By Jen Sotolongo
I love walking into the local pub in a small town and seeing everyone turns their heads in unison to the strangers who have just entered. That is when I know I have entered upon the town’s “third place.”
The term third place was coined by Ray Oldenburg in his book, The Great Good Place. According to Oldenburg, each of us needs three places. The first is our home, the second is work or school, and the third is the local hangout where individuals from the community can connect and share ideas on a neutral ground. Whether it be a brewery, coffee shop, church, or the barber, this is the place we go to break the routine of home-work-home, escape the screens of our televisions, phones, and computers and foster connections with our neighbors. Moreover, the third place serves as an information hub for newcomers, connects youth with adults, promotes strong relationships and friendships that benefit the community, and provides entertainment and comfort.
Oldenburg says the design of American suburban housing divisions since WWII hinders community. Most are people in the suburbs are not within walking distance of a communal gathering spot and neighbors no longer know one another. Americans are craving more social interactions and community, especially during these tough times we’ve been having over the past several years.
My first third place brewery was Captain Lawrence in Pleasantville, NY. My husband and I had just moved to a small town in the Hudson Valley, and were wondering what exactly there was to do in our new home. When we discovered there was a new brewery nearby, we visited right away.
Just under a year old, Captain Lawrence offered free 4-ounce tastings of all their delicious beers on tap, as they were licensed as only a tasting room, at the time. On top of that, it seemed that Scott Vaccaro, the owner and brewer came out with a new beer every month. Since it was the only brewery around, we kept going back. All the time.
Eventually, Captain Lawrence felt like a second home. We received warm welcomes from Scott and his family who worked the counter, we started recognizing other regulars, we felt comfortable. Scott donated kegs to my employer’s regional festival annually and welcomed our large group when I strategically planned an end to a staff retreat at the brewery. We met who are now very good friends while sipping on tasters at Captain Lawrence and saw the brewery grow from a few curious beer drinkers to the hot spot of the Hudson Valley. We purchased our very first growler from Captain Lawrence, which I’m proud to say bears the original logo.
Now that we live in Portland, and despite the fact that we are surrounded by an abundance of breweries that we regularly visit, we still have our third place brewery in our Hollywood neighborhood.
Columbia River Brewing is a mere five blocks away. We know the names of most of the staff and they know ours. We are members of their mug club and have gotten to know fellow members as we imbibe together at the bar. I’ve done my homework there, my husband has done his job search there. Since getting rid of our cable, we’ve watched several Timbers’ games there, which they’ll put on for us at a moment’s notice. Perhaps the greatest highlight of our relationship with Columbia River Brewing is that when I requested the return of the Belgian Wit brewed last summer, Rick Burkhardt, the owner and brewmaster, obliged, later divulging to my husband that he was brewing the batch just for me.
My favorite story about a third place brewery comes from Two Beers Brewing in Seattle.
When founder, Joel VandenBrink and his friend were in a disagreement, they headed to their local pub to talk it out. After consuming their second pint, they began to have a deep and honest conversation about the issue at hand. As they walked out, Joel looked at his friend and said “I guess life is just a little more honest after two beers.”
Not only is this the brewery’s namesake, but the concept is also engrained in their philosophy, which says “We brew because we believe if we all take some time, we will see things a bit more clearly. The daily grind will become less, the pace of life will slow and friendships can be enjoyed. Cheers, and may you find what we have found to be true – that life’s a little more honest after two beers.”
Where’s your third place brewery?