I thought I was going to be able to end this series with three parts, but they kept getting longer and longer. Day I was good, Day II was better, and Day III was the single most thrilling collection of sentences and visual evidence that have ever been strung together in one place. Thus, we’re left with a little bit of extra spillover, as I detail:
— The return voyage
— The beer event of the day that followed.
When we last left off, I was spending the night in Kalamazoo, having just left the awesome Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, home of fluctuating brew prices. I crashed at yet another fleabag motel just off the interstate, awoke as fresh as one could reasonably expect to be after three days of drinking, and started the trip back to Chicago. I briefly considered making a detour and heading south once I got into Indiana to visit LaPorte’s Backwoods Brewery, but was repulsed by one of the uglier websites in the business. I mean yikes, folks. Do you blame me? That thing is bad.*
*Note to self: future Aleheads post–best and worst official brewery websites. I love this idea.
I continued on, then, making good time until I was nearly back in Illinois, at which point it was a no-brainer that I had to make a final stop at Three Floyds.
Three Floyds Brewing, Munster, IN
Three Floyds, known to just about any craft beer fan in the midwest, is among the highest-rated breweries in the nation, and for good reason. They’re just one of those breweries that makes their mark in utter consistency. You can count on almost any beer from Three Floyds to be special or memorable, and they make the definitive versions for many midwestern Aleheads of certain styles, such as APA (Alpha King), Scotch ale (Robert the Bruce), hoppy American wheat (Gumballhead), mild (Pride & Joy) and Russian imperial stout (the extremely elusive Dark Lord). The list goes on and on, ad nauseum.
In addition, the brewpub is a fantastic place to visit. Unlike all the other breweries that have been featured on this tour so far, I had actually been to Floyd’s a number of times due to its relative proximity to my home. I wasn’t, however, about to go right past Munster while on a beer roadtrip and not stop at least once for some special Floyds beer. The day I do that will be the day I quit drinking.
It’s difficult to actually describe the Floyd’s interior accurately. To begin, it’s a small place, with room for maybe 100, a small number of tables, some couches, etc. It’s very comfy. They like to play extremely goofy movies during the day using a projector and a bare wall (the only bare wall in the brewpub) as a screen. On this afternoon it was some sort of Mexican lucha libre superhero movie with a masked wrestler hero. At one point he threw a man to his death from a water tower. That’s just the kind of place this is. With that said, a regular shot of the bar doesn’t really convey it:
You need to see closer detail to really get a feel for the place, though. Thankfully, “closer detail” is my middle name.
The main thing that is immediately noticeable are the paintings. The place is covered in original, colorful paintings featuring the characters who are unofficial (or possibly official, I don’t know) mascots of their beers. These characters, such as the jester on bottles of Pride & Joy or the surly feline on Gumballhead, usually appear in the label art. In the brewery’s paintings, their zany interactions are depicted:
It goes on like this for some time:
Sometimes it even takes a turn for the grisly:
The commandant-lookin’ dude is the label character for Three Floyd’s magnificent DIPA Dreadnaught. The severed sasquatch head dripping gore? I’m not entirely sure, but I’d give his brew a try as long as doing so didn’t mean I was going to suffer the same fate.
All of the characters for nearly every Three Floyds Beer get their own CinemaScope treatment in the big collective painting that hangs over the bar. As you look, you can spot representations of nearly every beer, including offerings like Dark Lord, Broo Doo and Behemoth.
By this point you’re probably pissed off that I’m hundreds of words into this and have yet to drink a beer. Very observant of you. Three Floyds will typically have one or two of their special offerings on tap, sometimes brewpub-exclusive, and I was able to try two brews I had never sampled before.
Brew the first: “Amon Amarth Ragnarok“, a so-called “Aesir porter”, described thusly on the Three Floyds beer list. “A robust Aesir porter brewed with our friends the band Amon Amarth, deep roasted malts and honey give this beer its dark color and rich mouthfeel. When Heimdall sounds the Gailar Horn for the last battle, this will be the beer the Gods will drink.” It clocks in at an impressive 8.2%.
