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Brewery to watch: Three Magnets Brewing

High-quality beers drive our attraction to this Northwest brewery.
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In his 1898 book “Garden Cities of To-morrow,” British urban planner Ebenezer Howard diagrammed three community options—the technologically driven “town,” the free and green “country” and the utopian “town-country” hybrid—as magnets, each exacting its pull on citizens as they decide where to settle. “The people,” his diagram asks. “Where will they go?”

Three Magnets Brewing Co., that’s where. Opened in Olympia, Washington, in fall 2014, the brewery’s connection to its community reaches back even before its founding: Owners Nate and Sara Reilly—who’ve operated kitschy diner Darby’s Cafe in Olympia for the past decade—first met brewmaster Patrick Jansen at the Helsing Junction Sleepover, an indie rock festival/river campout/farmers market held at an orchard near Rochester, Washington. A homebrewer at the time, Jansen sampled the Reillys on some of the creations he had brought to share with friends during the event, and they were blown away.

“He brought eight or nine beers to this thing, and they were all amazing,” Nate Reilly says. Soon after, Reilly realized that Olympia was in dire need of another beer-maker (“It’s a big beer town but only had one brewery,” he says). When the time came to recruit a brewer to head the venture, Jansen was an obvious choice. And a good one: His Helsing Junction Farmhouse Saison—fermented with brettanomyces and named in homage to the farm where he and the Reillys first met—is as rustic as the 3Mag Rain IPA, Brotherhood Brown ale and rotating series of wet-hopped pale ales are stylistically flawless.

“That’s what’s got us noticed: that our beers are clean,” Reilly says. Jansen agrees: “We’re not just here to make beer; we’re here to support our community. I want to put out clean, technically sound beer that’s good for our community.”

That focus on quality  beers earned Three Magnets its first Great American Beer Festival medal last year (bronze, for Old Skook barleywine) and led to some new responsibilities for Jansen. As he was walking around the GABF floor while wearing his new medal (as anyone would), he was approached by Chuck Skycheck, chair of the Brewers Association’s technical committee. “He was looking for first- and second-year brewers who won medals,” Jansen says. “He wanted to know what we were doing differently in terms of quality control than other new breweries, how we got our beers so clean.”

Skycheck must have liked Jansen’s answer—he became the “token new brewer” on the BA’s beer quality subcommittee, helping guide member breweries to produce ales and lagers of high quality.

“Now I get to do lots of conference calls,” Jansen says wryly. “It’s great.”

Two to try:

Old Skook in the Woods
A bourbon barrel-aged version of the beer that earned Three Magnets its first GABF medal, this brew marries almost quadrupel-like malt flavors—brown sugar, cinnamon, maple, fig—with deeper notes of bitter cocoa, molasses, orange juice and gentle vanilla. “My favorite comment I’ve gotten is that it tastes like a bourbon Rollo,” Jansen says.

1st Anniversary Ale
The aged character of this blended brew (port-aged imperial stout, bourbon-aged barleywine and fresh base beer) is unreal. As notes of raisinettes, nutty coffee beans, overripe oranges and toasted oak reveal themselves, the dark fruity undertones of tawny port smooth their edges; the flavor is cohesive, clean and far smoother than an 11.2% beer should rightly be.

 

Author
Zach Fowle is DRAFT's beer editor. Reach him at zach@draftmag.com.

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