re still growing double digits, our growth percentage has slowed significantly over our earlier years,” he says. “Studies show that consumers are more likely to pick up your beer in market after visiting your tasting room. The more people we can get into a Three Taverns tasting room, the more we are able to influence our growth in tasting room sales, in market sales, and most importantly, in profit.”
Atlanta Dairies is a rather massive project, one that will turn an 11-acre plot situated along one of the city’s busiest corridors into an ambitious mixed-use hub. In addition to hundreds of apartments, a handful of food and drink destinations from popular existing ATL vendors are rumored to sign on soon, and a music venue is in the works as well.
Purcell says the development will have “one of the only open container licenses in the city,” which means visitors can purchase a Three Taverns beer at the Imaginarium and then wander around the property. Noting that this original brewery space in Decatur has the ability to expand to 40,000 BBLs and that his beer is only sold in Georgia five years into business, Purcell says this move is less about growth and more about being part of something special in Atlanta. Doubling down on his home turf is a calculated move, one that stands in opposition to expanding into a neighboring state.
“We don’t want or need a second location for production capacity,” he says. “We want a second location for increased accessibility to our brand and control of the consumer experience, and for the opportunity to build a portfolio and create demand for unique and distinct beers only available at the Imaginarium.”
It’s an attitude and business model Purcell thinks matches the bustling city in which he’s building.
“Welcoming those with a predilection for the unpredictable,” he says, “the vibrant and ever-changing nature of Atlanta and the exciting growth and culture of the city provides the perfect backdrop for our journey into exploration and invention.”
—Austin L. Ray