While it’s common knowledge that Germany and Belgium laid the foundation for beer culture, America has since made craft beer a worldwide phenomenon, with special attention constantly being showered down upon the IPA style.
Mike Geller, co-owner and brewer of Three 3’s Brewing Co. in Hammonton, saw first-hand the development of the American craft beer movement during his time spent traveling cross-country for work.
“Every time I had to go to a city I would find the nearest brewery and where the locals ate,” he said after a long day of brewing. “Oregon, Washington, California. You’re never far away from something great.”
In Hammonton, there are now three craft breweries within a 10-minute walk from one another. As a result, it’s similar to beer destinations like Portland, Seattle and San Diego.
First there’s Tom Foolery which is next door to Three 3’s, and two blocks away is Vinyl Brewing.
Geller grew up in Brick, but attended college in Florida where he graduated with a degree in Human Psychology. It was there that he discovered craft beer.
“I first had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in college around 2008 or 2009 and couldn’t get enough of it,” he said. “For a lot of beer people, it’s the beer that turned them onto craft beer.”
Geller first worked for the Army, which allowed him to travel around the country. He then moved to the private sector and settled in Massachusetts, with renowned breweries Trillium and Tree House close by.
The lines for cans of the highly-sought after beers at Tree House are long and slow. This gave Geller time to ponder.
“I was thinking, ‘I could have made a beer by now,'” he joked. As a result, he picked up home brewing as a hobby.
Discovering Three 3’s
About two years ago, as Geller and his brother Jon spent time visiting their family in New Jersey. Their trip included touring all the new craft breweries that were popping up, which led them to Three 3’s.
Geller, his brother and Three 3’s founder Dave Tomasello bonded over their love of IPAs and New England breweries.
Tomasello, who started the brewery as a post-retirement career, was looking to step back from the day-to-day running of the operation and offered to have the Gellers’ take over.
“I was at the point that the corporate world was getting too stringent for me,” Geller recalled.
“I was making good money, so it was a leap of faith. I definitely had doubts about where I would get benefits and how I could pay my rent.”
The most important aspect of taking over Three 3’s was making sure their core group of IPAs stayed consistent. Most importantly, their flagship beer, Bugg Juice. Characterized as a “Juicy IPA” because of it’s full-on fruit flavors and aromas, it’s a blend of Citra, Azacca, Mosaic and Centennial hops.
Tomasello called it Bugg Juice after the nickname of the cheap, syrup-based fruit punch drink served to kids in huge plastic jugs at schools and summer camps.
Since taking over, Mike and Jon began serving Bugg Juice in cans and distributing it throughout Philadelphia.
Their other IPA, which is available wherever fine craft beer is sold, is Drenched. This one is a well-balanced IPA with mild bitterness from the Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hops which gives it tropical taste.
Creating New Beer Flavors
If you follow the beer scene, you know the most-talked about style are cloudy, New England IPAs. They are basically hop explosions on your palette.
Three 3’s offers up Juicy Shenanigans, an intense beer that uses Huell Melon, Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo for wild ride of fruit flavors.
The Gellers’ continue to make the core of their lineup approachable IPAs that appeal to hop heads as well as newbies to the craft beer scene. It seems the beer world can’t get enough of hazy, juicy or sessionable Indian Pale Ales.
“Out of everything, people just like the refreshing taste of an IPA all year long. You can drink one after the other because they have medium-to-low ABVs or you can dissect the many flavor profiles,” Geller shared.
For the Gellers’, creating a new IPA offers limitless possibility.
“I think of it like grocery shopping. You’re going down the aisle and thinking what you can make and you see certain things that inspire you,” Geller said.
“Making IPAs is similar. You see certain hops and you think of ways to combine them with other hops to create something exciting.”
Craft beer fans can not live on IPAs alone. That’s why the Gellers’ make sure their Hammonton tap room offers up styles such as stouts, porters, saisons and hefeweizens.
Their most popular is the Coffee Porter, which uses British malts as well as La Columbe coffee for a robust, drinkable flavor.
A must-try for the summer is their Blueberry Saison. This one uses blueberries grown in Hammonton (the blueberry capital of the world).
All in the Family
Working all day with his brother as well as creating fun beers and giving them unique names goes in line with Geller’s family history.
“Our father ran a hardware store with his brother and we have family that runs restaurants throughout the state, so I knew what I was getting into,” he said.
Since moving back to Jersey and moving in with his brother, Geller enjoys the challenges of calling the shots.
“I don’t regret leaving the grind, even though some days it’s 5:00 pm and you’re deep into the brewing process and you just want to go home,” he said.
“There are things that happen that you wouldn’t get at a 9 to 5 job. Everyday people tell you how much they love the work that you do and how excited they are to try what you’re brewing next. That’s just unbelievable.”
Name: Three 3’s Brewing Company
Location: Hammonton, Atlantic County (50 13th St.)
Standout Beer: Bugg Juice IPA
Know Before You Go: Taproom is open for pints, flights, cans-to-go, growler fills and merchandise. Ample parking available. Outside food and pets allowed. Check Facebook for updated tap lists and events.
Don’t forget to check out the entire Brew Jersey series here.