Tis the season to travel so this post is a remote blog. As people flood my email inbox with photos of their latest vacations and Facebook is littered with check-ins from exotic places, I find myself in glorious. . . Indiana. And for some reason, Indiana has decided to be the hottest place on earth at the moment, gripped in a historic heat wave that has every newsperson reminding us all to drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. Perfect – I have a beer review to write.
I’m traveling not for vacation in Indiana (surprise, surprise) but in order to speak at a conference for church folks. The conference is held on the campus of a Christian college here in Indiana, and since it is a dry campus, I worried how I would write a beer review this week. But as I was traveling, I made sure to do a stopover to see an old friend before I got to the conference, and as old friends do, he rewarded me with a visit to one of the funkiest up and coming breweries in the Midwest – yes, here in Indiana.
Located just south of Chicago, 3 Floyds Brewery isn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, but neither is it right in the heart of things. Started in 1996 by two brothers and their father (thus the 3 Floyds moniker), the goal was simple: brew unique beers in a craft brew scene which was, at the time, non-existent. With Davis style slow growth, they don’t distribute beyond their local market and are still small enough that the odds of any of us getting a sip of this stuff outside of Indiana and Illinois are slim. While that is part of the mystique of 3 Floyds, for those of us who dwell 2000 miles away, it is truly a shame.
Just 6 years ago they converted their office space in the brewery into a brew pub, and the layout is still noticeably office-like with walls and cramped spaces and not much architectural character. But what the brewpub lacks in architecture, it makes up for by being just plain funky. Endless taps adorn the walls and it looks as if it was decorated by your metalhead college roomate. Nonetheless, scanning the room one realizes that this is a diverse group of people who come here for one thing: the beer. Everything on tap is unique, and everything is to their own eclectic standards. Even the servers give you the feeling that they don’t really care if you like the beer or not – they do, so whatever. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was polite, but if you hoping for a smile and a “Welcome to Denny’s” greeting, this probably isn’t your place. And while the atmosphere of the place may not necessarily make sense in Davis, I couldn’t help but wish we had something similar. Something where normal is pushed off the table.
The beer is a medley of craft brewing delight. If you like off the wall beers, then this is your place. My friend began the evening with a crazy White Ale brewed with coriander, ginger, orange peel, and orange juice that I wanted nothing to do with. It had that white ale belgian taste to it, but as with pretty much everything else, had a Floyds twist. I wasn’t into it, but Belgian lovers would be. I began, as is customary at a new brewery, with what they refer to as their flagship beer – Alpha King. With one sip and snifff I knew immediately, if this is their pale ale, their IPA’s must be just outrageous. A gorgeous amber color, the whiff of citrus hits you immediately, and while the hops are crisp, it is balanced extremely well. In short, this beer is a drinker (insert sigh that I couldn’t take any with me).
By this time our server was enjoying our enthusiasm and ready to have us try some stuff without committing to a pint. I couldn’t resist tasting a beer named Apocalypse Cow (insert lame religious joke here). Dubbed as a “complex double IPA” it was like nothing I have ever tasted. After the hoppy Alpha King, I was expecting to fall off my chair and get punched in the face with hops, but the sip was smooth, creamy, almost buttery. Confused, I read the description and saw that to balance the hops they augmented the brew with lactose milk sugar – like you do, apparently. I finished my evening with a beer called Admiral Lord Nelson, an amber with, you guessed it, loads of hops that was still a delightfully smooth and drinkable beer that once again had me saddened I couldn’t take any in my luggage.
While they aren’t going for normal, neither are they going for cheap thrills at this gem of a brewery in Indiana. This is solid beer making and they are starting to get some recognition at beer festivals and various lists of best breweries in the US. So should your travels take you to visit an old friend on the southern edge of Chicago, do yourself a favor and drive a little further into Munster, Indiana to visit one of the crazier, and amazing, brewpubs you’ll find anywhere. If you don’t have a friend to visit, spend some time at 3 Floyds anyway. Tis the season to travel.