In a big beer town with only one brewery, Nate and Sara Reilly saw an opening. So, in 2014, the two, who were also owners of the iconic downtown Olympia, Washington, diner Darby’s Cafe, opened Three Magnets Brewing Co. just around the corner. The Reillys, along with brewmaster Patrick Jansen, have since created one of the most celebrated spots in the South Sound.
Three Magnets draws its name from Ebenezer Howard’s 1898 book, “Garden Cities of To-morrow,” in which the urban-planner/author details three community options — the technology-obsessed town, the idyllic country and the ideal town-country hybrid — which he represents with three magnets, each pulling on potential citizens as a possible location to plant their roots.
With a blend of rustic and industrial décor, brewery and restaurant, the dinner menu (not including the order-in Darby’s menu and day time sandwich menu) consists largely of house-cured meats and house-pickled onions, revealing it’s clear that Three Magnets strives for the third option: that perfect town-country hybrid. Walking into the initially unassuming Three Magnets, it’s hard not to be drawn to the grand stained-glass mural that sits above the bar. A prominent magnet rests between depictions of Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound, representing the brewery’s location in Washington’s capital. The rest of the décor, dark wood and industrial lighting, creates a comfortable and inviting environment that quietly encourages guests to stay and hang out long after they’ve finished their meals.
Just as the beers evoke new spins on staple styles, much of the menu at Three Magnets shows Chef Kyle Wnuk putting his own stamp on old pub favorites. Items like the Grilled Octopus Salad — with grilled octopus, mint, cherry vinegar and honey flakes — exemplify this idea. The octopus works surprisingly well as part of a salad and near-perfectly grilled to the point of tempting even those who dislike seafood. The cherry vinegar adds a welcome tartness to the dish that is balanced by the mint, while the honey flakes bring out the sweetness of the cherries. It all combines to create a salad that will satisfy adventurous and reserved eaters alike.
The Tamarind Pork Mole Sopes — pork, house-made mole, aji amarillo crema, roasted nopales, a heap of pickled red onions and just enough queso fresco — offer a nice contrast to the seafood salad. While the salad is sweet and tangy, the sopes are bold and rich, fully utilizing a mole that employs the savoriness of the sauce rather than the sometimes overpowering chocolate flavors. The crema, made from South American aji amarillo pepper, is slightly sweet with a welcome spiciness, which is rounded out nicely by the roasted nopales, a type of cactus that is commonly seen in both traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. The delicious pickled red onions are perhaps one of the best parts of the dish, lending the two sopes a more uncommon flavor that plays nicely with both the boldness of the mole and the lime of the base of the sopes.
Since Three Magnets is a brewery after all, it would be a crime to not pair your meal with one of their excellent beers, which are easily among the best in the state. The vibrant orange-hued Staying Alive Sour Wheat Ale ties both dishes together exceedingly well, with the sourness from the beer nicely accompanying the tartness of the salad and the wheatiness providing a welcome respite from the spiciness of the sopes.
Regardless of what you order at Three Magnets, the tasty food, beer and excitement of the always-playing soccer games ensure that you’re bound to have a good experience at the Olympia-based brewpub.