Houses of Craft · Travel Stories

The Long March to Greenbush and Three Floyds — A Beer Run

I’m pretty sure this was all Paul’s idea. Greenbush has recently entered the Chicago market with as many kegs as they can produce — which is far more than they thought they’d be producing — and you can read all about their growth plans on Paul’s newly-redesigned blog, Chitownontap.com.

But what most people don’t know is that they’ve also begun bottling. I’ve left Greenbush with numerous growlers on my way back to Chicago, but I’m usually passing through on a Sunday, and knocking off a growler that early in the week isn’t too keen for my work schedule. So this bottling is a big deal for stocking up. But they’re still producing just enough to keep up with demand at the brewery, so if you want some, you’ve gotta go get some. Hence, Paul wants to make a beer run.

In to the great white north we went. I woke up to one of Chicago’s only snowstorms on a Sunday morning to head out to the burbs to get Paul at the agreed-upon time of 10:15 AM. I am a very punctual date. That would put us at Greenbush around lunch time assuming we could keep pace across the winter wasteland of I-90. And upon arriving we encountered a far-behind-schedule Scott Sullivan in the middle of a never-ending bottling process. One at a time, out of the keg. When he saw us there to stock up, his heart sank — we were there to pillage and we were probably going to clear him out.

Recognizing an opportunity when he sees one, Scott invited us back to do the bottling ourselves. We chatted about the intense growth of the brewery the past year, and how Scott’s forecast of 375bls turned into over 2,400 before their first anniversary.

Scott broke in to his private stash, poured out up-and-comer Zombie Dust from Three Floyds and we toasted to his good fortune and future plans. What an incredible brew — complex, subtle, bitter and floral but slightly malty. People are reportedly buying Zombie Dust by the case. But we’re here for the Greenbush. After buying up some freshly-bottled Jadis, Anger, Ursus and Distorter, Paul and I poked around in the back, and then loaded out our cases like the spoils of war that they were.

Even though our mission was nearing completion as we creeped up on the Indiana-Illinois state line, we decided to swing wide and head out to Three Floyds in Munster and see if we couldn’t turn this beer run into an official tour of duty.

I had previously been to the brewery on Dark Lord Day, which left me with apocalyptic impressions of what the end of the world might be like if our final overlords were actually maniacal brewers instead of horsemen. Paul and I discussed the theory behind the brewery’s self-described “scorched-earth policy” as it realtes to hops on your palate. I claimed the term “scorched earth” came from Sherman in the Civil War. Paul claimed it was a tactic used by the Russians against Napoleon and Hitler during the long winter marches towards Moscow. Paul was right — he’s a history teacher. Either way, both of us enjoy seeing the balanced hand of the brewer at work in most recipes, rather than lusting over hoppy abominations. But we had to admit — their policy seems to be working for them.

We ordered the Sand Pebbles, an intentionally over-hopped English brown beer that left my palate fighting hard to pick up anything beyond the hop bomb. At first, nothing. But as it warmed, I picked up some nice chocolate notes (albeit vaporous) and just a touch of roastiness typical of the style. On its warmer side it had just started creeping into an interesting territory.

To go, I grabbed a bottle of Amon Amarth — Ragnarok, a porter brewed with a touch of smoked malt and local honey. Nice and hearty with some good balance in the bitterness, this beer was a bit like a baby brother to a fresher Dark Lord with some mild licorice and earthiness, but drier and lighter overall. Also, that label is killer

Thirty minutes later we were back in Chicago and Paul was pouring some samples from three different fermenters he’s got in his living room at any given time. We discussed getting together again for a tasting of the newly-acquired Greenbush bottles, recipes for a collaboration, and other such plans. This coming week, look for a brief post about the bottles and a special guest appearance from Lindsay Tyler of You Say Tomato, I say Clamato. Bloody Mary’s at a beer tasting? What can I say, we keep it casual around here.

Michael Kiser