Every Friday in The Man Who Invented Beer, Adam Cowden talks/reviews all things craft beer, American and elsewhere.
Let’s skip the sardonic opening remarks this week and go straight to the part where I talk about the beer…Three Floyds’ Pride and Joy.
What’s the story?
Three Floyds Brewing Company got its start in 1996 when brothers Nick and Simon Floyd and their father Mike Floyd decided to add some color to the “fairly bleak craft brewing scene” in Hammond, Indiana (really, bleak is a good word to describe everything about Hammond — not just the craft beer scene). The first brew kettle was small and featured an old Swiss cheese tank as a fermentation vessel, but by 2000, the operation was big enough to necessitate a move to its modern-day location in Munster (just south of Hammond). Today, Three Floyds is still very small (even by craft beer standards) and only distributes locally, though its proximity to Chicago, a major American beer-loving city, means that its market is quite large. The company operates a brewpub at its Hammond headquarters, and hosts an annual event called “Dark Lord Day,” a festival that celebrates the only day of the year that Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout is sold with appropriately-dark live heavy metal music.
Three Floyds’ Pride and Joy is an American take on pale mild ale — a British style that emerged around the 17th century. Originally, “mild” meant “un-aged;” prior to the popularization of the style, young beers were typically mixed with aged beer to accommodate demand for the “tangy” aged taste. Original mild ales were both light and dark — there were “mild porters,” for example — and were marked with one, two, or three “X’s” to denote strength. Up until the 1960’s, mild ales remained the most popular style in Britain, until the 1960s, when it began to replace with the “bitter” style, which is essentially a hoppier version of the pale mild ale. The style has become almost extinct, save for a few pockets in Wales and northwest England and some American and British microbreweries who usually interpret “mild” as signifying mild hopping and mild alcohol content. Pride and Joy falls into this latter category.
Where can I drink it?
Pilsen: the once-Irish/German-then-Czech-now-Latino lower-west-side neighborhood. Given this colorful cultural inheritance, and the fact that beer figures prominently in at least three of the aforementioned nationalities, it’s not altogether surprising that the neighborhood would host a place like Dusek’s. Admittedly, it was the advent of the neighborhood’s present gentrification cycle, which brought in the necessary contingent of hipsters and bike messengers, that allowed for a place like Dusek’s to be built, but the place certainly feels right at home in the neighborhood.
Dusek’s is actually a two-in-one experience; upstairs is Dusek’s proper, a comfy beer-centric bar with an old-Chicago feel that features a menu by “Michelin starred Chef Jared Wentworth,” and downstairs is “Punch House,” a bar with a quasi-speakeasy feel that features a giant fish tank and some pretty creative punches on tap. Bars that are this hip usually make me a little itchy, but in Dusek’s case, the beer selection, the extremely friendly/knowledgeable staff, and the lack of drunk college bros or drunk 40-year-old bros more than made up for all the waxed mustaches. All this to say: I had my Pride and Joy at Dusek’s, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re willing to go a little off the beaten path.
If you’re not though, you can always check out beermenus.com to find the nearest tap. Three Floyds has a huge presence here in Chicago, so you won’t have any trouble finding Pride and Joy.
What does it taste like?
Like a decent English pale ale. Though marketed as an “American mild ale,” the hop and alcohol content really put it more in pale ale territory. Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale of Bell’s Pale Ale serve as some good reference points for the style, but if you’ve never had one, think of a standard pale lager (Sam Adams, Budweiser, Miller, etc.), and imagine it being tastier, more complex, and slightly more bitter.
The beer pours a golden amber that pushes toward yellow, and is topped by a medium-sized white head that seemed slightly bigger than other pale ales. The nose is a bit of a red herring; piney hops and citrus aromas dominate the malt, and this had me worried that it was going to taste like an IPA that showed up at the wrong party.
Luckily, the taste is much more balanced, and this is where the malt backbone really pushes to the front. More toasted biscuit than thick caramel, the malt is light and airy (like a cracker). Pleasant and tasty stuff. There’s a little bit of a citrus tang, too, and the aftertaste is pretty much all piney, grapefruit hops. I’ve noticed that the chief distinguishing factor between American pale ales and their English counterparts is the hop taste — APAs all seem to finish with a metallic, grapefruit, or pine bitterness (it differs depending on who you talk to), while EPAs mostly seem to finish with a leafy, earthy hop profile that’s less explicitly bitter. In this respect, Pride and Joy fell in line with my expectations, but since I personally much prefer the English hop profile (as much as I’d truly like to make the patriotic choice), I was still a little let down by the finish. I had an Abbot Ale right after the Pride & Joy for comparisons sake, and this only reinforced the feeling that the English just seemed to have gotten it perfect the first time around.
The mouthfeel was medium to light with medium carbonation. The slight tingle and fizz on the tongue complements the citrusy undertones well.
Should I try it?
Recently, I found myself ranting to a friend about why craft beer is not synonymous with good beer. “Good beer,” I said, “shouldn’t be strong just for sake of being strong, or complicated just for the sake of being complicated, or different just for the sake of being different. It should be tasty, balanced, refreshing and drinkable. You should be able to enjoy it, and then enjoy it again…and again.”
Three Floyds Pride and Joy happens to be a craft beer that’s also a good beer because it is all of these things. Its only real fault is being a bit too balanced, and this makes it a bit boring. It’s not quite as tasty or complex as some of the older (and in my, opinion, better) English pale mild ales, but that being said, it’s a perfectly passable, highly-drinkable beer that’s whose solid malt backbone isn’t smothered by excessive hopping, overly-high ABV, or a pastiche of unnecessary flavors. Solid stuff that’s hard not to like. Try it out.