Community at the Core: Third Hill Brewing Co. Continues Traditions While Beginning New Ones

Montgomery County Road Runners Club was heartbroken when they discovered Astro Lab Brewing in downtown Silver Spring would be closing last May

“It kind of hurt because we built this really tight community here every Tuesday night,” Brian Murphy, president of the runners club, said. 

But the last night Astro Lab was open, co-owner Matt Cronin introduced Murphy to the incoming business owner, Jason Sliter.

“You wanna know this guy. He’s gonna keep the pub runs going for you,” Murphy said, quoting Cronin.

Lucky for the runners club, Third Hill Brewing Co. filled Astro Lab’s vacancy a mere two weeks later on June 16. Murphy and fellow runner Sharon Raszap were thrilled to return to their usual pub run route at the cozy storefront at 8216 Georgia Ave.

Every Tuesday for over 6 years, the runners arrive at the brewery by 6 p.m. to drop off their belongings before departing with the group. About 40 minutes later, they start to return, upon which they’re rewarded with discounted beer. 

“I love the run group,” Sliter said. “Sometimes they come back with twice as many people as they left with, which is pretty awesome.”

Sliter said he loves building mini-communities and working alongside others for the greater good. He believes everyone needs community, which he hopes people can find at Third Hill. The runners, for example, consistently return every Tuesday. 

“They don’t have to be here, they can meet anywhere,” Sliter said. “But they stay here, so we figure we must be doing something that makes them feel welcome.”

Sliter was quick to share that the best thing about the brewery is the people. Since opening in June, he’s met so many people and learned so many names. And his staff — a mix of family and previous Astro Lab employees — agree.

John Wlodarek, Sliter’s stepfather, works in the kitchen alongside Sliter’s son. Although Wlodarek doesn’t enjoy being inside, he said getting to interact with customers (and their dogs) is worthwhile.

“We’ve had nothing but good, good reviews,” Wlodarek said. “I’d like to say I’m a part of that just by being sociable.”

Andrew Price, bartender at Third Hill and previous Astro Lab employee, has watched the space evolve. While many of Astro Lab’s regulars continue to visit, he said there have also been new customers at Third Hill. He credits Sliter and his wife Danielle for their devotion to the business and community.

“Jason and Danielle have tried to work on building up different activities and different ways to both support the community but also let themselves be seen and heard in the community,” Price said.

Third Hill hosts a variety of events throughout the month. Yoga, comedy and live music are open to all customers, however, those who join the Friends with Benefits program experience some extra perks. Members receive one 4-pack of beer a month and have access to special discounts and exclusive events.

“It was really cool because we got to taste beer that had just been brewed,” Raszap said. “It tasted really good.”

Stiler said it’s satisfying seeing customers’ faces when they try Third Hill beer. These little moments – customer reactions and building relationships – are his favorite. But this family guy said there’s one thing that always reassures him.

“I love seeing my family kicking ass,” he said.

Photos by Caroline Pecora. Graphic Courtesy of Third Hill Brewing Co.

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