Corey Artanis’ journey to South Florida happened somewhat serendipitously. Paved with plenty of ups and downs, the path he took picked up cult-level interest and support, way before his dream of a brewery came true. His relentless focus and passion for bringing “unconventional ales for unconventional palates” led the way.
I recently sat down with Artanis to discuss the challenges and triumphs of opening 3 Sons Brewing Co. in Dania Beach, and his future plans.
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First, I would like to bring some perspective on board, starting with your background. You’re not a Florida native. You were born and raised in Buffalo. Does Florida feel like home now? Yeah, it’s getting there. I used to vacation here as a child. For the first probably, I don’t know, five, six years living here, I felt like I was on vacation. I’m pretty much there.
After high school, you went to the military and were stationed in Washington. A friend you met there had a father who was a homebrewer and introduced you to the concept. How much longer after that did you take the first dive into home brewing? Not until I moved here to Florida. So that would have been five, six years after I had my first homebrew.
What was the first brew style you attempted? I attempted to make a Belgian Wit.
Successfully? I drank it. Yeah, it was good. I gave it to family. I can remember the flavor of it. It was probably not amazing, but it was definitely drinkable.
Why did you choose Florida after the military? My brother’s a firefighter in Miami-Dade, and he suggested I come down to become a firefighter. When I moved down here in 2006, I joined the fire academy, and after the fire academy, I did my EMT and then my paramedics. I then got a job at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for like seven years. Eventually, this took off.
What was the first mainstream beer you ever tried or favored, if you can recall? Growing up in New York, we drank a lot of 40s.
I don’t even know what that is. It’s a 40–ounce bottle. So it’s like Olde English. It was one of the big ones we drank. It’s what was available; you could get them easily.
What was the first life-changing beer you ever had? I guess maybe like the first craft beer that I ever had, that I thought was like, wow, this is amazing…Saranac has a mixed 12-pack. I don’t know if they still do or not, but I remember getting the mixed seasonal 12-pack and really enjoying a lot of the beers. I think it was like a blackberry. It was a stout or something like that. It was six different beers, two bottles of each, and I think it was like a blackberry porter, or something. It was the one I’d always grab. That was something that was enjoyable beer-wise; beer didn’t have to taste bad.
You then brewed for your family when you started, then for family events and even your wedding. What was your wedding brew like, and is that something you would improve on now and re-release for maybe an anniversary? My wedding beer? I honestly think it was an Indian Pale Ale. My wife’s last maiden name is Inglis, and my last name is Artanis. So it’s Inglis plus Artanis IPA: very cheesy, but it worked. That was the label that I designed. I tried to give everyone who came to the wedding a bottle of it. And I honestly do not remember what that beer tasted like, so it was that good of a wedding. But I’m sure, 100% positive, that the IPAs I do today don’t taste anything like that. It was cool. I got married in 2008, so it was probably a beer style typical of an IPA for that year, something more west coast.
Photos Courtesy of 3 Sons Brewing Co.
From there, you joined a bottle-share group. Things quickly took off. What came next? Bottle-shares just kind of got my gears turning. I had already been working at Joe DiMaggio and trying to become a firefighter for a little while. I thought perhaps I could become a brewer somewhere. There wasn’t a whole lot of breweries in South Florida. I figured I would build my resume up and start pouring my beer at different bars and restaurants or different craft beer events. That’s what I kind of focused on after that.
The first bar I brewed my beer at was Tap 42. I brewed a beer out in St. Petersburg at the Brewers’ Tasting Room, which is kind of an incubator brewery for people who were home brewers, and aspiring to become brewers. I went out there and brewed a beer, met with the guys at Cigar City, let them try my beers, and tried to weasel my way into their beer festival. That was probably one of the biggest things that catapulted me to where I am today.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered when trying to open 3 Sons from the time you selected this location finally? Just finding the location was a very big challenge, but then the build-out in itself was very challenging. Everything that could go wrong went wrong type deal. It was a lot. There were a lot of issues. We worked with the bank; we had gotten an SBA loan as well (a pretty large one, to help with the build-out and everything and opening the business). That whole process also added on a lot of time. It was just one thing after another, after another.
