A Beer with the Brewer: 3rd Turn Brewing’s Ben Shinkle nails it

Ben Shinkle of 3rd Turn Brewing loves beer and counts nails. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of interviews with local brewers.

Ben Shinkle is the kind of guy who counts nails.

The co-owner and head brewer of 3rd Turn Brewing also is the hands-on builder and visionary. He recalls that in building out the original brewery and taproom in Jeffersontown, he used 28,000 trim nails. The 3rd Turn Oldham Gardens project? That one took 68,000.

He’s currently building out a third space for the original brewery, an adjacent bourbon-themed bar, so the final number is yet to be determined.

“Twenty-something thousand” is his current estimate for that project.

Shinkle works on the bar in the new taproom space in Jeffersontown. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Shinkle, who for years owned a construction company, came to brewing at an early age — well before he was of drinking age, in fact. During his younger years, Shinkle got a sip of his father’s Drummond Bros. beer (a cheap brand originally brewed by Falls City Brewing in the 1970s).

While most kids don’t immediately like the taste of beer, he recalls thinking, “This is interesting.” That interest helped lead him to begin home-brewing at an unusually early age.

“I used to ride my bike to the homebrew store and pick up grain,” he says, recalling the early makings of a brewing career that began at age 15 with a friend. Not that he was ingesting much of the stuff.

“It was just to see if we could do it — it wasn’t about drinking the beer,” Shinkle says, and notes that they stopped after a while, owing to “bottles exploding and my dad only being able to drink so much really, really bad homebrew.”

Some years later, his first sip of Arrogant Bastard Ale — a beer that converted many people into brewers and craft beer lovers when it came out — brought him a new love for beer.

“I said to myself, ‘I didn’t even know this was possible,’” he says, remembering that first Arrogant Bastard.

He brewed at home even as he ran his construction company, and says he can’t really recall at what moment he decided to pursue brewing as a profession. But as a regular visitor to breweries far and wide, Shinkle, now 42, says he became attracted to the culture and camaraderie he saw in the industry, something he still reveres.

Plus, it enables him to combine his construction skills with his passion for beer.

The human aspect of the brewery also helps steer his and his co-owners’ business decisions, like the decision to open the Oldham County facility and the decision to add the bourbon bar in Jeffersontown. One way to expand is to push forward with distribution outside Kentucky, but 3rd Turn chose serving people face to face rather than on store shelves.

Ask him what he likes most about the brewing business, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer: “People, all the way around, is the answer for me. Honestly that’s why we went the way we did with adding more taprooms. I like the relationships we form with people. I really appreciate the people who come to our taprooms.”

Another aspect of this is the relationships he has with other brewers. While in the process of opening 3rd Turn, the owners of Great Flood Brewing Co. offered advice and guidance. These days, young brewers often find their way to Shinkle, and he is more than happy to help.

“It happens more than you think,” he says. “I sit down with all of them.”

He probably would be happy to go fishing with them or even play golf with them, as well. The bearded, soft-spoken Shinkle certainly looks the part of a craft brewer, but he says often people are surprised by how much he enjoys playing golf, listing Big Spring Country Club — where his father worked for a time — and Eagle Creek Golf Course as two of his favorites.

Shinkle, shown here with his brother Dale, likes hitting the longs to be outdoors (and have a beer or two). | Courtesy of Ben Shinkle

Shinkle played for Eastern High School and essentially has played his whole life.

“I grew up with a golf club in my hand,” he says, adding that — in addition to a great way to enjoy beer with friends — he most likes “the tranquility of it. I’m not one of those guys who goes out and throws his clubs. I’m more about going out with a couple buddies and drinking a few beers. It’s more about just being outside.”

Shinkle says these days he does less brewing and more with the operations side of 3rd Turn, but adds that having two brewers in Mike Burress and Josh Underhill doing much of the hands-on beer-making not only helps the next generation of brewers, but keeps things fresh. He calls them the “real rock stars of 3rd Turn” and is happy to share the brewery — and his experience — with them.

“We have a blank canvas with the products we create,” he says. “I pass that on to the guys we have now, and I tell them, ‘Use your imagination.’ You’re going to get a more diverse product, a more unique product rather than just using the same recipes all the time.”

The structure also gives Shinkle more time to prepare for the next project, which will be a massive deck on the back of the Jeffersontown brewery that will connect it to the forthcoming bourbon bar. The nail count continues to climb.