First announced in 2018, and slated to open in summer 2019 in the Atlanta Dairies development on Memorial Drive, Three Taverns Imaginarium may finally celebrate its grand opening in early July.
But that’s only if the last bit of permitting falls into place, and the pandemic doesn’t spoil the party, Three Taverns founder Brian Purcell told me when I stopped by the Imaginarium for a tour last week.
We donned masks, and Purcell ushered me through the sprawling two-story space, which really does live up to its advance billing as “equal parts laboratory, brewery, and tasting room.”
The 10-barrel pilot brewery can be viewed from both the downstairs tasting room and the upstairs lounge. The fittingly inventive design by Square Feet Studios puts the focus on science and mystery, with suggestions of old laboratories, apothecaries and curiosities as a big part of the decor and museum-like displays.
The build-out also includes upstairs and downstairs patios and a to-go window. And along with a 1-acre outdoor strolling and seating area dubbed “The Yard,” that will make it easier for visitors to practice social distancing, Purcell noted.
In March, before stay-at-home orders mandated it, Purcell temporarily closed the Parlour, the Three Taverns tasting room at the production brewery in Decatur.
“We just felt like it was the right to do,” he said. “It was getting too weird for the staff, and too unmanageable with big crowds on the weekends.”
The Parlour reopened to sell beer to go the following weekend. And the brewery ratcheted up its packaging to meet increased demand for retail sales of core beers such as A Night on Ponce IPA.
“Rapturous blew up,” Purcell said of the popular Three Taverns sour beer. “It was already the No. 1 selling sour in grocery stores. But all of the sudden, through COVID, it got a 50% bump in volume, and now in June, it’s up 80%. So we were just very fortunate that we had some mature brands in the market, and it accelerated from there.”
At the Imaginarium, though, the idea is to brew a steady stream of experimental and one-off beers to serve on draft, including a new series of IPAs.
“At Three Taverns in Decatur, we had the Imaginarium Project, which was the name we gave to all of our small batch experimental beers,” Purcell said. “We decided to carry that name over here, and build off of that theme. I really wanted the brewery to be on view from every angle to add to that. And we purposely put a number of Instagram-able moments around the brewery as another branding opportunity.”
Ultimately, Purcell said, there were several purposes for the Imaginarium.
“One is to take our brand out of Decatur,” he said. “It’s a destination that’s not always easy to get to, so we thought we needed to put the Three Taverns brand and our beers in a more accessible area. And when we learned that the Dairies would have a 2,000-seat-plus music venue, and it was two blocks off the Beltline, this was it.
“It’s also a place where we can really experiment, and try to dial in some beers, then find hits that we can send into the broader market. It’s a place where I can keep my brewers energized, and flexing their creative muscles. And it’s a place where I think we can introduce a lot of millennials to our brand, in a different, more intimate way.”
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