Dwight, Ricardo and Penelope: Good Words with Grant Pauly of 3 Sheeps

Grant Pauly

I met up with 3 Sheeps head brewer and co-founder Grant Pauly at O’Gara’s last week and asked him all kinds of practical questions: What would his opposite be like? What’s on his perfect egg sandwich? Has he done the food challenge at his local burger house? What scotch would he recommend? Beer came up, too, once or twice.

FH: How long ago did you start brewing, even at the home level?
GP: About 12 years ago.
FH: Twelve years ago?! You don’t look that old!
GP: 33
FH: Wow! So you hit 21, have that power hour, and BAM!
GP: Pretty much. My wife (girlfriend at the time) got me a home-brew kit. Thankfully, the first [batch] didn’t taste terrible. It just kept spiraling out of control, until a quarter of my basement was my brewing laboratory. I was hooked.

I loved making different styles of beer, but the thing that really got me excited was trying to make the same beer over and over, having that IPA taste the same consistently. I was getting so much joy out of that, it kind of dawned on me: this is what manufacturing beer is like. The wheels started to turn and I thought, maybe I should do this for a living. I was pouring concrete for a family business [at the time], and didn’t like it. I loved the small business idea; I just hated concrete.

An old brewpub in our town went out of business and I eventually had the opportunity to buy the equipment and just pay rent on that building. It all happened very quickly. I went back to Siebel [Institute] for a brewing sciences education, got to do a short time at The Bruery in California, came back and rolled the dice. Much of our laboratory and our philosophy is based on what the Bruery does so well.

FH: Does that big Miller shadow have an any impact?
GP: In many states, the local beer is craft beer; in Wisconsin, local is Miller. Most people know someone who works there, or works there themselves, so that’s a different animal to battle. I think we’re starting to catch up now. Palates are changing. The IPA that came out four years ago, it was too hoppy when it did. Now people are really enjoying it. It’s been a lot of fun being a part of that. We’re fighting the good fight.

You adopt three pet sheep. What are you going to name them?
GP: That’s a question I get all the time!
FH: Seriously?! (Editor’s note: I thought I was so clever asking this, too!)
GP: Well, “What are the 3 Sheeps’ names?”
FH: But those are theoretical sheep. I’m asking about real sheep.
GP: Dwight, for one. (brief pauseMan, this is difficult. (brief pauseMaybe Ricardo, bring in a little Spanish flair … and the third, you know, probably Penelope. Seems like a good sheep name.
FH: If you don’t release a beer called Dwight, Ricardo, and Penelope now, gonna be a little disappointed.

FH: Is it more difficult now to enjoy beer now that you’re making it every day, cleaning tanks, etc.?
GP: It’s definitely different. I went to my first beer fest on the other side of that table for the first time in five years [FoBAB in Chicago]. It was still great, but it definitely changed the experience, being a part of the industry. I think I enjoy well-crafted beers much more now because I have an idea of what it takes to make them. You look at barrel-aged beers, but you realize this brewery had to make this beer, sit on it for nine months, pay for the barrel, the [Quality Control], all of that.

Friday nights, I generally don’t drink beer. My wife loves wine, so we’ll have a nice bottle. Bourbon and scotch are easy go-tos for me. Overall, I just like good-flavored alcohol.

FH: Any bourbon/scotch recommendations?
GP: I’m really diggin’ Highland Park for scotch right now. Their 18-year is crazy. [I drink it] whenever I can get my hands on it, which is very rarely because it’s really expensive.

Sheeps Glass

Pauly is originally from Manitowoc County, so “that” inevitably came up.

GP: Home of the very famous Avery Auto Shop.

It’s been a trip, growing up a part of it, knowing a lot of the characters personally. Judge Willis used to drive me around. I was friends with his daughter. After a good game, we’d get orange slices from the judge. Just seeing him in that stage and how everything was presented was kind of surreal.

It was fun, too; the local paper would kind of do a “True and False” and “Here’s what they didn’t say.” We got a great glimpse of what really happened. There were a lot of mistakes, [but] who knows at the end of the day what really went down.

FH: Have you ever done the Frankie’s Challenge at Frankie’s Pub in Sheboygan?
GP: I have not. I am a huge of food challenges, but I haven’t quite made it there. (Here’s what we’re talking about)
FH: Which ones have you done?
GP: There’s the football in Chicago. It’s at Kaiser Tiger, and it is just a meat bomb. The burger comes out looking like a football, and I failed. Thankfully, I fail most of them. I don’t think I’d be proud of completing most of the ones I do.
FH: What was the last one you completed?
GP: It was a hot wing challenge down in Milwaukee. Heat, I can do usually.
FH: The thing with heat is, if you have one, you might as well eat ’em all.
GP: Oh, yeah, you’re in.

