Hitting success on the head

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First Posted: 4/6/2015

CARBONDALE — Four friends followed their taste buds to turn a hobby into their full-time jobs. The quiet life in historic Carbondale got a bit more hectic. The smell of beer fills the air as 3 Guys & a Beer’d Brewing Company plant their roots in their hometown.

It all began when cousins, Dave Oakley and Johnny Waering, shared a crib. Jon Bronson and Matt Zuk met the two in grade school and the four are making their mark on Carbondale.

Now, they are all co-owners of the first brewery to open in the town, and at the moment, the only brewery in Lackawanna County.

The guys began brewing their own beer because according to Zuk, the brew-master, “if we wanted good craft beer, we would really have to search for it. We were just a couple of friends who home brewed and barbecued on the weekends. It was just easier to make our own beer.”

The guys saw the craft beer movement making waves and one November evening, on Oakley’s porch, the idea crashed into them.

“We were talking about opening a six-pack shop,” Waering said. “Then the idea formed into opening a brewpub. But Dave and Matt had worked in the food industry and knew it had a huge overhead. So then that idea became the brewery and now here we are.”

The recipes are all homemade and the names of the beers reflect the guys’ care-free personalities and hometown loyalty.

“All the beers have a story behind them,” Waering said.

Ladder Dive Rye IPA is named in honor of Bronson falling off a ladder and breaking his wrist while building the brewery. The brewery’s best seller, Shaving Cream Ale, is a collaboration with Loyalty Barbershop in Archbald. Their Carbond’Alien Pale Ale is a Carbondale history lesson dating back to 1974 when a “U.F.O” allegedly crashed in the town.

“Every home brewer wants to open a brewery and I don’t think our friends and families believed us even when we were stick building the structure.” Waering said. “Then, when we applied for the license, it hit home. We were actually doing it. No one could deny it anymore.”

Zuk and Waering made the brewing company their only full-time jobs. Zuk had to change careers in order to even think about opening a brewery.

“I was a chef but we couldn’t have a manufacturing license since I had ties to a place with a retail license,” he said. “I was forced to change careers and went into constructions. Then I was laid off in the winter.”

The down time allowed Zuk to sell and brew about two to three times a week. Waering saw the success and got the confidence to commit all his time to the brewery as the head of sales and marketing.

“It took three years to take home a paycheck,” Waering said. “We dove in headfirst and had to learn how to swim pretty quickly. There was no turning back. It was do or die.”

And do they did. Customers can find a 3 Guys & and a Beer’d draft or bottle in bars and restaurants in Northeastern Pennsylvania. They brew specialty beers for establishments such as the Tipsy Turtle and Cooper’s Seafood House Waterfront.

“We are just local guys so we want to give back to local businesses,” Waering said. “We go into the bars, where our beer is sold, for drinks and we love hearing someone else ordering the beer.”

“It just feels great,” Oakley said. “There is so much pride and accomplishment.”

“They are getting us when they are getting the product,” Zuk said. “We never just work five days for eight hours. We are here seven days a week for 12 plus hours a day sometimes. But it’s our passion and we are proud of it.”

The guys said they hope to move into a bigger space, which means brewing more beer, by the end of this year.

“We spill as much as the big guys brew,” Zuk said. “But we are moving because we have to. We need to double what we are doing now. Craft beer is only getting bigger and taste buds are changing.”