That built the hype even more, which was frustrating, but good Yeah—a little nerve-wracking. Expectations continued to grow.
What has been the most rewarding, now that it’s open? Having a packed tasting room, having people here, and finally enjoying my beer at my place. And, you know, amazing food thanks to chef Nicolay. Pretty much, the dream come true.
If you could go back in time and give the Corey that was about to embark upon this journey of opening 3 Sons a single piece of advice, what would it be? That’s a good question. I don’t know…anything. It seems like any advice that I would give myself might open a worse situation. Like if I said, oh, do not hire that architect and then we found another architect, he/she could have been a lot worse than who we had—little things like that, things that were major hiccups if we went a different route. I guess one thing would be the plumbing. We went through three plumbers, and our plumber that we finally got was amazing. And I wish he was on the job from the beginning. We wasted a lot of time. So anything I could do to help with the build-out, that’s what I would have probably tell myself.
Tell me about the overall design and concept of this brewery A lot of that was actually my father. He was the visionary when it came to the whole tasting room, the bar design, the layout, the kitchen, and how everything came together. That was all my father. That was all his vision. He did a great job with that.
It can be challenging to scale up from the homebrew level to professional level systems. You’ve had a lot of success and gained a large following on beers you developed as a homebrewer. How do you think you have faired so far, scaling up on a system you now have in-house? Do you think you are where you need to be? Do you ever find yourself having to tweak your recipes and your process because of the larger scale now? Yeah, it’s always a constant tweaking. There are not many recipes that we do, that are set in stone, that are brewed the exact same way every time we make them. Scaling up from two barrels, (which was at the Brass Tap) to 20 barrels (so 10 times it), I don’t think it was that difficult.
I always use the analogy of cooking in a new kitchen. You might be an amazing cook at your house. But if I invite you over to my house to cook and I have gas, or I have induction burners, or it’s electric, and you’re not used to that, time and temperature is a huge aspect when it comes to cooking and beer is the same way. So it’s pretty much dialing in all the times of the temperatures of the equipment that we have here. That plays a major role in brewing. That took time to be able to really dial in our brewhouse.
Our beers are constantly evolving. We have beers that are coming out now that are way better than they were originally. I always continue to say that our beer just continually gets better. We’ve only been here for a little over a year and a half maybe. We opened up in March of last year, so the beer will get better. We constantly learn from friends and other brewers who I brew with, so there’s always that growth. There are always new articles or magazines and information that comes out. There are new sources of hops, there are new grains, there are new enzymes, there’s new everything. There’s a lot that goes into the brewing. We’re building out our QAQC (quality analysis and quality control) lab, just to be able to dial in our beers as far as making sure that we continue to brew them with the same consistency. It never stops. You’re always learning and evolving. There’s a handful of recipes, maybe out of the 250 beers that we brew, and there’s maybe a handful that I won’t change the recipe, and I like it, and that’s it, and it’s done. It’s good the way it is, and I’m happy with it. But other than that, processes change, palates change, and you roll with the punches…or the taste buds.
Your list of awards and recognition is impressive. Which are you most proud of? Most proud for me would be Hunahpu, the first year that we won in 2015. Without a doubt, that was mind-blowing. I didn’t even realize that there was any type of awards. We’d already kicked our beer, so I was going to have fun and drink. I went to another bottle-share tent, and someone came up with an award and was like, ‘Yo, dude, you won first place, like best beer or best brewery.’ I was like, what? Yeah, that’s someone else’s. He was like, ‘You won both. You won first place with best brewery as well.’ I was like, oh my God, That that was probably like an Olympic gold for me.
I am still surprised at the number of people who don’t know about the hype around craft beer releases, the lines, the bottle shares, and the intensity that goes into all that. Can you tell us a little bit about the passion of this craft beer community? It’s like comparing things to new Jordans, people that are into sneakers or people that are into wine.
