July 22-23: Drove from Mundelein to Channahon, Illinois, home of Flossmoor Station's Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk and his wife Jenni. Matt had been busy all day smoking meats for a fabulous barbeque dinner. Matt and Jenni's children, Nick (3) and Ellie (2) joined us along with Matt's assistant brewer Andrew Mason and his fiancee Meg Dodson. Andrew brews both at Flossmoor Station and at Mickey Finn's Brewpub in Libertyville, so he currently does a lot of commuting to get his professional brewing experience.
(Photo above, L to R: Matt, Jenni, Teri, Meg and Andrew.)
Matt served us his Station Master Wheat and his Raspberry Lambic. I contributed some interesting beers that I've been collecting that are not available in Illinois. He and Jenni put together a great feast for us: smoked chicken, ribs and salmon with watermellon salsa, and two kinds of veggies.
The next morning I followed Matt on his 30 minute commute to the cute little town of Flossmoor. Flossmoor Station is right next door to the train tracks and Amtrak made several stops during the day. The station building was built in 1906 and celebrated its 100th birthday with an expansion of Flossmoor's restaurant seating, outdoor patio and basement.
Matt showed me his brewery including the basement extension where he stores his wood casks full of aging beer. Matt worked on cleaning a fermenter and transferring a beer to a serving tank and I worked on my blog. He brought me beer tastes while I blogged, including his Pullman brown which was more like a roasty porter.
I'd like to point out that Matt has won seven GABF medals during his three years at Flossmoor Station, and Flossmoor has no mill so Matt uses pre-ground malt. That tells me that not only is Matt talented, but pre-ground malt is much higher quality than it was 19 years ago when I went pro. I'm learning more about the brewing industry every day on this trip.
After lunch I followed Matt to Munster, Indiana to visit Three Floyds Brewing Company. (Photo below, L to R: Barnaby Struve, Chris Bogges and Steve Bernard.)
On the way we drove through the small town of Glenwood where the chuch had a sign on it, "Excellence is not a destination but a journey." If I extrapolate that, then Exellence is a Journey, and since I am on a journey, I am experiencing Exellence every day. I'd have to agree!
Barnaby, Chris and Steve are not the Floyds, but they are the brewers. The painting behind them in this photo incorporates all the cartoonish characters from their various beer labels.
Three Floyds is famous for extra hoppy beers, and the beers they served me didn't disappoint. Their summer seasonal was called Gumballhead after a cartoon cat character. It was another variation on the huge hop theme. Instead of over-the-top bitterness, Gumballhead is a wheat beer with huge hop flavor. With all Amarillo hops, the hop flavor came through as pineapple-citrus. The bitterness was surprisingly gentle, considering the dominant hop aroma and flavor.