Three Floyds Brewing may be located in Munster, Indiana, but many of founder Nick Floyd’s employees live in Chicago and several city dwellers consider it a local brand, one that pumps out popular brews like Gumballhead, Zombie Dust, and Arctic Panzer Wolf. Last month, as part of a larger expansion plan for its Munster campus, the company unveiled its new distillery where it began selling bottles of whisky, gin, and rum. On Friday, the distillery will celebrate the opening with the release of a new gin and Three Floyds is inviting the general public to the party.
The brewery, known for its rebellious ways — its brewers experimented with Jeppson’s Malört aged in Dark Lord Russian imperial stout barrels — is about 30 miles east of Chicago. Work on the distillery started five years ago. The distillery takes up three stories and 9,000 square feet. The ground floor has room for about 100 and features a 18-seat horseshoe-shaped bar without taps. Outdoor seating is forthcoming. Anyone who’s spotted a Three Floyd’s can or read the Alpha King comic book (written by comic pro Brian Azzarello; he’s also a fan of Logan Square’s Bixi Beer), will get an idea of the decor’s metal influences.
Bartenders serve shots, cocktails, and spirit-free drinks. While draft beer isn’t served, a few bottles of beer that are only available at the brewery — like Sauvage Flo lager and Knut of the Living Dead 3 peanut butter oatmeal stout — are available. The brewpub serves food from chef Cole Ersel. His team has created a menu for the distillery with pasties (chicken, beef, and vegan), small plates, and doughnuts from local favorite Munster Donut.
There are no plans right now to sell bottles of the spirits at stores, said head distiller Abby Titcomb. That makes the distillery the only place in the world to purchase Three Floyds’s spirits. So far, customers have taken a surprising liking to the akvavit, Titcomb said. Though the drink dates back to ancient times, not every hophead — the devoted beer fan that Three Floyds attracts — has had a chance to try the beverage.
The brewery has never been more popular, which beckons the question, why would Three Floyds want to open a distillery?
“Because we wanted to and can,” Titcomb answered.
Veteran Chicago bartender Nandini Khaund consulted on the cocktails. She was on the opening team at pioneering Wicker Park cocktail bar Violet Hour. She’s friends with Titcomb dating back to their time at Humboldt Park late-night bar Continental Lounge. There’s boozy slushies and drinks made with Dark Matter Coffee, a frequent Three Floyds collaborator.
They’ll store barrels upstairs and will conduct experiments to impart extra flavors. Both the brewery and distillery will work together and take advantage of the space for barrel aging. Attendees of the annual Dark Lord Day beer release that took place in last month had the chances to drink Dark Lord stout aged in Three Floyds’s own Divine River bourbon and rye barrels. There’s no vodka, as Titcomb said plenty of distilleries offer that. Making one sounded kind of basic to them.
Titcomb joined Three Floyds in 2011 and started distilling in 2016. Considering Three Floyds just opened a canning plant, the beer business continues to go swimmingly. The addition of a distillery isn’t an indication that the brewers are getting older and can’t drink as much as they could.
“I would say people turn 21 everyday,” Titcomb said. “We’re just the ones getting old.”
Friday’s party starts at 6 p.m. Three Floyds recommends Chicagoans to use a ride share to get to Munster. There’s also a shuttle leaving from the Lone Wolf tavern in the West Loop. Check out Titcomb’s breakdown of the spirits below.
Blanq Reavers Silver Rum (made with 100 percent evaporated cane juice)
Titcomb said this rum isn’t region specific. It’s kind of a gateway, entry-level rum for novices not used to the spirit.
Divine Rite White Whiskey (made with malted barley, oat malt, wheat, corn)
This is drinkable moonshine, and most will are surprised with how smooth his whiskey is, Titcomb said. The drink features hints of marshmallow, sugar, and malt.
Oude Boatface Gin (featuring juniper, cardamom, lemongrass)
This is the first gin made at the distillery, as a second will be released on Friday. It’s not dry like a British gin, and it goes great in the “Skuld” cocktail.
BüstHedd Akvavit (featuring dill, caraway, fennel)
Three Floyds’s version of this ancient spirit is super fresh, bright, and wild, Titcomb said. It’s not overbearing.
Barrel-Aged Divine Rite Whiskey (aged for 17 months in charred oak barrels)
This one is only available by the pour in the tasting room. Drinkers will find hints of toffee, caramel, and butterscotch.