I think it’s beyond wine. I’m a huge wino, but I have never stood in line the night before for a bottle of wine. Yeah, it’s the prices people are willing to pay, $500 for a bottle of wine. And some people pay $500 per bottle of beer or more. If you’re really into music or clothes or fashion, it’s just people who are extremist or super passionate about that specific thing; in this case, it would be beer. It’s hard to explain. If you really enjoy something and love something, you’ll do whatever you need to do to obtain it and try it. You know they call a lot of people tickers, they just want to tick every beer that’s hard to get.
Then you meet new people, and there’s the whole social aspect of it as well (or was) and so it’s kind of like the whole brotherhood, and everyone talks about the beer, and we share the same interest. Everyone gets along, and it’s just a big, fun, happy group, and everyone likes to talk about beer and drink the beer and trade the beer. Most releases you go to, people are sharing bottles of beer in line, you get to try new stuff, you’re talking to people, and it’s like trading Pokemon cards or something. It’s like, oh, we can collect them all.
What you said about the tickers is sad. Are they really enjoying the beer? Or are they obsessing about collecting and saying they tried it? Are they not enjoying the beer? Yeah, usually the somewhat negative connotation, I guess, was just trying to try all the biggest and best beers. But, I mean, I assume they enjoy a lot of beer, and they’re going after these beers because they’re supposed to be really good.
You have done quite a few collaborations since you opened the brewery. I’ve always wondered how that process works. Do you share recipes and brewing secrets, or do you just bring your Plan B recipe, so you don’t give away your secret sauce to other breweries? Inquiring minds want to know. I’m actually doing a collab right now with Civil Society; the guys are out there sitting at a table. Collaborations are kind of like a meeting of the minds. Either you’re really good friends with people, which is pretty much all the vibrations going out for myself. Or, originally, just getting into the beer scene, you respect people, and you enjoy beers, and you want to do a collaboration, and they respect you and enjoy your beer. And so you guys will educate each other on processes and recipe designing and things like that. Usually, a lot of people are pretty forthcoming about the beers that they do and how they do them, you do the same, and it’s kind of a win-win situation.
I know there’s quite a bit of buying and selling beers on the black market that goes on in the craft beer world. Some of your early extremely limited beer sold for over $1,000. What are your thoughts on the dark underbelly of this craft beer world? And do you care if people buy your beer, sell and trade or bring mules to get extra bottles? It seems to be dying; that whole secondary market right now seems to be somewhat of a thing of the past. I’ve been told by people that it’s nothing like it used to be. So I think it’s just dying down. People are trading, or they’re actually going to enjoy it. Or, there are so many breweries now that are making really good beer. You can just go and get awesome beer. You don’t have to trade anymore. You don’t have to go and wait in lines or spend money or try to win a beer or any of that stuff. So I think all that is dying down.
Once you sell something to someone, it’s kind of hard to track and regulate what someone does with a bottle of beer that they buy from you. I don’t really try to worry about things I can’t control in that regard. If people are blatantly doing it that are members of ours, they know that if we catch them selling beers, they’ll be removed from our family membership. And the whole mule thing, I’m not a big fan of it. I don’t really see it much anymore. Again, if someone wants to spend, whatever they want to spend on the beer, if they have like 15 people in line muling for them, it’s one thing, but if they have their mother or their father, I guess…
Switching it up. I love the name 3 Sons and how it came to be, in a pinch before an early event, and it stuck. What do your kids think about the business and what daddy does? Something tells me they’re going to be a hit in school. They think it’s cool now. When I was winning awards, it was in magazines, newspapers, and stuff like that, they really loved it. They always like to see me in a news article, magazine, or on the radio. They like the fact that it’s called 3 Sons. They’re excited about it somewhat. My youngest is six, and my oldest is 12, and I have that middle age as well, a 10-year-old. I’m supposed to have an artist paint a mural of them on the wall over here by the stairs. The three of them doing different things: one’s gonna be reading a book, the other one playing a game, and they’ll be chillin’ on the stairs there: gigantic versions of themselves. They’re waiting for that to happen, but they like it. They don’t like coming here, other than that.
Well, they can eat pizza! Yeah, they don’t like the wood-fired pizza too much. These guys have a very sophisticated palate. It’s rice, beans, and steak for them, every day, all day.
