‘Good Friends. Good Waves. Great Beer.’ With a motto like that, we knew we were in the right place. We made the trip to 3rd Wave this week to catch up with owner Lori Clough before the big anniversary party (scheduled for this Saturday at the brewery). A tour, a few samples, and a great conversation later, we were feeling right at home at the beach-themed Delmar brewery.
What started out as a pipe dream between two old friends has quickly become a successful reality, with an ever-expanding business, an intensely loyal following, and continually evolving selection of locally crafted beer. Owners Lori Clough and Sue Ellen Vickers have turned 3rd Wave into a thriving brewing company over the last three years, but the true origins of the business date back even further, to the summers that the duo spent working together on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, soaking up the local surf culture. “No matter where we were in our lives, we would always reconnect and catch up when we came back to this area,” explained Clough, who was working at UPS as Vickers was building her orthodontics practice when the pair decided to start home brewing. The idea was actually born in the very establishment that houses 3rd Wave today – the former residence of Evolution Craft Brewing. With science backgrounds, both Vickers and Clough were fascinated by the home brewing process, and quickly got to work learning the ins and outs.
It wasn’t long before Evo was ready for a bigger facility, which meant the Delmar location was primed for another brewing company to step in. “We thought we had some pretty good beers so of course we had always said we should open a brewery,” said Clough, who took a little more convincing from Vickers before taking the plunge and buying the space. “If we didn’t buy this space, then someone was going to turn it into another brewery. So much about this space was good,” she said, adding that with a majority of the equipment already in place, and the proven knowledge that the water was ideal for brewing, it was a no brainer to take the leap. The deal was made, a head brewer was hired, and the rest is (as they say) history.
Fast forward to three years later and 3rd Wave is going strong, with expansions underway and 14 different beers currently on tap. What’s more, 3rd Wave is distributed throughout Maryland and Delaware. The core group is still the same too, with the original head brewer at the helm. In fact, in their three years, 3rd Wave has only seen one employee leave. The staff is like family, explained Clough, adding that their loyal customer base and group of volunteers are a part of that family as well.
So why the name 3rd Wave? “We’ve always loved the beach and the surf scene – the third wave in a set is the best wave,” said Clough, who has her old surfboard proudly displayed in the tap room. The décor is decidedly beach themed, with a retro flair reminiscent an old school beach diner. A tour of the brewery revealed a business that has quickly outgrown itself; fortunately the crew is hard at work on expansions, which include a brand new building in back and plans for a patio space out front. “It’s been amazing; we’ve seen steady growth since we opened the doors. We’ve really outgrown this building which is what all the construction is,” said Clough.
Ok, ok, you want to know about the beer, right? The variety is wide ranging, with a little something for everyone. “We try to have a good range of styles and IBU’s,” said Clough as we happily sipped on a few samples. “The peach wheat is huge for us. We actually ran out last year so we brewed an extra batch this year. Right now, the pumpkin is the most popular because it’s pumpkin season,” she said. ABV% ranges from 2.8 to 9.0, with a mix of IPAs, Sour Ales, Belgian Ales, and Pale Ale, to name a few. “We typically have something new once a month, at least once a month.”
Of course with good beer comes good food, thanks to the food truck that calls the 3rd Wave parking lot home on the weekends. “It’s been great for both of us,” said Clough, explaining that having food on premises allows guests to hang out longer for a few extra beers, while the food truck enjoys the loyal customer base. Crab cakes, fish and chips, smoked oysters, nachos, soups, hand-cut fries…there’s even grilled chicken strips marinated in 3rd Wave brews.
Festival season is a busy time for 3rd Wave as well, as they try to staff each local beer festival to get 3rd Wave in the hands of fellow beer enthusiasts. Coming up, look for 3rd Wave at the Good Beer Festival in Salisbury (October 10&11) as well as Wine on the Beach in OCMD, which will feature local this year (October 2 & 3).
Of course, this weekend will be fun-filled for the 3rd Wave family as they celebrate three years in business. Expect big crowds Saturday, with live music, cornhole, new gear, the food truck, and plenty of great beer to go around.
So what’s in store for the future of 3rd Wave? More ‘good friends, good waves, and great beer’ of course! “We try really hard to make sure that we always put out a good product. I won’t put a beer out that’s not a good product,” said Clough. “Of course, we try to have fun here too!” That much is evident after our time spent at 3rd Wave. Now let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the weather holds out for what will surely be a great anniversary celebration on Saturday. See you all there!
Photos by Gina Whaley