Thursday, May 6, 2010

She Grew Up in an Indiana Town...

I've always found it interesting that Chicago's most sought-after brewery is located in Indiana (and when I say sought-after, I'm not kidding: Three Floyds Brewing Company is amongst the most popular and most traded breweries in the America, and they also host Dark Lord Day, a once a year event that draws in thousands of beer lovers from all across the country, if not the world).

Founded in Hammond, Indiana in 1996, Three Floyds moved slightly south a few years later to it's current Munster, Indiana location and has been selling the crap out of it's beers from there ever since. Their beer used to be available in and around Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City some time ago, but with minimal brewing capacity, the brewery had to scale back it's distribution footprint and now focuses largely on the Chicagoland area while being available in Indiana and select parts of Wisconsin and Kentucky as well. Needless to say, limited availability plus insane popularity makes obtaining their beers outside of their home territory a difficult task, but I was able to get my hands on several bottles of their regular lineup not too long ago.

Gumballhead started things off and quite frankly it's a dangerously drinkable session ale. There's a very nice blend of citrus and pepper along with a juicy candy-like vibe mixing with a bit of bread in both the flavor and aroma. Juiciness shines through a bit more in the flavor. Wheat comes into play here and there but does not pop as much as you'd expect for an American Wheat Ale. It's not as simple as I remember it being in the past (not that it was ever simple), but I seem to recall it having much more of a wheat profile. This is an endlessly refreshing beer.

Pride and Joy takes the juiciness of Gumballhead, cranks it up a touch and adds a good dose of pine to the sweet candy and bread notes that are in the mix here as well. Pine and fruit sweetness is always a kick-ass combination for me, and there's no exception here. The flavor is juicy throughout and hops pack a punch but don't overpower. There's also a slightly burnt woodiness at the finish. This one is well balanced overall and again, highly drinkable. It's not a traditional Mild Ale by any means but it's a nice Americanized version of one and I'd take it any day of the week.

Three Floyds flagship beer, Alpha King, is a bigger take on the American Pale Ale style but is careful not to slip into "Imperial" territory. The aroma brings notes of caramel, pine, citrus, grass and pepper. Lots of hops, but again stays away from Imperial or even standard IPA territory. The flavor takes the reins from the aroma and hits you with pine and caramel up front, citrus in the middle and then more of a bitter, rugged finish that still holds a hint of sweetness.

Robert the Bruce stands out the most amongst the year round portfolio as it's the only real "dark" beer of the bunch and certainly the only one that leads the way with a malt-heavy flavor. Earth, darker berries and nuttiness is the theme of the aroma here, along with hints of juicy hops in the back. This carries into the flavor which has that rugged earthiness but maintains a healthy sweetness as well. It's a bit juicy and a bit smoky with some roasted malt at the finish. The medium body on this one is a bit slick and tough and just perfect for a Scottish Ale. Solid.

Finally we have what turned out to be a big disappointment for me: Dreadnaught. This beer is one of the highest profile beers that Three Floyds offers and consistently lands on lists of Top Beers in America and Top Beers in the World. It's a well respected, insanely popular and much loved beer...but I just don't get it. Don't get me wrong, it's okay, but it's no where near best-of-the-best level in my opinion. I've had scores of Imperial IPA's that were better.

It pours a clear light copper color with a surprisingly small sized head that is quick to dissolve. Interesting. Maybe the aroma will be better? Not really. It's got a pepper/sweet candy/citrus/wood thing going on with a hint of booziness, but everything is very faint and very tame. The flavor steps it up a bit by actually taking a slightly different direction: there are hints of smoke and tobacco here, along with more of an earthiness. Hoppy. Bitter. Dirty. Sweetness is definitely lacking. Citrus and pepper may come out in the middle on occasion. Pretty good flavor, but the overall experience is a bit lacking.

Again, I can't believe the hype around this one. I don't want to bash it as a bad beer because it's far from that, but it's just not memorable. Certainly not worth $10.00 or so per bottle. Sorry Dreadnaught.

The big winners here were the two beers I was expecting to enjoy the least: Robert the Bruce and Pride and Joy. Both are quite enjoyable all around. Alpha King and Gumballhead are very good as well, but I just preferred the others a bit more.

Give Three Floyds offerings a go if and when you can and while your at it, send me a few more bottles of Dreadnaught. I'm willing to give it another chance. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think so...

beer, Hopback, Three Floyds, Indiana, Chicago, Gumballhead, Pride and Joy, Alpha King, Robert the Bruce, Dreadnaught, Dark Lord Day