Is it just us, or has there been an influx of Wisconsin brewers making their way into the Chicago market this year? There was Furthermore and then O’so and now 3 Sheeps. We’re familiar with the former two but 3 Sheeps was new to us, so we reached out to owner Grant Pauly to find out more about his brewery, his beers and what separates 3 Sheeps from all the other beers you see on store shelves — Wisconsin brewed or otherwise.
Guys Drinking Beer: First off Grant, we like to try to get in the head of the brewery owners and reps we talk to and find out the reason they started their brewery, how they landed on a name, etc. So how exactly did 3 Sheeps come about and why the name 3 Sheeps?
Grant Pauly: Prior to 3 Sheeps Brewing, I was doing concrete for my family’s precast concrete plant. I had been running the plant for about five years and slowly began to realize that I just did not like concrete. During that time, I was homebrewing and it was quickly becoming an obsession. I knew I needed a change from concrete, and beer just seemed to make sense. An old brewpub in our town closed and I took the leap, bought the equipment, and converted it to a packaging brewery.
I also enjoyed the expression “3 Sheets to the Wind.” I enjoyed the imagery of the three lines on the mast that held the sail taut, and how if all three were loose the sail would mirror the movements of an inebriated individual. Since we were in Wisconsin though, I thought it appropriate to agriculture it up a bit, so 3 Sheeps Brewing was born. It’s grammatically incorrect, and I think that’s appropriate for us. We try to not take ourselves too seriously, and this name helps us to remember that.
GDB: Next, let’s talk about the beers. What styles will you be shuttling south to Chicago and what beer are you most excited for craft beer drinkers here to try?
Pauly: We opened up northern Illinois with four beers. I was really excited about all four entering the market for different reasons. We came down with two hoppy beers. The first, our IPA called Really Cool Waterslides, has been one of our best sellers in Wisconsin. I wanted an IPA that was hop forward, yet balanced. It is not a malt bomb, and it is not a west coast style. We think we found a nice balance in the middle that people will enjoy.
The Baaad Boy Black Wheat is another that I have been enjoying taking around to establishments. It is dark in color, like a porter or stout, but it is a wheat base, which allows it to come across much more smoothly while still retaining those roasty, chocolate, and coffee flavors we love in our stouts. This beer took bronze at the US Open Beer Championships for the Alternative Wheat category, and it is a nice unique take on a very popular style of beer.
Our session beer is Rebel Kent the First. This one was a lot of fun to make because it brought together ingredients that have not been done together before. I started with a Belgian Abbey Single, which is what the Monks drank in the 12th century when they were working the field because they could not trust the drinking water. From there, I upped the ABV to 5% to fall more in line with the typical session beer. Once it reached this point, it was a nice beer, but not quite a session beer because that great Belgian sweetness did not allow a person to have a few of these without getting sick of it. To balance the sweetness, I added rye malt, so that the sip would start sweet, but that rye spice would hit on the back of the tongue, neutralizing the flavors, leaving your palette clean and ready for the next sip.
Finally, we have our Imperial IPA, First Kiss. This beer comes in at 110 IBU’s, but due to the local wildflower honey we use in the recipe, it finishes smooth and not overwhelming. The one rule that I try to follow with any hoppy beer I make is that I want to experience the hops, but I do not want to taste them after I brush my teeth. By using the honey, alcohol sweetness, and body of the beer, I was able to cut that bitterness so that it did not linger.
With the Really Cool Waterslides, we went with an IPA that favored the floral/citrus hops. For First Kiss, we wanted to go the opposite direction and went more earthy, bringing out lemon grass and chives.
GDB: As a followup, what formats will we see your beers in (draft, bottle, etc)?
Pauly: Really Cool Waterslides, Baaad Boy, and First Kiss are available on draft, as well as bottles. Rebel Kent the First is only available in bottles.
GDB: I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time in the city since your beer first became available. What are some of your favorite bars and/or beer stores you’ve visited in Chicago?
Pauly: This is tough, because I could answer it from a few different directions. I lived in Chicago for 3 years, so seeing it in any bars and liquor stores that I used to frequent is very exciting (Binny’s, Treasure Island, The Other Side, Duffy’s).
Those first places to pick us up will always have a special place in my heart (Au Cheval, Bottles and Cans, The Garage , Burger Joint, Farmhouse, Black Rock).
Lastly, I would be remiss to leave out our new friends at Bar Bar Black Sheep; anyone that embraces the sheep theme is alright in our book.
GDB: You went with River North to handle distribution in Chicago. Why River North? And how has your experience with them been so far?
Pauly: From the moment we met the folks at River North, I knew it was the right fit for us. Our philosophies on craft beer are very similar. We also both look at our relationship with the retailers as more of a partnership than that of seller/buyer. It makes work a lot more fun when you are able to develop relationships with those on the front line who are ultimately selling and representing your brand to the general public. River North understands this.
Also, I enjoy working with everyone at the company. I have been riding around the city with many different reps from River North. Besides the fact that they all know craft extremely well, they are also a lot of fun to be with. I get to spend a day talking beer, seeing managers and owners, and promoting our brand with a friend. It rarely feels like work. I consider myself very fortunate to get to work with this company.
GDB: Let’s tap in to your creativity a bit, Grant. What one word would you use to describe 3 Sheeps and why?
Pauly: Jovial – Our company is five people strong, and if you asked any one of us what we plan to do after 3 Sheeps, I am fairly certain you would get a blank stare back. We all consider ourselves very fortunate to be working and making beer for a living. I know I am doing the job that I want to do for the rest of my working days. Due to this, it generally makes for a pretty happy work environment.
GDB: A lot has happened with your brewery since you opened in 2011. Last year RateBeer named 3 Sheeps the best new brewery in Wisconsin and now you’re distributing in Chicago. What’s on the horizon for 3 Sheeps?
Pauly: This is generally the question that keeps me up at night. We are going to start flexing our brewing muscle and put out some single release beers. Until this past July, we only had three fermenters. This made it very difficult to make more than 5 beers at a time. We now have eight, which allows us to play around a bit more and still keep up with orders. Keep your eyes peeled for some new beer to hit the market early next year.
GDB: While we like to think we have a decent handle on the craft beer scene in Wisconsin, thanks to numerous beer runs up to Kenosha, I am sure there is someone we haven’t heard of yet. Who is brewing really good beer but currently flying under the radar?
Pauly: Karben4, out of Madison, is making some very nice brews, including a smoked porter. Also, Black Husky makes a double IPA that incorporates locally harvested spruce tips called Sproose Joose. Those spruce tips pack a punch; it is a beer worth trying.
3 Sheeps Brewing
Website: 3 Sheeps Brewing
Facebook: 3 Sheeps Brewing Company