In August of 2016, Three Notch’d Brewing Company turned three years old. At the time, it had already established three taprooms, including its original 10,000-barrel brewing facility on Grady Avenue, plus locations in Richmond and Harrisonburg. It was around then that Three Notch’d announced plans to build a fourth restaurant and brew pub at the IX Art Park in downtown Charlottesville.
But the owners weren’t seeking to build just another taproom. “We wanted to create a flagship location that would be a tourist destination and serve as an anchor for our brand,” says Three Notch’d president and founder Scott Roth.
Looking to industry titans like Founders and Stone for inspiration, Roth and company sought to do two things: offer high-end food in a cool, German brew pub atmosphere and expand its brewing operations.
Facing a one-year deadline, the team had to quickly find a building that could accommodate both ends. “We were looking for something big enough to house a 30,000-barrel-a-year brewing and bottling operation, that would allow for 18-wheelers to come in and out with minimal disruption, have tremendous aesthetic potential and be centrally located,” says Roth, “which was a lot to ask.”
After considering more than 50 buildings, the company narrowed the list to three before settling on the IX location and beginning a 15,000-square-foot buildout with the help of local architecture firms Design Build Office and Formwork.
The first major hurdle was deciding how to modify the floor to handle the weight of the brewing equipment. “There was a 2-inch concrete slab, and it didn’t take a lot of brain power to realize that wasn’t going to cut it,” says Roth, whose degree happens to be in engineering. “The operative questions were, how much steel do we need and how are we going to get it in there?”
Initially, the company considered cutting out the floor and creating a subterranean facility. However, with daily grain deliveries and product shipments, the design would have required elaborate ramps and elevators. Instead, they chose to add a new building, which was cost effective and carried the benefit of providing additional restaurant space.
“Before, we were going to have a small, 100-foot restaurant with a 50-foot event space, but the addition enabled us to almost double that,” says Roth. “Overall, we wound up with a 17,400-square-foot facility, with 5,000 of that being allotted to restaurant space.”
Following a principle of communality and integration, the design team opted for an open interior featuring a lot of glass and natural light, and sought to affect a seamless transition from inside to out. Positioned around the brewery, the restaurant features a huge glass window through which patrons can see its copper vats, tubes and innerworkings. “More than a sense of transparency, we wanted visitors to feel like they’ve become a part of the operation, like they’re sitting right there, feeling its heartbeat,” says Roth.
With 23-foot ceilings, an open kitchen, 20 raw-pine columns, tons of wood accents, long bench-style seating and huge windows and doors opening onto the IX park, the dining room feels like a modernized take on an old-world beer hall. “We didn’t want to fill it up with booths and four-tops,” says Roth. “The idea was to create a sense of openness and community. We put in the big tables and kept things open to try to minimize isolation. We want people to come in and mingle. We want them to get together and feel like they’re part of a larger group.”
Helping to solidify the communal identity are murals painted by local artist Christy Baker, depicting Revolutionary War hero Jack Jouett’s legendary ride along the moonlit Three Notch’d path to warn then-governor Thomas Jefferson of advancing British cavalry. “Charlottesville is a historical town, and, in our own small way, we want to honor that history while seeking to make our own mark on it,” says Roth. “This is where our brand got started, this is our home.”