A very tasty brew that immediately let me know that saving Three Floyds for the return trip had been a good idea. The alcoholic strength is well hidden behind a veritable wall of rich, malty goodness. In a few ways this brew almost reminded me of more of an imperial brown ale, very nutty and with some more burnt roast as well, in addition to the expected dose of American hops. Saying that something from Three Floyds has hops in it is rather like saying something from Stone has hops in it–it almost goes without saying.
Brew the second: Blackheart English IPA, a DIPA (9%) that I had kind of glossed over in the past, to be perfectly honest. If there’s one area where Three Floyds does not appeal, it’s typically in the prices of their beers on store shelves. Few if any of their bombers are available for under $10, and that’s how all of their monthly seasonal brews are released. As such, I typically have to be pretty much convinced I’m going to love one of their brews before sampling it. But holy cow, am I glad I decided to try it on this trip.
I loved this beer like I haven’t loved a hoppy brew for a while now, and it reminded me of exactly what kind of discoveries are still waiting out there to be made. It is an insanely refreshing (crazy given its abv), fruity brew that is redolent in aromas of citrus, particularly orange. There’s a slightly tangy quality, almost tart, that along with all of the orange flavor makes me think of freshly squeezed orange juice, with maybe a little bit of pineapple blended in. With that, there is naturally a fair amount of sweetness that plays with the hop flavors, making it rather difficult to tell where the hop flavor ends and the malt sweetness begins. I have really been digging these fruity IPAs for a while now after a period of preferring drier, more bitter offerings. Regardless, if you get a chance to try this brew, I heartily recommend it.
That was all for Three Floyds. As I said before, I’ve had most of their other beers before, and I was eager to get back home after three nights and four days on the road. On the way out, I admired the brewery’s champion title belt, won at the inaugural edition of my local craft beer bar’s (Tribes Alehouse, Mokena, IL) insanely popular “Ultimate Beer Bout” event. In a seven-round audience taste off, Floyds soundly defeated its West-coast challenger, Stone. Dig this bling:
I also simply have to post a photo of what may be the single greatest piece of beer-themed painting that I’ve ever seen. Has a truer caricature of a beer ever been drawn? I submit that it has not.
Although I wished I could shake the hand of whoever created that thing, it was time to go home. My official Michigan Beer Sojourn was over, but there was still one more event and day that went hand-in-hand–the closing party of Chicago Craft Beer Week, held the next day at…
Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL
Chicago Craft Beer Week, if you haven’t ever heard anything about it, is pretty rad. It actually takes place in the week after American Craft Beer Week, meaning that if you live in the Chicago area, it’s really a double whammy of awesome beer events in a row. Definitely the two coolest beer weeks of the year in my neck of the woods. I took advantage of CCBW both before and after the bulk of my main Michigan trip, venturing into Chicago on the Saturday before I left and the Friday after I returned. The traditional closing party, which I believe will be hosted by a different Chicago brewery each year, was held this year at Revolution Brewing, an excellent choice and one of my favorite places in the city. It’s located in the Logan Square neighborhood, northwest of downtown Chicago and right off of I90-94. The area in general is quickly becoming a strong beer location, with a number of good beer bars and other breweries like Piece Brewing right within walking distance. I stopped for a classic on the way:
I then departed and arrived at the stately Revolution Brewing manor.
Revolution has a leftist, “revolutionary” theme to all its brews and decor. It was in reference to their flagship pale ale Iron Fist, then, that this banner for the party was hung:
Stepping inside was rather like attending a Chicago beer industry trade show. Pretty much every single Chicagoland brewer currently operating had a booth with beers: Revolution, Half Acre, Piece, Haymarket, Two Brothers, Goose Island, Rock Bottom and Metropolitan were all on hand with a total of–counting, hold on–44 beers all produced within Chicago. Everyone who paid for a ticket received the official tasting glass and unlimited beer, whatever you want, for three hours. I took advantage. Here are very brief summaries of the brews.
