Light Me Home, the Weather’s Bad: A Homily for 3 Floyds Brewpub.

The first of many beers sent forth from the Magician’s Chest was a nonic pint of Robert the Bruce, fresh from the brite tanks. The gatherer of the pixies, Joan the Wad coasting it across the room. A Scottish maltster’s caramel roast – hovering above the table, translucent burgundy from the tomes of the dead.

A genesis of infatuation with 3 Floyds Brewpub in Munster, Indiana, started by an inadvertent visit with my then-wife. We were supposed to meet another couple at Tribes in Mokena, but I was so hazy on the notion at the time, I conflated the two planes and ended up at the wrong coordinates. One might argue that since the Modulus of X was 3 Floyds, the wrong venue, I still landed at the correct one by default. Good fortune nodded.

The operetta evolved and as time marched on, I developed more and more friendships around craft beer. During the era the hobby was rare, and it was a bonding point between people in the know. Our conversancy with the 3 Floyds pub atmosphere, music & décor, staff & magic, was a feeling je ne sais quoi.

My experience after putting in the effort of frequenting the taproom and absorbing the culture, was that the workers were magnificently canonical and well versed. Super awkward but I’d say on average pretty cordial. That is, if you weren’t a complete idiot. Even then I still never thought they were specifically rude. They just didn’t feel any economic pressure to dumb it down, and on average, people outside of Chicago proper weren’t used to that sort of thing. The bartenders were also just like, really busy.

One of them told me if he didn’t pull in $10,000 in a single shift, it was basically like… “so…what happened?”

My education on knowing how to be a part of this particular game came from a philosophy I had long since crafted. It was a fit nature and a chance nurture mash-up of playing in bands in my late teens/early twenties and being a social part of a local music scene. Feeling like a stranger in my highschool and being into horror movies and outsider musical genres. This and heavily diving into thrift stores and used record shops for years and years. Gentle nudges and incremental evolution. (A)

Formulating my world, incorporating which style glass is which style glass and filing away tidbits of lore. I knew what the Ultimate Warrior WWF belt on the ceiling was, and I was familiar with local muralists’ work. I figured out who Randy Mosher was, and I was keenly aware of every Simpsons character toy on the shelves behind the bar. I knew which tap handle was Zombie Dust and I understood that I when I could sit down and get that cloudy fresh pour over a conversation with a stranger, there’d be nothing better.

The mathematics of 3 Floyds brewpub were this:

A small-scale brewery in the middle of nowhere that started with a nominal sized bbl system, took a chokehold and sparked a culture on its fucking own. Zero dollars spent on advertising; the product spoke for itself. The 3 Floyds signs glowing in Chicago beer bar windows? Those establishments themselves paid for the forged neon wonderment.

Imagine a product so in demand, yet so unadvertised, that other companies have to pay to market you, merely in the understanding that patrons on the sidewalk will stop in if they at least have the info.

An overlap was certainly due in the heritage, and more specifically at the epicenter: 3 Floyds Brewpub. Incorporating the beer nerd metaverse, the figureheads who were there in the beginning, comic book artists, slasher film connoisseurs, and heavy metal aficionados.

This, and a forced meshing with newfound interests among popular civilization and a fumbling buffoonery of the masses walking in with no research on proper terminology. Complaining about wait times, pretending that they somehow defied the present reality of supply and demand. Well-deserved hype transposed over minimal square footage. To some, a very unpleasant Venn diagram. To me? A jolt of electricity every time I made it inside.

All of this combined with a punk rock stubbornness of a Nick Floyd ethos in not feeling a need to adapt or conform to commercialism on any discernable level. The recipe in the name of suffering, was ripe for friction.

I did notice in passing, complaints from people. It wasn’t a lark. The buzzkill snowballed.

“I do declare, with my Gucci-god popped collar and my accessorized tribal tattoo – snobbery!”

For the enlightened – the spinning vinyl soundtrack (mostly curated by Metal Vinyl Weekend) was an absolute pristine pairing with everything going on, including the bizarre footage and esoteric underground films being projected on the backwall.

Cattle witching. Diabolical mischief. Shark Pants. Black Sabbath. Hexes and hoaxes and mussels and burgers and pizza as Metal Steve spins a backmasked plate of beer-battered cheese curds, skidding to a stop next to your tulip glass of Rabid Rabbit. Inhaling the combination of fermented rock candy, tempura fried mozzarella, and kimchi aioli in an amalgamation of otherworldliness.

