Really Cool Waterslides
Grant Pauly is living most home brewers’ dream. Just a year ago, he opened 3 Sheeps Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Sheboygan that’s quickly gaining recognition for quality brews with flavor profiles Grant labels “one off of normal.” He lives by a philosophy that it’s always better to forgo fame, fortune and stability in pursuit of some Really Cool Waterslides (actually the name of his signature three-hop IPA). Two years ago, he was safely employed at his family’s precast concrete plant, but he chased a dream in the face of uncertainty and followed his passion for brewing (as it turns out, he’s pretty good at it). We talk with Grant about how he got started, his recipe testing process and his favorite 3 Sheeps food pairings.
AndrewZimmern.com: How long have you been brewing beer? What first sparked your interest in the brewing process?
Grant Pauly: I started brewing beer eight years ago. I had just been getting into craft beer when my wife, then girlfriend, gave me a homebrewing kit as a Christmas gift. The first batches of beer were brewed in my small apartment in Chicago, and my apartment-mate and I would adjust the temperature of the entire place to match what we needed for proper fermentation. Thankfully, those first few batches of beer were quite drinkable and I was instantly hooked. I quickly realized that the part I loved the most wasn’t in making a wide variety of beers, but in working a few recipes and constantly tweaking them until I thought they were perfect. This really helped me to learn my ingredients and processes, and allowed me to start making consistent beer.
AZ.com: Your family owns a concrete business, what made you decide to break the mold and open a brewery?
GP: For the six years before opening the brewery, I ran my family’s precast concrete plant. During that time, I had a chance to really experience small business, and I quickly learned that I loved almost every aspect of it. Unfortunately, my love of small business did not translate into a love for concrete. The time came when I knew I needed a change, and I took the opportunity to move into a field that I had a passion for. I would not trade my time at the family business for anything, but I am very glad that I was able to transition into this industry. For anyone out there that has the ability to turn their passion into their job, take it. It is well worth it.
AZ.com: What’s the significance of the brewery’s name?
GP: I have always enjoyed the expression, “Three Sheets to the Wind.” A nautical expression first found in writing back in the 1820s, it was used as a scale to express how inebriated an individual was, from one to four. The sheets refer to the lines that held the sail. As more sheets became loose, the sail would sway more wildly, much as an individual would as they continued to imbibe. With our brewery being in Wisconsin though, we thought it appropriate to agriculture this up a bit, thus Three Sheeps. We are not proponents of drunkenness, nor have I ever raised a sheep, I just enjoy whimsical nature of it.
AZ.com: How would you describe each beer’s flavor profile?
GP: Overall, I have two goals for our beers. The first is to produce beers that are one off of normal. The second goal is to make all of our beers drinkable. I enjoy designing beers that are very drinkable, but that each have a unique component in them that separates them from the norm. This may seem obvious, but we believe that the beers should be balanced and not overwhelming to the senses. I want someone to be able to sit down and have a couple of pints without getting inundated with one particular flavor. Below is a rundown of our beers and a bit on how they came into being:
- Our number one seller is our Baaad Boy Black Wheat Ale. This beer derived from a desire not to make a porter or stout, but still needing to fill that “dark beer” slot. I played with a few different styles, but finally fell in love with a blackened wheat malt produced less than an hour from the brewery. This resulted in a beer that is as dark as a porter or stout, but being a wheat beer, is much lighter in body. Roasty and chocolate tones are front and center, rounding out with a very smooth finish.
- Our Amber Ale, Rebel Kent the First, began as a Belgian Abbey Single, which is what the monks drank in the 12th century when they worked the fields because they could not trust the drinking water. We played with this style, adding body and a bit more alcohol to it than its original. To balance this beer, I added a touch of rye malt for a bit of spiciness at the end of the sip. This balances against the sweetness of the yeast, making it an extremely easy drinking and unique session beer.
- Our wheat beer, Cirque Du Wit, is technically a Belgian Wit, but without any of the extras (coriander or banana, for example). We chose to highlight only the wheat and the Belgian yeast which we ferment at higher temperatures. This produces some great, natural sweetness that is balanced against the tasty wheat overtones.
- To round out our fourth year-round beer, we have our India Pale Ale, Really Cool Waterslides. Of the four, this beer is closest to a traditional style, but we have packed a whole lot of hops into it, making it a very flavor forward IPA. You can smell the floral and citrus hop notes when holding this pint at arm’s length. Those aromas transition into similar hops flavors with a light malt backbone. One of my main tests to make sure an IPA is balanced is to have a pint and then brush my teeth. I do not want to taste the beer afterwards. This IPA passes that test.
- We are also excited to be getting into our seasonal beers. Our first was a Ginger Chocolate Stout that we called Ewephoria. We had a lot of fun blending different types of ginger until we found a nice combination of heat and sweet that balanced well with the chocolate stout. This spring we will be releasing our 8% Coffee Infused Black Wheat. We are calling it Hello My Name is Joe. We have paired up with Alterra Coffee for this offering, and their coffee just shines through the higher alcohol Black Wheat.
AZ.com: Tell us about the recipe testing process. How long does it take to reach consumer-ready perfection?
GP: I like to allow for four months from conception to making the first batch for production. Once I have the initial recipe, I like to only change one thing at a time until it tastes exactly as I “taste” it in my mind. It is a tedious process, but allows us to isolate the different flavors and balance them against the rest. This generally results in a plethora of beer to be sampled. Not surprisingly, we seem to have no problem finding people willing be our guinea pigs.
AZ.com: Favorite food pairings for your brews?
GP: My number one favorite pairing is curry with our IPA. IPA’s handle heat better than any other style of beer, and the contrasting flavors of the beer and the curry help pull out the great flavors from each. For dessert, our Baaad Boy Black Wheat and a scoop of vanilla ice cream make a mean beer float.
AZ.com: What do you drink when you’re not drinking your own beer?
GP: If I am ever out and find a beer that I have not had before, that will almost always be my first choice. My wife and I also enjoy sharing a nice bottle of red wine with a meal.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
GP: I am a big fan of hot sauce, and I have many different types and styles at the ready. Most recently, I found a small start-up out of Chicago called Majave that makes a few great ones. Even their hottest is still able to maintain some very nice flavors. Also, I would not be a true Wisconsinite without an assortment of cheeses: aged cheddar and parmesan are staples of our fridge.
Grant Pauly knows that he is living most home brewers dream. Just two years removed from pouring concrete, he has opened 3 Sheeps Brewing Co., a microbrewery based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Grant runs the brewery as its brewmaster, crafting brews that he refers to as, “One off of normal.” Celebrating its one year anniversary this month, 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. is quickly become known as a quality brewery producing unique and very drinkable beers. The rapid growth in their popularity resulted in ratebeer.com to name it the Best New Brewery in Wisconsin for 2012.
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