On a chilly Friday morning, even the sun seems to struggle to wake. Employees at SB Cox Demolition receive their assignments and the engines begin to hum. Across Hatcher Street, all seems very quiet at Triple Crossing Brewery from the outside. It is quite different on the inside.
I am greeted by brewer Jay Mouton and we enter the spotless greenhouse. There is no odor of lingering brew, hops, or anything. It just smells clean. Jay’s first action after turning on the lights and unlocking the doors is to check the numbers and data that have been transmitted from the tanks while the city slept the night before. There is a quiet bubbling sound that comes from the blue buckets that sit beside 4 of the giant 40 barrel fermentation tanks. A hose is connected from the tanks to these buckets of water; the bubbling is CO2 being released. Why there are only 4 buckets being used when there are 8 40 barrel tanks will be covered in a bit.
We are joined by another brewer, Tyler Wert, who informs us that it’s Prism brewing day. Prism is one of Triple Crossing’s New England style IPAs. Tyler’s first step is to get 5 bags of wheat flakes from the warehouse. This proves no easy task as the forklift is needed to shift a pallet of grain before a dolly can be placed underneath the shelf where the flakes are stored. And even then, wrangling each 50-pound bag of flakes is awkward. Imagine trying hoist a 50-pound pillow.
Once they are stacked on the dolly, the flakes are wheeled over to the three tanks where the brewing process is initiated. A measured amount of salt and phosphoric acid has been placed on top of the first tank. These ingredients will be added slowly to the steaming water in different increments to balance pH. Then each bag of flakes is hauled up the seven steps. The bag is cut and the flakes are carefully poured into the tank to ensure even distribution. Meanwhile, the grain is shot into the tank from a manifold that holds the grain in the warehouse. Once all the ingredients are in, the mixture will sit in the initial tank for an hour, then transferred to two more before fermentation. The warehouse begins to smell of fresh mash.
Arriving next in his Triple Crossing Prism shirt is Anthony Chiaverella. He walks me through the CIP (Clean in Place) process. This is how each 40 barrel tank is thoroughly cleaned. A caustic solution and then an acid wash is used with 170° water and then they are rinsed again to ensure cleanliness and sanitation. As you can see, cleanliness is a huge part of the operation at the brewery. The tanks need to be cleaned quickly though as they hold precious cargo: at any time, 4 of the 8 40 barrel tanks hold Triple Crossing’s flagship beer, Falcon Smash.
Falcon Smash has been around since the beginning of Triple Crossing in 2015 and remains their most popular beer. An American IPA, it is served at many different popular bars and restaurants around Richmond as well at both Triple Crossing locations (Fulton and Foushee).
Consider these numbers: a barrel as a beer measurement is equivalent to 31 gallons of beer. So one 40 barrel tank contains about 1,240 gallons of Falcon Smash. According to the brewers, one tank lasts Richmond… A week. Furthermore, I asked how many kegs are returned per week on average, that number varies from 150-180. This is why 4 40 barrel tanks are needed at one time, just of Falcon Smash. Richmond sure is thirsty.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Adam Worcester, one of three owners of Triple Crossing. He acknowledges the success of Falcon Smash and the other IPAs that have made the brewery a favorite around Richmond and the east coast. With other offerings such as lagers, pilsners, and stouts, Worcester states “we’re no one-trick pony.” Variations of their Deep Dark Woods will be offered soon.
How are the beers named? As the admitted “nerd” of the group, Adam admits most of his naming ideas from movies or games are scrapped but some have stuck. Some of the references are obvious like Clever Girl (Jurassic Park) and Falcon Smash (Super Smash Brothers) where some are more obscure, like Battle Creek (Aliens).
90% of Triple Crossing’s product can be found in and around Richmond but there is the other 10% that is shipped to specialty markets in New York, Philly, and DC every quarter. Even though the beer is in demand all around Richmond, there are no plans to add additional tanks at the moment. The local market is thirsty but satisfied.
As for the Prism mentioned before, look for it in about 3 weeks at both Fulton and Foushee.