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Thirsty Thursday: Three Floyds Brewing Company’s Zombie Dust

Photo by Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.

There was a time when Zombie Dust was a holy grail beer, one that only midwesterners really knew about or ever tasted – but that has changed a little in recent years.  Thanks to an uptick in distribution, this year-round effort from Three Floyds Brewing Company is much easier to find these days, yet still sought after enough to fly off of the shelves when your local beer store posts that it has a few cases.  I found out it was starting to make the rounds in my area and since I’ve been trying to get my hands on some for well over a year now, when a buddy texted me that it was at my local spot, I quick grabbed a six-pack. Oddly enough, I’ve never had a Three Floyds effort, despite the company distributing in my area for years – I was kind of just holding out for Zombie Dust.  And given its reputation – ranked No. 34 on BeerAdvocate’s Top 250 Beers – I knew it had to be reviewed for this column.

Founded in 1996, outside of Chicago, with just a few hundred dollars and the most basic of equipment, Three Floyds has become one of Indiana’s most notable breweries.  The brewery strives to use the finest ingredients and techniques to “make the most memorable beers.” That line of thinking has earned Three Floyds a slew of awards including several GABF medals.  Armed with about a dozen year-round efforts, including the popular Gumballhead, Three Floyds also has over two dozen limited releases, along with several barrel-aged and collaborative efforts. Zombie Dust is a single hop, 6.2 percent and 60 IBUs pale ale that features Citra hops from the Yakima Valley.  It’s a kind of a retro pale ale in a time when everything is hopped up or hazed. I picked up this six-pack of 12-ounce bottles for about $17, which is a steal in this day and age.

The label of Zombie Dust is pretty awesome.  It has a green theme to it and off to the side there’s a zombie wearing a crown and a cape like something straight out of Spawn.  The artwork was done by Tim Seeley, a Wisconsin-based comic book artist who has worked with DC Comics and Image Comics, penning some of the industry’s most notable characters.  There’s also a fun description on the label that briefly explains the beer:

“This intensely hopped and gushing undead Pale Ale will be one’s only respite after the zombie apocalypse.  Created with our marvelous friends in the comic industry. Art by Tim Seeley.”

As I cracked this beer open, I could immediately smell both the citrusy aroma – mostly just orange – and a slight bit of the dank pine scent from the Citra hops. It was decent but really nothing to write home about – but the pour, on the other hand, was textbook pale ale.  Zombie Dust poured with a beautiful fluffy head, thanks to a heavy pour by yours truly, to help accentuate this characteristic, and it was an amber color, looking like an old school pale ale, almost reminding me of Sierra Nevada’s staple pale ale.

I’ll be straightforward here, the taste is magnificent and more than makes up for the lackluster aroma I noted right off the bat.  That dank pine flavor is bursting through each and every sip, with a strong malt backbone and slight juiciness rounding out the overall flavor.  It’s a little sweet on the front-end, thanks to the malts, and then fairly bitter on the back-end, thanks to the Citra hops, with orange and pineapple in between the two.  It’s medium-bodied and features the kind of bitterness that people were clamoring for just five or 10 years ago before all of these trends (he said in an old man voice).

The average score for Zombie Dust on BeerAdvocate is 4.63 based on well over 10,000 ratings and I think that’s pretty well spot on here, as I gave this beer a 9.1 out of 10.  I drank this beer knowing it wasn’t a fancy over-complex double IPA or some other trendy juicebomb IPA and scored it based on the kind of pale ales I enjoy and what I’ve long expected from these simplistic beers – and it’s good, so much so that it would’ve been a go-to in my early 20s when I couldn’t find them bitter enough. I found the aroma to be a little weak and that’s why it ran out of steam on the way to a perfect score. If I had a hyper-fresh glass from the tap, I might be inclined to boost that rating, however. It’s time to try more of Three Floyds’ efforts!

I saw it compared to Toppling Goliath’s Pseudo Sue on a couple of occasions.  Having had both, I think that the look of these two beers is vastly different but I think that overall I would have to give it to Zombie Dust.  But let’s be honest here, King Sue is still the top monster as far as the midwest goes and I’m not sure that’ll change anytime soon.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.