On a recent trip to Chicago, my childhood friend Bryan and his girlfriend Megan took me on a little field trip to the not-so-bustling town of Munster, Indiana for a visit to the fabled Three Floyds Brewery. I've been a fan of their beers for ages, though I admit some of that may be the fact that I can't buy them in Minnesota. In tone, the brewery has a lot in common with our home-team Surly Brewing: screw-the-man attitude, vibrant art style, irreverent beer names, and cult-like fan following. All the things needed for greatness among the beer geek community. And like Surly, they get by on more than attitude--they put out consistently good beer.
We arrived about 30 minutes before the brewpub opened to find a large line snaking into the parking lot from the main entrance. This was no special event day, but apparently the place is always packed. Luckily it was a balmy 50 degrees and sunny in small-town Indiana that day, but I wouldn't brave the elements in the middle of winter for it! Squatting beneath the bulbous Munster water tower, the brewery building is essentially a large warehouse with an attached small brewpub. There is a pub entrance and a second, smaller, door for walk in bottle sales. A few minutes before official opening, an employee, using his best carnival barker's voice, explained the rules to those of us in line. He explained the free tour times and allowed us to sign up for them. Interestingly once in the brewpub, if your tour time comes up, they will save your seat for you until you return. A nice perk since tables are hard to come by. I do have to say, that the staff was great and despite being busy they really knew how to deal with crowds.
We were escorted to a small table near the rather minuscule bar and settled in for some great beers. The bar itself is oddly decorated with a series of framed bottle art, Three Floyds event posters, and a mix of old toys and action figures. Shelves of bottles, more toys and odd nick-knacks also surrounded the room. Murals of Gumball Head the cat lined the walls near the restrooms. Again I was shocked at how small the brewpub and bar is, with the popularity of the brewery such as it is. Supposedly they had a recent expansion, but they obviously didn't go crazy with it!
|Bryan doing his "Robert The Bruce" impression!|
They offer samplers of their four "regular" beers: Dreadnaught IPA, Alpha King Pale, Mild and Robert The Bruce. All are good beers but RTB is far and away the best--a wonderfully malty and complex Scottish ale. They had an extensive list of other beers, and offered most in full or half pints, though some were only served in 8 oz snifters (mostly double IPAs.) Between the three of us we were able to sample many of the beers that fine day. Still bloated from a huge dim-sum repast in Chinatown earlier in the day, we stopped drinking due to lack of room rather than too much alcohol. I enjoyed the War Mullet and Permanent Funeral (both DIPAs) very much. Bryan and I were very surprised that in addition to over-the-top hoppy, the brewery had several very restrained examples of classic Continental beer styles like and Oktoberfest (Munsterfest) and Schwarzbier (Das Kleine Schwarz Einhorn). I wish there had been more time, and more room in my distended gut, to try everything, but we did fairly well. Several of the beers on tap were collaborations with Metal groups, and similarly themed loud Metal music pervaded the pub.
We hit the free tour after our drinking was done. You get what you pay for. The entire tour took place in about 15 feet of warehouse space. Our tour guide was good and knew his stuff, but this was a very fast tour that barely scratched the surface of such an infamous brewery. I did like the artwork on the walls, including some old D&D art from the Dungeon Master's Guide of my youth. Looking at the bourbon barrels filled with future incarnations of rare Three Floyds beer was intriguing. They also had just received a large oak foedor as used by Rodenbach and New Belgium, but hadn't decided what to do with it yet. I also spotted Brewers Supply Group malt shipments that my friend Chris is probably responsible for. I was disappointed that we really didn't get close enough to look at the packaging line, or even the brew kettle, though I guess if you've seen one you've probably seen them all.
When done with our tour we joined the (now shorter) line for bottle sales and purchased some beers to take home with us. They had a limitation to 2 cases of beer per person, and nearly everyone in line with us left with two big case boxes! They did have a lot of t-shirts, but I was disappointed in the other brewery swag. I would have bought a sweat shirt, or tin tacker or posters...but they were all out of those. Pretty much beer, t-shirts and pint glasses only. Come on guys, with your dramatic artwork and logo this is a huge area of potential money making for you!
I really did enjoy my trip out to the brewery, but have to admit I was slightly underwhelmed after the hype I have heard. I wanted more grandeur and pomp! I still need to get out there for Dark Lord Day one of these years (as seen on Limited Release in two separate episodes).