FH: Ask yourself a question, then answer it.
GP: Let’s see …

GP: As breweries get bigger, it’s often tough for them to have the flexibility to make new beers. How are we trying to stay true that, and what are we doing to do as we keep moving?
GP:
Our focus is shifting in two ways. One: I’ve been wanting to get into blends for a long time. I love the Cuvee philosophy and style; so, as our barrel program expands, we’re going to be able to do a lot more of those and just save a barrel here and there. We’re also moving up to a much larger system, but we also purchased a two-barrel pilot system. We now have 60 gallons to play with, that I plan on brewing on every Monday. We have our first taproom now, so it gives us a place to put it out there and get customer feedback.

FH: What beer do you bring to meet somebody for the first time?
GP: I’d say, generally Cashmere Hammer, our nitro rye stout. If you’re a dark beer fan, you’ll usually like that beer, If you’re not a beer fan, it’ll be an interesting one being it’s one of three bottled breweries in the country to not bottle nitrogen, so it’s just a fun show and tell. If they don’t like it, I’ll drink it. It works.

FH: There’s a man in a parallel universe named Pauly Grant, and he’s the complete opposite of you. What’s he like?
GP: Wow, this is either going to be very depricating or very puff-out-the-chest.

He’s probably naturally very outgoing. Usually, we like to get out there and do fun and zany, but usually it’s well thought-out fun and zany. He’s probably a little more “fly by the seat of his pants.” He would most likely have a gluten allergy, and hate cheese with a passion.

FH: Speaking of cheese, what pisses you off about Packers fans?
GP: I love my brethren. Packers fans are always very loyal, win or lose, they’ve always supported. The last couple of years, you started to hear booing at times. It’s a negativity we’ve never had as a fan base. I’m hoping that goes away, but I’ll take the rest of it.

FH: Why do you think that is? It seems like they’re still a competitive team, which I get that Packers fans are used to —
GP: I think people are forgetting the Don Majikowski years. We’re too far removed, but those of us who are older still remember those days. Anything is better, whether it be Favre drugged up or Favre bad, Rodgers getting in there … even Rodgers with a broken leg is better than Don Majikowski. I think people now are just so used to the Packers winning, they forget how incredible they are, whether or not they come home with a ring. It’s very easy to be a Packers fan.

Top Brews

FH: What’s new from 3 Sheeps? What’s hot?
GP: We’re still flying high with the bottled nitrogen beer. The Cashmere Hammer is still a major seller. People really seem to be not just enjoying the fact that it’s nitrogen but the beer underneath it.

We just released, in the taproom, a blackberry tart wheat ale on nitrogen. It cascades beautifully; it’s a nice purple hue; it smells, tastes, beatiful. It’s 3.2 percent [alcohol content]. We’ll be getting that out in a few months, once we get packaging.

We’ve been putting beer into barrels and souring. I haven’t wanted to package them in my current facility, because I don’t want to take a chance, so they’re sitting there in a corner. Our new building — we have a new 10,000 square foot building with a taproom — is only for sours. The other is a clean facility for all of our mainstays.

FH: Is that a requirement to make sours work?
GP: It is really easy to infect a brewery. Bacteria can be difficult to clean. Once it’s in a building, it’s really hard to get rid of it. Keeping a steel curtain between your sours and your clean production just saves you a lot of headaches. The bacteria will eat the sugars that the yeast can’t, so the only way you’ll find out you have a problem is if your lab is very robust (which we have, thankfully) or if you have bottles that start popping in market … and that’s no bueno —
FH: To put it one way.
GP: — so we don’t want to take a chance. We’re going to isolate everything. We’re not going to mess around with it.

What’s a thing you make now that has nothing to do with beer?
GP: I really enjoy making a gourmet egg sandwich.
FH: An egg sandwich? Make me an egg sandwich.
GP: It definitely involves some very good, aged cheddar. Usually, it’s an English muffin format or some good sourdough bread. If you go the scrambled egg route, it gives you a little more freedom to add vegetables. It always includes some good fried onions, often times green peppers, other vegetables that we might have in the kitchen. Saute those for a while, mix in the egg, some different seasonings and spices. If you like it, maybe a little cream cheese. Throw it together, and you have to top it with hot sauce.
FH: Hot sauce!
GP: I have an entire cupboard of hot sauce. My family knows, if they see a hot sauce, they bring it home. We have our pick of the litter, whether it be a ghost pepper style, a citrus style, a Verde. There’s always a right hot sauce for the right occasion.

What’s your favorite one?
GP: I can’t answer that–
FH: It’s like asking who your favorite kid is?
GP: –or your favorite beer.
FH: How about the one you have that’s the hardest to get a hold of.
GP: There’s a hot sauce maker out of Chicago called Mojave … or at least I think, I haven’t had it in a while … they make extra hot hot sauce, that has so much flavor to it, it’s unbelievable. Normally, it gets so hot you just can’t taste anything, but they manage to keep that heat but it is just a full meal inside that hot sauce.


RELATED: Read about how well 3 Sheeps Hoppy Spice pairs with an Angry Bird, or the Wisconsin beer after which our whippet is named.