Last week, the heavens aligned and the three amigos all had no place to be on one sleepy Tuesday morning. It’s a rare enough occurrence that it might as well be like a comet passing or a solar eclipse, so to make the most of it, we packed our gear and headed out to visit our pals at 3rd Turn Brewing in J-Town. Personally, I’d come to know the some of the staff at 3rd Turn through the quarterly beer beat that I work for the LEO, in my eternal quest to find the perfect seasonal brew.
I’ve come to learn a few things in that time; the first of which being that 3rd Turn make some superlative beers that are as interesting as they are enjoyable; that the brewing community writ large is full of warmth and companionship, rather than the bald capitalist pressure that seems part and parcel to running any other business; and that the people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet were and are kind people. You may think it’s because of the press I’m offering, but if that’s the case then every single brewery in the city is working the longest game possible, which is absurd to imagine. Occam’s Razor, y’all. It ought to be taught day one in schools.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere
The plan was to get there between 8:30 and 9:00, so naturally I hit every red light, getting there just a hair before 9 to Jake and Phil shooting the shit outside. Well, technically they were just talking, because the literal read on that is heinous, but I like to sound folksy and colloquial; I’m a relatable cat. Fortunately, our guides, Ben Shinkle and Mike Burress, were super cool, and had already gotten to it. Shinkle was loading in a few kegs and methodically taking his time to do things right. I promise you that detail is important given the attention they give their brews.
We had no idea what to expect. I’ve homebrewed before, but the other jerks here at NN have less experience with such. We were familiarized generally with their brew system and were set to work brewing their Fruited Kolsch Swooly, a Kolsch style beer that features mango, orange, and pineapple cut with jalapeño. Obviously though, we couldn’t get to work until we at least sampled the beer, so we set to remedy that. It’s 9:30am somewhere.
Spoiler alert: This beer is the business. It’s not only a remarkable beer just by description, but super-inviting. The Fruited Kolsch Swooly is sweet, but not cloying, cut quite nicely by the jalapeño, which makes for a nice bit on the front end and a little going down. The light body of the beer makes it easy to drink, which is possibly a negative, if only because it clocks in at 7.1% ABV. That’s heavy enough to getcha, so proceed with a delicious caution. Or buy two growlers and crush it while you read comic books on your couch, because it’s vacation. I mean, that’s what I did.
The Heavy Lifting
After trying out the wares, we got to it. Our main objective of the morning was to fold in the barley to make wart. From our perspective, that involved two steps: lifting up a heavy bag (maybe 50 lbs.?) and using an oar to keep the barley blended, so that it didn’t clump up. My initial thought would be that all brewers would run the risk of being doughy folks, given the immediate access to choice beverages, which in my experience has the added effect of encouraging an absolute garbage diet. There should be a breathalyzer at Taco Bell before you can order. After taking turns lifting and pouring (it’s a measured pour), and stirring with the paddle, I’m now uncertain how every brewer isn’t an absolute Battle Beast with the most ripped upper body imaginable. It’s intense and challenging work. You definitely earn your keep.
There was a problem in the process that we only half way paid attention to. Because we’re a gaggle of jerks, we sat around debating the merits of Superman, social politics, and regular lawn maintenance, while Shinkle and Burress took care of business. Basically, after the wart is put together, it has to be lowered to a certain temperature, which is done by circulating cooler liquids via tubing around the outside of the brew kettle. Something was stuck in the line, preventing the cooling fluid (water) to circulate, so they had to engineer a solution, which they did by testing the lines in various ways.
I just want to take a moment to marvel at how this all comes together. Imagine being the first person to escalate your brewing beyond the confines of your kitchen? How would you even know what equipment to get? It’s a complex and expensive system that requires a lot of maintenance and TLC.
It’s that last bit that prompted our lunchtime departure. Phil had an appointment for adult stuff, so Jake and I hung back for bit, speaking with co-owner Greg Hayden a bit, while we sampled a few more brews. We talked a little about their upcoming expansion, which includes a Beer Garden in Oldham County and the purchase of a few of the surrounding buildings in J-Town. After touring those, we decided to take off for lunch; we had reached the point of waiting, which is part of the process. Usually, that’s the point where cleaning happens, which is a critical and un-sexy part of brewing that takes up SO MUCH more of your time than you might ever realize, but which is unbelievably imperative for quality control. It was no problem to stay, but really we just felt in the way, and they do have a business to run.
Our experience was capped with a stop off at the always righteous RecBar, where Jake and I unpacked our time, and had a nice meal. Those frosted flakes chicken fingers are what’s up. Then I mostly crushed him at Mario Kart 64, until he turned it around to defeat my trifling ass on one of the rainbow courses. I cried real tears.
Go to 3rd Turn. Enjoy their beers. Bring them home. Savor the experience either way, because it’s an excellent place to spend some time.
Check out some pictures by Phil and Jake that document our brewing experience.