The best beer I’ve ever had: Erica Graholm

As part of my ongoing series, The best beer I’ve ever had, I put the call out to other beer folks and ask them to detail their “best beer” experiences for me.

For today’s installment, Erica Graholm, Brewer at Steam Whistle, shares her story. 


I‘m really lucky, I’ve had a lot of beer “moments” in my life. Trying my first Weissbier in Germany 10 years ago is the earliest one I can remember. I didn’t know beer could taste like that!

It’s the experience that turns a great beer into a beer moment though, and I’ll even go one step further and suggest that the experience is heightened when there is an element of surprise involved. Don’t get me wrong, trying five different versions of Bourbon County Stout at a tasting led by the brewers at Goose Island last year was absolutely incredible, but I knew I was in for a great time when I bought the ticket months earlier.

I was in Chicago on vacation the year before and my partner told me the one thing we absolutely could not miss was a visit to the Three Floyds brewpub about 45 minutes outside the city. It seemed like a long way to go and transportation was an issue since neither of us wanted to DD. I had tried one or two other Three Floyds beers before and was under the mistaken impression that the reputation of the brewery was a bit inflated.

It was a rainy day in late October, middle of the afternoon on a weekday, so the brewpub was nearly empty when we arrived. Looking around at the eclectic “heavy metal meets comfy cottage” décor while we waited for beers, I was already glad we had come. Prompt, friendly service? Check. I took the waiter’s suggestion and ordered a pint of their hoppy pale ale Zombie Dust. When I took the first sip of that beer, it was a revelation. Layers and layers of citrusy hoppy goodness that would not quit. Perfectly balanced, and at 6.5% somehow still light and refreshing. Halfway through that pint I decided I was going to drink my weight in Zombie Dust. If you had told me drinking too much of that beer would literally turn you into a zombie, I probably wouldn’t have cared – that’s how delicious it was. Of course pretty soon we needed snacks. Octopus confit with baked grapefruit and almonds was not something I expected to see on the menu at a brewpub, but it was equally outstanding. The cold rainy weather and the trek to get there didn’t matter anymore. I doubt I drank my full weight of Zombie Dust that afternoon/evening/night/I can’t remember when we left, but I got pretty close.

Now I know, don’t judge a brewery until you’ve been there and tried the beer at its freshest!

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