3 Floyds is one of the many limited-distribution breweries around the country with a rabid cult following, in this case originally driven largely by the one-day-a-year release of its Russian imperial stout, Dark Lord. However, there is another beer that many people might consider to have really put 3 Floyds on the map, and in a way it upstaged even the coveted Dark Lord upon its initial bottling release.
That beer is known as Zombie Dust, a massively hopped American pale ale, available year-round1 in 12-ounce bottles and on draft.
As with many of 3 Floyds beers, the artwork for the label is over the top, in your face, and heavily influenced by sci-fi graphic novel styling.2 Unique would be an understatement but I kind of like it.3 It proclaims that “this intensely hopped and gushing undead pale ale will be ones only respite after the zombie apocalypse.” Let’s hope it lives up to the idea behind that claim, but that we never have to put it to the test.
As soon as I open my first bottle of Zombie Dust I can’t help myself and take a quick whiff of the bottle to be pleasantly greeted by a blast of hops, which is a promising start. It pours a hazy golden orange into a tulip glass and releases a solid inch of creamy head that gradually recedes to a substantial layer of foam on the surface and quite a bit of lacing. There are bubbles constantly surfacing from the bottom of the glass, hinting at ample carbonation.
The bouquet on this beer is really nice and subtly complex, with a huge citrus-forward profile of lemons and grapefruit. There’s also something going on that reminds me of pine needles, and I can pick up a little papaya sweetness if I close my eyes and concentrate really hard. All in all, it smells amazing.
My first sip of Zombie Dust follows the nose pretty closely with a heavy dose of citrus and piny hops washing across the palate and a fair amount of that lovely high-alpha-hop bitterness on the back end. There is not a ton of malt backbone present which leaves the flavors a little thin and abrupt on the finish. That is a little disappointing since the hops lead you think this is an IPA but appropriate for a pale ale in my opinion. I don’t find the taste quite as complex as the aroma, although it might be a little too subtle for me, but it is quite apparent that this is not what most people would consider an American pale ale. This is an IPA in sheep’s clothing.
The carbonation and mouthfeel on this beer are really superb. The lively carbonation helps create a certain creaminess in the mouth, but a little bit of sharpness on the tongue, probably assisted by the high acidity of the hops involved here.
As Zombie Dust settles in the glass, I notice that there is some visible sediment on the bottom and the beer has clarified somewhat, likely attributed to the large amount of hop residue present. The carbonation and flavor does seem to be fading the longer this sits (and the more I write), so I pick up the pace to kill this zombie before it’s too late.