Revolution Brewing Red Scare: An imperial red ale, I believe, heavily hopped. I find these are some of my favorite styles, because I enjoy the interplay between extreme hop rates and a good charge of crystal malt.
Revolution Brewing Sodom: This is a beer that I had been excited to try for quite a while, a collaboration imperial stout with Three Floyds. It was as good as you might imagine it would be, and was not dissimilar to the vaunted Dark Lord. There was a second stout made with the runnings, a “small beer” that still weighed in at normal strength, called Gomorrah produced at the same time, but this beer wasn’t available at the fest.
Revolution Brewing Brown Sound: An oatmeal brown ale, and one of the tastier brews I actually had this afternoon. Very smooth and creamy, reminiscent of Surly’s Bender, but perhaps with more sweetness, almost a bit of milk stout-like sweetness.
Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero: Had it plenty of times before, but this is honestly one of my very favorite American IPAs. I think this beer would kick some serious ass in a blind taste test against some of the country’s most highly acclaimed IPAs. Tropical fruit flavors out the wazoo. My brother who doesn’t really like beer loves this brew.
Revolution Brewing Coup D’Etat Saison: It was good! Are you surprised? Have I given any of these beers from Revolution a review that was anything less than stunning?
An intermission for food:
Half Acre Beer Company Ginger Twin Imperial Red Ale: Another beer I had been jonesin’ to try for a while. Of humorous note–in their tasting room/beer vending station, the brewery gives increasing discounts on this beer for fulfilling a number of criteria, such as being a natural ginger, having an identical twin, being ginger twins, having longshoreman’s beards, etc. As far as the beer, very tasty and very hoppy. Half Acre is my other favorite Chicago Brewery, and hoppy is the thing they do best.
Finch’s Beer Company Golden Wing Blonde Ale: Finch’s is the new company in town, and only produces three beers–two regular brews and a special release. I had tried one of the two regulars, the Cut Throat Pale Ale before, and found it alright, if possibly a little “off”. This one didn’t make much of an impression either way.
Finch’s Beer Company Threadless IPA: This is the special release I mentioned above. Where the last one was just plain, I actively disliked this one. There was a funky flavor that did not sit right with me at all, and I quickly rinsed out my glass and moved on. Sorry Finch’s, I’ll keep trying your offerings, but so far the batting average is not looking so good.
Haymarket Brewing Mother Jones Abbey Dubbel: I visited Haymarket for the first time a few months ago and was told this was one of the most popular brews, but unfortunately it was sold out. On this day, it thankfully was not. A very nice dubbel with an American twist and complex maltiness. Possibly not the most authentic you’ll try, but grading on the curve of taste, I am all for this.
Haymarket Brewing Loathing Belgo IPA: This one just didn’t do much for me, I’m not sure why. Haymarket makes many IPAs and Belgian IPAs, so it stands to reason that some will be better than others. If you do ever get to Haymarket, order a Mathais Imperial IPA. Trust me on that one.
Time for another interlude. At this point, a brass band suddenly appeared and we held an impromptu hoedown on the Revolution main floor. It was incredibly cool:
I hope that these photos are adequately conveying the message that this was a damn good time. Finally, here are the last few brews for the day:
Rock Bottom Brewery Chicago, Czech Mate Pilsner: So I wanted a pilsner at this point, FORGIVE me, ‘o ultimate Alehead deity. It was GOOD, okay? Okay?
Metropolitan Brewery Krankshaft Kolsch: I gave Metropolitan some shit a while back in my two-part brewery roundup of Chicago (already outdated), for making beers that are just not the most exciting. This kolsch didn’t do much to change that assessment.
All in all, it was a great afternoon/evening, and all great events need a figurehead to give a tip of the cap to. In this case, it’s this man, Josh Deth, founder and owner of Revolution Brewing.
He was actually watching the band at the time, I believe, and enjoying one of his own delicious brews. Thanks for the beer, man!
That is all.