I’ve personally witnessed Tiberian inquisitors drive up in the pub parking lot, take a picture of the venue and then drive away. I’ve been at the bar numerous times where brewers from all over the country come in for a visit and hand the bartenders at the altar, an offering of their best cans or bottles. Sheer respect.

More times than I can count, I’ve been bellied up to that glossy oak bar with a barrel aged Moloko or a cask poured Alpha King, or a War Mullet, hearing stories from all over the planet. Foreign and domestic travelers making a point to putter and prine at the highest rated brewery in the world for years on end.

I’ve been kicked out of 3 Floyds Brewpub before (B), and while I lived in proximity for a bit, I left that church threshold with women I probably should not have. Familiar enough I was able to regroup and question the guy tending bar on why he’d allow it.

I was only a novice to the establishment for a term. I have stood in the endless lines. The truth is if you just showed up with an intentional four-man crew, right at the opening bell, you were getting a table. It never didn’t happen. Either that or I would just go solo, right up to the bar every single time. Every adventure more captivating than the last.

I recall the night at the brewpub when Canada announced he and his wife were having their first kid. We were still so new we didn’t grasp that 3 Floyds didn’t offer spirits. An attempt to buy a round of shots was shot down. We did a round of Dreadnaught instead. Tim the illusionist, with a wave of his hand, buying the entire meal and all the beers. (C)

A 2017 reunion with a friend I hadn’t seen in four years. The wizardry of the chalet coalesced with the augury of a sage when we saw Nick Floyd. The great yeti emerged from behind the blood red veil, and in passing my instinct was to offer my hand in a bringing of harmony. He indulged me in knux as he passed, only to vanish into the shadows.

The beer recipes never fell off. In reality, every other brewer just took a full god damn decade to catch up. Floyd waking the industry, inspiring the sparkly eyed and illuminating the ways of what could be. Others riding his coat tails on to a starship to Andromeda. Not acknowledging the impact is to pretend The Beatles didn’t influence the influencers.

The Last Supper painting on the wall behind the bar, a showcase of characters of note – The Alpha King and his Alpha Kong, The Black Sun, the Pride & Joy Jester, Lady Behemoth. A perfect reflection in homage to our final dinner there in February 2020. A feast to the very spirits we invoke for guidance. The Sad Men’s club, breaking bread beneath the painting, and clanking steins of hefeweizen, living a Rich life, and still joking about Covid 19 at that point. Unbeknown. Clueless to the upcoming plight of the earth, mere minutes before the pandemic would arise and shut down the brewpub permanently.

As I write this in the window of November 2022 through February 2023, I have belief that I’ll be back at that brewpub taproom bar again someday. Am I going to pull a weeping Greg Hall and pee in a pint glass at Bangers & Lace out of mournful regret? No. My hopes are still in tact.

The pixies of Cornish folklore, souls of the wandering dead, banished. The echoes of the pagan brewpub now a reflection in limbo, locked out of both Heaven and Hell. A relic left to explore the hollowness with a light inside a turnip.

With a torch as a bundle of straw, Joan the Wad as a protective essence, crouches on a mushroom.

Waiting and watching.

Jack-the-Lantern, Joan-the-Wad,
That tickled the maid and made her mad,
Light me home, the weather’s bad

Photos IG @zookeeper1980

(A) I can compare it to the forty-six-year-old guy working in my local record store. Look I get it. I don’t dress like a fucking geek. But I’ve been buying vinyl since before I could legally get into bars. You don’t even carry used records from most of the artists I listen to because the community of people who buys the records in the genres I listen to, never sell them. I collect horror films on laserdisc. I’m not saying I command some sort of respect. Obviously. But I am saying that I’m already two levels lower than you in terms of nerd. So, in mid-2000s beer as well as records I can at least adjust for any initial veiled jabs and turn the mild abrasiveness in to smooth conversation.

(B) Not my fault.

(C) We had planned to go to a cigar lounge afterward, but Tim ended up puking oysters in Canada’s car on the way. It sounds bad but it was even worse. The puke like slid into that area of no-man’s land inside the door where the window retracts between those rubber things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s