I arrived at 3 Floyds Brewery on a cold December morning to a line of 20 people waiting outside the brewpub kiosk. By the time they opened, the line had grown to around 50 and was the same length when I left that afternoon. The day before, 3 Floyds had announced on Twitter that Zombie Dust would be available in bottles. Zombie Dust, an American Pale Ale, has developed a cult following and is so popular that craft beer aficionados will flock to northwest Indiana for an opportunity to take some home.
Tucked away in an industrial park in Munster, Indiana, the 3 Floyds brewhouse is a relatively small 35 barrel system that has forced the brewery to work around the clock to meet an ever-increasing demand. They plan on expanding the brewhouse in the future but Owner Nick Floyd and Head Brewer Chris Boggess are already slammed trying to keep up with day-to-day operations while also adding a new distillery.
“Yeah, I don’t really know what I do, I’m doing so much stuff. With the brewpub in Denmark, the distillery, the brewery, the growth, the packaging, it’s a lot,” said Boggess.
Meanwhile, up in Minnesota, Todd Haug was becoming fed up with his then current employer, Surly Brewing. Haug had left Rock Bottom Brewery to join Omar Ansari in creating Surly Brewing twelve years prior. While he didn’t leave on the friendliest of terms, they did enjoy countless successes during his time, winning awards and becoming a destination brewery. Surly has expanded rapidly since the beginning in 2005, and now produce just shy of 100,000 barrels of beer a year.
Haug had to ensure the flavor profiles didn’t suffer from the expansions.”
Haug, and wife Linda, played a major role in the expansion projects. Haug had to ensure the flavor profiles didn’t suffer from the expansions. He did so by working with architects and engineers on design, specifying new equipment, overseeing installation, and commissioning of new equipment and during construction.
Over time, issues at Surly began to accumulate. Haug and Ansari were regularly on different pages for how the business should be run, and Linda was inexplicably let go in February 2016. Eventually, Haug had enough and announced he was leaving the following September.
When hearing that the Haugs were on the open market, Boggess went to Floyd and pushed to hire them both. Fast forward to mid December and Todd and Linda are settling into a better home. Together, the couple bring decades of experience in both brewery and front of house operations.
Boggess and Haug's relationship goes back almost 20 years, when they both worked at Rock Bottom Brewery and they have remained friends ever since. While the two men are similar in a lot of ways, they both bring different skills and interests to the table.
“Every brewery is unique and so different,” says Haug. “So every brew master or, whatever you want your title to be, kind of uses his strengths and experiences in the brewery.” Haug plans on using his mechanical background and experience in brewery expansion to bolster an already experience crew.
Boggess on the other hand, likes to focus on new business acquisition and raw material sourcing. He takes pride in the wide variety of material sourcing. 3 Floyds has contracts for raw materials all over the world, which allows them greater flexibility and adaptability to the volatile hop markets.
Their palates, while not exactly the same, will align nicely to push the boundaries and keep the brewery exciting and relevant.”
Boggess, Haug, and Floyd all plan on working on recipe development, both collaboratively and individually. Their palates, while not exactly the same, will align nicely to push the boundaries and keep the brewery exciting and relevant.
“I was nervous, I’m not here to step on toes or get in anyone’s way. Hopefully our shared experience will combine with the experience already here. I mean, we’re already talking a couple of hundred years combined experience. And that’s just the brewery stuff. You have the crew in the shop and packaging and that gets up there,” said Haug.
Haug’s ideology for how a brewery should be run lines up substantially better with 3 Floyds' plans than it did Surly's. Floyd and Boggess are willing to employ creative methods to maintain quality. The new position will allow Haug to work with friends and sleep better at night, knowing they are putting out the best brew possible.
All breweries struggle to maintain a quality product during times of rapid expansion, and 3 Floyds and Surly are not exceptions. Often, when breweries expand the quality of the end product suffers. When Haug was at Surly, he did everything in his power to prevent that from happening but admitted that he didn’t have to hear about the bills.
“When you get to the liquor store and your price point is $3 more than your competitor, something’s gotta give. You’ve gotta give up margin or cut your cost somewhere on the raw materials side, and that’s what a lot of breweries do. Specialty malts are what makes craft beer what it is. If we just switched to the cheapest caramel 20 malt and the cheapest 2 row, it’s going to taste kind of like that and it does change the beer over time,” said Haug.
In order to combat this common issue they are focusing on versatility and diversity. A prime example of the diversification is the opening of a new distillery, which they are hoping will open in the summer.
“There’s gotta be Dark Lord Schnapps. Some clear, some barrel aged, the whole gambit. Think about the barrel management and how we can rotate barrels in and out. It’s going to be cool,” said Boggess.
Without a bigger brew house, it’s a 35 barrel system brewing around the clock all week. There’s no room for error or maintenance or anything.”
“The next ideas are bringing a lot of things in," said an excited Boggess. "And not just because it’s controlled but it also results in regularly scheduled jobs for our people. And all the things that are a byproduct of the brand splintering off and not just being beer. The food element is going to grow, the spirits are going to take off, there’s a comic book. There’s all these things that 3 Floyds is growing quick. Without a bigger brew house, it’s a 35 barrel system brewing around the clock all week. There’s no room for error or maintenance or anything.”
They expect that the distillery will allow them better control for their expanding beer barrel aging program. “We should be emptying barrels in the distillery, hopefully every month. No shipping, no 'oh shit, there's 60 barrels here and the beer's not ready and they're going to dry out.' Now you've got a direct schedule where it hopefully dovetails in the future. 'Oh hey, these eight barrels need to be filled next week. Boom,'” said Haug.
“Or 'hey I've got 60 empty barrels from Dark Lord, let's put some rum in there. Scadoosh,'” said Boggess.
Dark Lord, of course, is a Russian Imperial Stout that is so popular, it has an entire day dedicated to it. Dark Lord Day has been moved to May this year in hopes for better weather. Last year featured 20 varieties of the famed stout but this year they plan on cutting that number down and concentrating on the crowd favorites.
The future of the brewery and distillery is very exciting. They are always tinkering and looking for ways to improve and keep pushing the industry. There's little doubt that the addition of Todd and Linda will help grow all of the brands that 3 Floyds represents.
Boggess summed it up: “It’s going to be like mittens on hands. He’s perfect, and Linda too.”
Thanks to Remo Remoquillo for the header illustration.