"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Great Lake, Great Beer: Pt. 2

To read Part 1 of our Lake Michigan beer adventure, click here.

Chi-Town skyline from the White Sox stadium
Lake Michigan to the left, endless cornfields to the right, Nicole and I drove south from Milwaukee and into Illinois to indulge my second great geeky pleasure: roller coasters.  Six Flags Great America in Gurnee (a smidgen north of Chicago) recently built Goliath, the world’s steepest and fastest wooden coaster.  It did not disappoint: smooth as silk, peppy, and featuring one-of-a-kind elements such as a wooden dive loop and a “zero-g stall,” Goliath isn’t quite as awesome as its smaller, older brother Outlaw Run (Outlaw Run’s setting in the forested Ozark mountains enhances the already-epic ride much more than the bland, open tarmac on which Goliath sits) but it’ll instantly shake-up any coaster geek’s top 10 wooden coaster list.  Marring our time at the park were three factors resulting in a frustrating conclusion: a) it was Saturday, b) we were near America’s third largest city, and c) Six Flags is notoriously inefficient in moving people through queues.  Add it all up and what you get are torturously long waits; we only got four coasters under our belts before needing to continue on towards Chicago.

U.S. Cellular Field
We spent two half-days in Chicago during which time we took in a White Sox game, visited the Shedd Aquarium, and took a stroll on Navy Pier.  Unfortunately, we didn’t hit any Windy City breweries.  In keeping a road trip schedule, sacrifices must be made.  I’m aware of the fabulous beers we missed in Chicago but we neither had the time nor, because a long car ride awaited us, the irresponsibility to hop from brewery to brewery; it’s really not smart to chug a bunch of beers and then drive crowded metropolitan highways (or drive anywhere for that matter).  Another time, Chicago, another time.

A Chicago-area brewery, however, we did hit.  Crossing over state lines into “The Region” (the traitorous northwestern section of Indiana which identifies with Chicago culture more so than Indiana culture, my barely-farcical disdain for The Region stems from the fact I’m a true, corn-fed Hoosier tired of hearing people claim they’re “from Chicago” when they were actually born and raised in the Crossroads of America; you live in Indiana—deal with it), we stopped in Munster to check out one of America’s most famous, most respected,  most influential craft breweries: Three Floyds Brewing Co.

And what a mistake that was.

Don’t get me wrong, Three Floyds brews some of the best beers one can ever hope to imbibe.  Whether it comes from bottle or from tap, drinking Three Floyds is almost a religious experience.  My advice: leave it at that.  Drink their wares at bars, restaurants, and at home but don’t “meet your heroes” and actually visit the brewery.  You’ll regret it. 

This is as close as you can get to Three Floyds before the employees start bawling at you
First, it’s packed fuller than five sumo wrestlers in a Fiat.  You can’t fault a business for being popular, right?  Good on ‘em for attracting the crowds!  Three Floyds is at fault, though, for how they manage said crowd i.e. poorly.  The staff is as brusque as they come.  When we muscled through the front door, we told the host we were just here for drinks, assuaging our presence by forgoing food.  He responded with an eye-roll so pronounced his face could have been mistaken for the spinning wheels of a slot machine.  “Huh, story of my life!” he said.  Oh, sorry, bro; didn’t mean to cause you umbrage (this is where my eyes start to roll).  Shortly thereafter, another customer wedged through and walked right into the taproom to which our sour host retorted, “Now what the hell does this guy think he’s doing?” and took after the interloper like a bouncer chasing a velvet-rope-ducker.  Feeling a bit bristly from the encounter, we opted to grab a few bottle from the to-go window (the guy running the window was pleasant enough) and hightail it out of there fast with Deesko! Berliner Style Weisse Beer and Floyd D’Rue in hand.

Was it a one-time interaction?  Am I making too much of what was probably a rare incident?  Well, my sisters and their boyfriends visited Three Floyds the day before and reported the staff’s same crappy attitude.  Furthermore, take a glance at their Yelp page; its overall score is high because many reviewers focus solely on the beer, not the service, but Three Floyds would get six stars if it weren’t for the one and two-star reviews saying exactly what I’m saying: the people that run the taproom are jerkwads, rude beyond belief.  Understandably, managing a crowd of inebriated customers wears thin quickly yet, somehow, other breweries pack their taprooms with hordes of drunkards yet still keep their poise—why can’t Three Floyds?  In sum, the back-of-house brewers are to be commended for their tremendous, award-winning beers while the front-of-house staff are to be slapped across the face with a hot vintner hose (don't actually do that, though; I don't want to be blamed for your impulsive behavior).  

Greenbush Brewing Co.
My faith in the brewing community was restored an hour up the road in southwestern Michigan.  From what little we saw of Sawyer, it is Norman Rockwell’s wholesome imagination come to life.  A pastoral paradise.  A bucolic wonderland.  Drive about half a mile off I-94, past the travel center and chain restaurants, through a scarcely-populated, forested neighborhood, over the train tracks, and a rustic community amid the fields reveals itself.  It’s so quaint with mom n’ pop shops and rural churches it makes your summer cottage in the mountains look like a crack house.  Railroad adjacent is a former auto shop/plumber’s shop/Laundromat/video rental/garden store/coffeehouse turned brewery and, might I be as bold as to say so, among my favorite non-Colorado breweries in America: Greenbush Brewing Co.

Interior at Greenbush
Interior at Greenbush
Greenbush is a meeting of industrialism and the respectable demeanor of a country gentleman.  There’s corrugated metal on one wall, wainscoted, dark wood panels and doors on the other wall.  Open ceilings with exposed steel girders and timbered boards soar overhead as Edison bulbs sway languidly over the bar top.  Storefront windows adorn the street-side of the taproom as brewing vessels sit stoically in the back.  As if the interior wasn’t intriguing enough, there’s also the side patio overlooking a small meadow of flowers both wild and cultivated.  Oh, and the staff was very, very pleasant.

Left to right: Mulehead, For Pete's Sake, & Distorter
And the beer?  Divine.  I’d already been impressed with Greenbush’s bottled beer but drinking at the source was an even more gratifying experience.  Mulehead was a refreshing and peppery saison, For Pete’s Sake, a pale ale infused with basmati rice, offered an inventive twist on a classic style, and Distorter, a rich and decadent porter, embodied the rare instance in which a dark beer’s so good it can be enjoyed in the heart of summer.  Nothing from Greenbush disappointed and it’s a wonder more people aren’t talking about them.  That’s a good thing, actually; I prefer if Greenbush remains a Shangri-La of craft beer, hidden not in the Himalayas but rather in the farmlands of Michigan where only the devout, determined, and deserving beer geeks may seek it out and drink of its elixirs. 

Reluctantly, Nicole and I left Greenbush, merged onto the highway, and, heading up the shoreline instead of down, made tracks towards our week-long layover in Grand Haven where my parents’ 40th anniversary party would linger from a Sunday to a Sunday.  The fun’s just begun!  Stick around for more posts about what else happened on our Lake Michigan voyage.  



Shedd Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium
Behind the scenes at Beer in Colorado!
Near Greenbush; see how damn cute this town is?


  1. Small world. I was just at Greenbush Brewery in July when I visited my old hometown of St. Joseph, MI. Loved that place and the beer was fantastic. Couldn't get over all the mug club mugs on the wall. Amazing for a brewery in such a small town.

  2. I know, it's great that good beer isn't confined to metro areas; the rural parts of the country boast tasty brews, too.