Three Floyds Brewing — the makers of hits like Zombie Dust, Dark Lord, and Alpha King — positioned itself as the antidote for the mundane. The Munster, Indiana brewery has used the motto “It’s not normal” when describing an innovative spirit that, since debuting in 1996, has made it one of Chicago’s favorite beers forging relationships across the border with bars such as Lone Wolf in West Loop and DMen Tap in Avondale.
But “being different” is hard without a lab full of test subjects to play with, and that’s the situation Three Floyds has found itself in since 2020 when founder Nick Floyd and company shut down the Munster taproom and restaurant during the COVID pandemic. A big part of craft beer is the conversations and feedback a customer can provide to a brewer. But as Three Floyds’ taproom remained closed over the last three years, brewers didn’t have that feedback from their customer fanbase. That connection was severed, even as pandemic beer sales soared at home.
Signs of a reawakening came earlier this year when Three Floyds brought back Dark Lord Day, a festival of music and food, a party where thirsty diehards could pick up their orders of Dark Lord, a beloved barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout that comes in a variety of flavors, some more rare than others. Though fans hung out outside while eating and drinking, the taproom remained closed.
But over the last month, Three Floyds started construction on rebuilding the taproom, doubling its size to 5,000 square feet. Pending local approvals and any delays, they hope to open next year. A 3,200-square-foot outdoor space, with bags and other games, and fire pits, are also planned. Officials describe the overarching plan to mix in a little Frank Lloyd Wright influence making use of existing elements surrounding the space. There will be a second bar outside and an enclosed all-season beer garden. There will be more room and options for private events.
“As a brewery who pushed a ‘not normal ethos,’ we want to continue that,” says Three Floyds President Gary Modrow.
The brewery has also brought in Chicago’s Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, owners of venues including family-friendly Roots Pizza, Willis Tower restaurant Kindling, and West Town Bakery, to operate the food side with elevated bar food. The menus haven’t been worked through, but Three Floyds’ brass wants to stay loyal to its local customers. They’re not opting for tweezer food or anything that would alienate fans.
“We haven’t fully decided on a menu yet,” Fifty/50 co-founder Greg Mohr says. “Whether it’s burgers and barbecue, or anything like that. What we will have is a great chef and will go it to a higher level than you’d expect.”
“Drinking food” is a loaded term, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Fifty/50 would import items like its popular chicken wings served at its Wicker Park bar or gourmet cheese sticks served at its Roots locations. Mohr says he’s excited to work with Floyd and praised his creativity and dedication to incorporating history and nostalgia into the plans for the taproom revival.
“They were pretty adamant,” Mohr says of what Floyd and Modrow expressed. “[Munster] is a working-class town and we want to feed those people.”
In 2017, Three Floyds launched a collaboration with Mikkeller and debuted a beer brand, WarPigs. in the U.S. They’ll serve those beers and other items including barbecue beef jerky and beer-battered cheese curds.
Fifty/50 and Three Floyds share common friends which led to the introduction. Bringing in a restaurant partner will allow the brewers to concentrate on what they do best. The beer is the highlight and Mohr spoke about not wanting to upstage what Three Floyds is known for. They’ll eventually hold pop-up events with guest chefs cooking special dinners to complement the beer, but they’re taking baby steps.
The space will also be a place to showcase Three Floyds’ spirits. The company added a distillery in summer 2019. That space will remain closed for the time being. The brewery has been recognized as a semifinalist multiple times as a semifinalist for the James Beard award for outstanding wine, spirits, or beer professional.
Some reports have speculated that the taproom’s target opening date would be Dark Lord Day which is scheduled for Saturday, May 18. Modrow wouldn’t confirm that, citing the ongoing permitting process.
Three Floyds Brewpub, 9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, Indiana, planned for a spring 2024 opening.