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Three Floyds Founder Doesn't Hate Your Favorite Bar

By Mark Konkol | April 26, 2013 6:50am | Updated on April 26, 2013 8:28am
 Three Floyds Brewery Founder Nick Floyd of Ukrainian Village said "It's hard to keep up" with the demand for his beer.
Three Floyds Brewery Founder Nick Floyd of Ukrainian Village said "It's hard to keep up" with the demand for his beer.
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Nick Floyd/3 Floyds

Nick Floyd doesn’t think your favorite bar sucks.

Despite what ticked-off bar owners might say, the Ukrainian Village brewer’s namesake Three Floyds Brewery doesn’t ban certain Chicago taverns from the privilege of pouring his craft brews from their taps.

“There’s been an explosion in the popularity of microbrews, and even our oldest accounts can’t get enough. I know guys at new beer bars talk s--- because they can’t get it, or we think we’re too good for them,” Floyd said. “We don’t think we’re too good for you. It’s just hard to keep up.”

Three Floyds has ranked as one of the top brewers in the world for six years running on RateBeer.com, but it’s still a relatively small operation run out of a Munster, Ind., industrial park.

 Three Floyds Brewery's Dark Lord Imperial Stout is considered the best beer in America by RateBeer.com.
Three Floyds Brewery's Dark Lord Imperial Stout is considered the best beer in America by RateBeer.com.
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Three Floyds Brewery

“We haven’t spent $50 million to expand to become the size of New Belgium or Goose Island. We don’t want to have 300 or 400 employees,” Floyd said. “We want to maintain high quality, grow slowly, and that’s what we’re doing.”

You can find Three Floyds beers at about 800 bars and liquor stores in Chicago, and every one of them wants a case of beer or two each week. That includes Binny’s Beverage Depot and Jewel, which want as many as 20 cases a week for every store.

“People have a Wal-Mart mentality and think Three Floyds should be available everywhere,” Floyd said. “Our growth just can’t keep up with demand. It’s a cult beer. At Whole Foods they don’t even put it on the shelf because it’s gone within an hour that it arrives.”

Three Floyds brewed just under 50,000 barrels of beer last year, which Floyd points out is “not nearly enough” for a metropolitan area of 8 million people.

“We make enough beer so hopefully bars that want it can get it, but until we’re four times bigger, and that takes time, that’s the way it is,” Floyd said. “It’s like when you go to a restaurant and they run out of the daily special. That’s the predicament we’re in.”

But beer geeks can be a surly bunch when they feel slighted. Some have posted rather harsh rumors about Three Floyds in online beer drinkers' forums.

“The classic one is that we burned down. Never happened. Or that we make Dark Lord in all our tanks so we don’t have beer for months. Also not true,” Floyd said. “Or that we hoard beers. Or make lists of which bars should get our beer. Well, there’s some truth to that.”

That’s just Floyd’s way of making sure bars that have been tapping his beers since 1996 — Map Room, Hop Leaf and Sheffield’s — get enough of his brews to keep their regulars happy.

Sure, Floyd plans to keep expanding his brewing operation by about 30 percent a year. He hopes to open one or two Three Floyds brewpubs in Chicago once he finds the right locations for the right price. And he’s kicking around the idea of starting to distil spirits — Three Floyds whiskey to start.

“It will be fine whiskey,” Floyd said. “But I know some people will complain, ‘Why make whiskey when you can’t make enough beer?'”

Breaking beer drinkers' hearts is just part of the craft brew business — and no one does it better than Floyd.

It happens in April when Floyd’s most famous brew, Dark Lord, goes on sale for one day only at the industrial park brewery.

And that day — Dark Lord Day — is Saturday.

Craft beer connoisseurs from around the world flock to Three Floyds to get their hands on a few bottles of the motor-oil thick, Mexican Vanilla-infused, molasses-sweet stout that RateBeer.com calls the “most wanted beer in the world.” And Dark Lord is brutal, boasting a 15-percent alcohol content and 700 calories per 22-ounce bottle.

But if you’re thinking of stopping by Saturday to pick up a bottle or two, don’t bother.

The “Golden Tickets” you need just to stand in line to spend 15 bucks a bottle for this year’s vintage sold out in minutes online— like they do every year.

“People who don’t get a Dark Lord Day ticket get all pissed off,” Floyd said. “And if they get in, they’re my best friend. It is what it is.”

If you’re one of those guys who don’t get a taste of the finest beer around, do Nick Floyd a favor — quit complaining.

The guy can only brew so much.