Is your wife Latin? Yeah, and I’m half Puerto Rican.
I didn’t know that! My father’s Puerto Rican. His mother was from Ponce and his father from San Juan. My wife’s mother’s Panamanian. We have the Latin blood.
Do you speak Spanish? I can speak enough to live. I understand, but it depends on who I’m talking to.
Not the fast-talking Cubans like me? Sometimes, it’s very difficult.
How often do you drink beer nowadays? And what is your go-to? If there’s any? I’d say three, four days a week. The majority of the time, it’s a Pilsner, our Pilsner on draft, I love it. It’s easy to drink it. I can drink a lot of them and still stand, versus like a triple IPA. If I just want one and done, I’ll go for the triple.
Tell me about the current lineup in the taproom. We have a lot of IPAs, a lot of sours, and a couple of styles. Everything’s been pretty stellar coming out. Everything is really fresh, because we’re brewing a lot more than we ever had. We brew every week. We have new beers that come out every week. So everything is fresh, and everything’s been coming out pretty good. We have something for everybody.
Do you think COVID shutdowns helped you creatively, to give you more time to perhaps develop something new? Yeah, it definitely changed our business model. All of our businesses relied on over-the-counter here. People coming in dining and drinking. Luckily, our brewhouse is large enough to where we can switch to more of a wholesale model now, so that’s what we’re doing. It gave us a breather, time to step back and reflect where we need to concentrate more in the tasting room and outside of the tasting room and things like that. It hasn’t been a horrible thing for us here.
Would you consider adding tour and tasting reservations, kind of like wineries offer? Yeah, absolutely. We actually talked about that, probably a couple of weeks ago, after things start to get back to semi-normal: doing tours, or you come in and get a flight of four-ounce pours. We’ll walk you through the brewery, talk about the process, how everything is done, maybe get a pour off of one of the tanks, which is really cool to be able to do that. Definitely, it’s in the plans.
What are your dreams for the brewery within the next five years I really want to incorporate food a whole lot more than what we have been able to. We originally discussed starting a foodie club to really showcase the food that we have here. Nicolay is extremely talented. I want to make sure that he can do the things he wants to do. We have done one beer dinner so far, and it was amazing and just blew everyone’s minds. We were discussing doing a lot more food-oriented beer pairings, cheese and beer pairings, dessert and beer pairings. Potentially starting a collaboration with other chefs that he’s friends, and I’m friends with in the beer world.
So really just incorporating a lot of that. I’d like to grow a little bit more in the brewery, bringing some new tanks. We’re looking to bring in a canning line and a centrifuge, which is a pretty cool piece of equipment. And really just try to maximize our output of what we can do here, both beer and food-wise. Finish the patio area; we are working on that. Some cosmetic things outside, also inside with the mural. You know, just spice things up a little bit inside, make it a little more lively instead of sterile.
Is there anything else that you want everyone to know about 3 Sons? It’s a family business. My father and I are the two co-founders. He has supported me through this whole thing. Without him by my side, working with him, none of this would have existed. Obviously, behind every man, there’s a woman. My wife has been extremely supportive and amazing throughout this whole journey.
Maybe she remembers the wedding flavor. Yeah, she might remember. Actually, she doesn’t drink beer. Well, she does now. I have been making some fruit sours that are just unbelievable. So, she drinks those.
But, we are here to stay. We are not going anywhere. We are all just extremely passionate about what we do. Beer with me. Food with Nicolay. My father, he’s extremely passionate about the experiences people have here (which we all are as well), but every time he’s here, he’s at every table. He knows the baby’s name at this table and this person’s name at that table, just building that experience with people. We clearly all enjoy what we do, and we look forward to being able to continue to do that in the future. That’s about it.
Sounds like enough to me!
Congratulations to the entire family over at 3 Sons, their undeniable passion project. South Florida is honored to have you. Keep up the spectacular work!
BONUS: For a sneak peek, check out Guy Fieri’s NEW Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode! (Season 32, Episode 10, Chicken and Pie)