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A new craft brewery is coming to town with a social mission (and beer) in hand

Triple Bottom Brewery wants to hire returning citizens and homeless individuals. November 29, 2016 Category: FeatureFeaturedLongPurpose
Young folks love craft beer. They also love supporting socially conscious companies. It makes sense, then, that they might love Triple Bottom Brewery.

The craft brewery is expecting to launch in Philly next summer with 10 to 15 craft brews and a jobs program for people who have criminal records or are experiencing homelessness.

In other words, a millennial beer snob’s whet dream.

But here’s the thing: Triple Bottom Brewery doesn’t want to exist solely to appease the needs of young beer enthusiasts who care about social issues. The founders have planned on the brewery being a community space from the jump — though that specific community is yet to be determined.

After months of outreach and engagement with stakeholders in a number of neighborhoods, cofounder Tess Hart said the brewery has whittled the decision down to two candidates: Francisville and Point Breeze.

“The big thing from both communities is the idea of the brewery being a gathering space. Both neighborhoods want to see commercial development happening,” said cofounder Tess Hart, who’s been working on the business model while pursuing her graduate degree at Yale University. “It’s an added bonus that we’re trying to bring them into the process.”

From knocking on doors to sitting down with state representative Jordan Harris (D-Phila) and being courted by South of South Neighborhood Association‘s Alex Kaplan, Hart said each conversation has led to another meeting with another stakeholder.

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“It’s become a very organic thing,” she said. “Finding the next step, the next person and building these relationships along the way.”

Authenticity is the ultimate goal. The space will feel different in Brewerytown-adjacent Francisville than it would in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze, Hart said, to reflect the community advising its development. Francisville, for instance, has a deep jazz history. There wouldn’t necessarily be live jazz in a Point Breeze brewery.

“We want it to be a place that really lifts up the assets of the community and can be a showcase of all the creativity that’s there,” she said. “Depending on our location, our vision is also an outdoor beer garden that’s also a community garden, and a mural on the wall that reflects the hopes of the community.”

There are a lot of variables at play, but one thing that won’t change is the jobs program. Right now, the only employees will be the cofounders: Hart, her husband Bill Popwell and brewmaster Kyle Carney (formerly of Stone Brewing and Weyerbacher). With help from two undisclosed nonprofit partners, Triple Bottom Brewery’s jobs program will employ people who have criminal records or are in the shelter system.

Triple Bottom Brewery founders Kyle Carney (left), Tess Hart and Bill Popwell.

“That’s the thing we’re most excited about in terms of our vision,” said Hart. “Helping people get back on their feet in a way that gives them dignity and helps them support their families.”

The program will include monthly professional development sessions, and the brewery will have a washer and dryer on site so program employees don’t need to worry about having clean clothes. But employment in the program is inherently temporary.

“Our hope is that after a year, people will move on to another full-time job in the area and stay on as mentors for new people coming in,” Hart said. “It will be a cycle of people staying involved and helping each other.”

True to its name, Triple Bottom Brewery also has an environmental mission.

“It takes seven barrels of water to make one barrel of craft beer,” said Hart, though a four-to-one ratio is the lowest she’s come across. Triple Bottom Brewery will be experimenting with ways to cut down on water use and plans on making those methods transparent in the spirit of inspiring other breweries to do the same. Plus, 15 percent of the brewery’s hops will come from local farmers.

As for funding, Hart said the brewery will largely depend on debt financing, though they’re also in talks with local impact investors.

But in the spirit of #GivingTuesday, Triple Bottom Brewery is kicking off with a crowdfunding campaign. It will be a “drop in the bucket,” said Hart, but the campaign is in line with the brewery’s community-informed development.

“We need a lot of money for this,” she said. “This will be a drop in the bucket, but we want people to feel like they’ve had a stake in this.”

Check out the Indiegogo campaign

“Breweries can really lead the way in catalyzing community development,” said Hart. “Grabbing a beer is the new breaking bread.”


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