Three Floyds Brewing Co.
If you’re a true lover of beer then the following scenario is bound to happen. You’re innocently ducking your head between two annoyed stool squatters, dodging bus boys and anxiously squinting at the chalk board list of beers so you can make an informed decision before the bartender walks away. After you’ve calmly suppressed the urge to fall back on an old favorite and instead choose a tempting new brew from a trusted provider, someone in your group laments that this snobby bar is too crowded and we should just get a pint of Guinness from McDouchies. If this were Dublin you might be inclined to agree, but it’s not and there’s a reason you’re in this popular joint. When you kindly remind your friend you’re here for its craft beers, this despicable retort is uttered in complete contempt: “what the hell is a craft beer supposed to be anyway…?” Take a deep breath, relax. This person is not ill-informed; you don’t have to be a home brewer to know what craft beer is. This poor individual is just willing to drink mass produced beer for the same price because some marketing guru has convinced your friend his Corona isn’t just a Budweiser with a lime in it. Order your beer, be discerning, and enjoy.
There are microbreweries everywhere. This is a great thing, local is good, small batch brewing is better, blah blah blah. But just because it’s local doesn’t mean it tastes good. This is where craft beer comes into the picture, the notion that one can create a very specific beer for a very specific taste at a specific time of the year. It is those who uphold the principles of artisan craft beer-making that shine in Chicago’s beer world. If you haven’t seen Three Floyds grace your bar’s beer menu then you might want to switch it up this weekend.
As part of my Chicago Brewery series, Three Floyds deserves mentioning because of its domination of the Chicago beer world at the moment. Sadly, the beer is not made in Chicago; the makers of this small brewery have remained in Northern Indiana, delighting the patrons of bustling Munster with a place that doesn’t suck. I will insist on calling this a Chicago Beer however, as the shadows of Chi-town loom large and this is the only major city in the country you can get the stuff. Quality establishments all over the city are providing Three Floyds year-round brews, while the seasonal offers are gobbled up wherever they can be found. It has also become very popular to make the 30-minute journey to their brewery, a worthwhile endeavor provided you bring your best sober/pregnant buddy for the driving. While I am no stranger to the Three Floyds superior ales and stouts, I felt it necessary to make just such a trip in order to write this article.
The tour is educational for those unfamiliar with the beer making process, intimate in its exposure to the operation and downright cheap at $1 a person. It’s also fun…or so I’m told. I did not in fact take the tour, but I can explain and you can in turn learn from my experience. On a cold Saturday in the middle of February I arrived 20 minutes before their 3 p.m. tour, which they only offer once a week. I expected a big group for the tour since I’d heard it was popular. I was not, however, expecting a line to simply get into the pub. As my brother and I stood waiting for the tour to begin, hands shoved into our pockets and breath fogging up the air, I couldn’t help but notice that more and more of the lunch crowd were exiting the pub to prepare for the tour. Now I must warn you, as a hopeless elitist I deplore lines, forever disillusioned into thinking I’m original and the places I go to are rarely visited. So, when the chance arrived to skip the tour and avoid waiting in line for a seat inside the bar, we jumped.
Some might call this weakness. My only defense is I have far more interest in drinking the stuff than making it. A smart person will read this and decide to get to the pub early for lunch (they open at 11:30 am), enjoy a lingering day of beer sampling and stumble through the tour after. A home brewer, you know that geek in college who sent away for a kit and made the stuff in his closet, will come for the tour anyway and patiently wait for a table afterwards. A drunkard like me will take advantage of the departing tour and saddle up instead.
The beer is the true star of the show anyway. Everyone loves a destination brewery, the chatty vibe that everyone is happy to be there and doing something special with their afternoon (we’re not just getting tipsy, oh no). The brewery offers a sample platter of course, a run down of their five yearly brewed beers. Alpha King is their “flagship beer”, a pale ale that has a citrus sting so powerful it leaves a peppery buzz across the tongue. Pride & Joy is popular, but it’s their attempt to produce a “mild” American ale and I find it a touch bland. Robert the Bruce is their star in my opinion, exploding with hops, but not heavy by any means. Gumball Head must be their most popular beer, however, a summer wheat ale that kicked all those Blue Moon drinkers in the mouth and demanded a permanent spot on bar taps all over the city. The Drednaught anchors the group with the most hops, a beefy IPA that’s harder to find in the city and worth the hunt when you do.
It wouldn’t have been a winter brewery tour if I hadn’t partaken in a downward spiral of stouts and porters. Their Brian Boru has a complicated take on red ales while the Topless Wytch is a porter with a coffee flavor so intense it’s more like an espresso. They had Alpha Xlaus left over from Christmas and it’s like drinking a booze soaked Yule Log. I’d question if their Behemoth is even a beer, classified as “wine strength” it’s so fortified and complex that it just might actually be a wine. I finished everything off with a Ham on Rye, one of their newest creations that really did have a porky finish. The bacon and pork belly craze is starting to feel overdone in the gastronomy world, but the beer is quite good and let’s be honest, pork will never get old with me.
There are quite a few seasonal beers that I didn’t get to try due to limited quantities, seasonal releases and an alcohol tolerance that was failing me quickly. The food is also rather good, pub fair that is meant to compliment the drinks of course. The service is suitably knowledgeable yet curt. Beer men waiting the tables and bars while handling the outside line in the process leaves them little time for hand-holding. This isn’t Disney Land.
Their amusement park experience seems reserved for the Dark Lord Day, a once a year spring time event where the brewery lines up an ever growing crowd of beer enthusiasts to drink their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. This stuff is described as the “motor oil” of beer and its oak barrel aging process means limited stock. The event is growing fast — last year it brought in three thousand beer enthusiasts who hang out in the parking lot festival and load up on as much of the stuff as they can. Learn more on the event website: darklordday.com.
If I was a betting man and I had to put money on a Chicago microbrewery growing exponentially over the next few years it would be Three Floyds. Their ambitions might keep their operation small, but the demand for their craft beer is getting immense. So when your ignorant friend fails to understand why a nice glass of Stella just won’t due in a city as magnificent as Chicago, you can just shake your head and quietly enjoy your beer.
Three Floyds Brewing Co. & Pub
Location:9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, IN