Craft beer has been blowing up across America. It’s not unusual anymore for restaurants and bars to relegate old standards like Budweiser and Sam Adams to the bottoms of their menus in favor of craft favorites and up-and-coming local brews. Starting a craft beer line sounds like something you need a slew of investment capital to make happen, but millennials are an innovative bunch. A combination of day jobs, renting brewing time from other breweries, and networking with the welcoming community of other craft beer brewers can make breaking into the industry a reality for millennials.
Kaitlyn Haubrich, Vice President and Chief of Sales of Third Rail Beer, says she and her partner Loren Taylor-Raymond, the brewmaster of Third Rail, realized they had something special when the owner of a New York City bar was blown away by one of their home-brewed beers. “We were shocked,” says Haubrich. It was their first time meeting Gerard Leary, the owner of New York City bar One Mile House. “He said, ‘how soon until I can put you on tap?’” That was in 2013, and one year later, they were hosting their launch party at One Mile House and steadily working to expand their business.
The couple met while attending SUNY Purchase where Haubrich majored in Arts Management and worked at a liquor store. Fate would bring them together over a game of beer pong. They both shared a love of beer and as their tastes developed, they began to brew their own. By the time they moved in together, it had become “quite an obsession.” The couple had always talked about starting a brewery, and Leary’s love of their brew gave them the spark they needed to start making it a reality.
It’s not an easy road. Haubrich is currently the only full-time employee of Third Rail. Taylor-Raymond is both her business partner and brewmaster and their third partner, Larry Koestler, manages their marketing and social media. Like in any start-up business, they all wear many hats. “You name it, and I’ve done it,” Haubrich says. “Delivery truck driver, sales, accounting, promotions, apparel designs, event planning, inventory management, cooperage, raw ingredient sourcing, freight shipping, legal compliance, brewing, and so on.”
The long hours and packed schedules are worth it for the team who are ever working to expand Third Rail and make it their full-time business. Their next goal is to own their own facility. Currently they rent brewing time from another brewery to make their beer—something that many looking to start their own brewery might not have realized was a possibility. However, owning their own facility will allow them to brew within their community and work on smaller batches of experimental beers. Third Rail is also about to release their first packaged beer which happens to be their first special release: Alternate Side, a stout brewed with guajillo and chipotle peppers and cinnamon that will be available in 22 ounce bottles this month.
Starting any kind of company from scratch is a scary idea and Haubrich wants to remind potential entrepreneurs that it won’t be easy. However, she also says that it’s a risk that’s totally worth taking, “Be smart about your decisions and be thorough in your plan to execute, but don’t over think the risk.” She says making the effort to do something you love and failing is better than always wondering what could have happened. For those interested in brewing, she also says that now is a great time to join the industry. It may seem like a competitive market to join, but Haubrich believes that having other breweries in the community makes for a community interested in, and spending money on, craft beer. “Breweries are so willing to help each other out, whether it’s sharing ingredients, brewing collaborative beers, or promoting each other at events—there is an overall sense of respect and thoughtfulness [in the industry].”
If you’re in New York City, make sure to find some Third Rail on tap. I had the opportunity to taste their delicious Innate IPA at One Mile House this past December. Third Rail Beer works with many bars in New York City with rotating tap lines, so they’re not always in the same place all the time. You can reliably find them on tap at The Jeffrey (311 East 60th Street), Fool’s Gold (145 East Houston Street), One Mile House (10 Delancey Street), Alewife (5-14 51st Avenute, Long Island City), and Pine Box Rock Shop (12 Grattan Street, Brooklyn). The best way to keep up to date with where to find Third Rail to follow them on Beer Menus and Twitter.
You can join Third Rail this Sunday at Pine Box Rock Shop for a Walking Dead season premiere party. There will be Third Rail drink specials, trivia between commercials, prizes, and costumes. They will also be hosting a launch party for Alternate Side on Friday, February 13th at The Cannibal at Gotham, and Haubrich says she would love to clink glasses with you, darlings!