A decade ago, Grant Pauly and his 3 Sheeps Brewing began making beer in the basement of an old sock factory in Sheboygan – without a dedicated taproom to serve it in. This week, he and his team will celebrate its 10th anniversary as an integral part of the Wisconsin brewing scene.
Pauly’s first brewhouse was in a spot adjacent to Hops Haven Brew Haus, a building on 14th Street in Sheboygan where Wigwam once made socks. Two of his first beers – Waterslides IPA (then called Really Cool Waterslides) and Rebel Kent Amber (formerly Rebel Kent the First) – are still a big part of the lineup. “It was a great way to get going,” Pauly says. “We just kind of focused on brewing 10-barrel batches over and over, trying things and seeing what kind of brewery we wanted to be when we grew up. We did kegs only for the first year and a half before we started bottling.”
3 Sheeps built a fan base by distributing throughout Wisconsin, including at Hops Haven. In 2016, four years after brewing its first beers, 3 Sheeps opened a taproom and new brewery after in a former Coca-Cola distribution building. The sprawling space with picnic-style tables, a stage for live music and now even a golf simulator has proven popular among Badger State beer drinkers, and the brewery gives Pauly the potential to brew as much as 30,000 barrels a year.
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A Range of Styles
The first four beer styles in the 3 Sheeps portfolio (at a time when the hazy IPA craze was a few years away) were an IPA, an amber, a wit and a black wheat ale. The offering has grown from that varied bunch to include standout year round beers like the new 15-2 stout and Fresh Coast Juicy Pale Ale, a beer that changed things for 3 Sheeps when it was released in 2017.
“Fresh Coast (pale ale) is what really, from our core brand standpoint, gave us our true flagship. I love Wisconsin because people want hoppy beers, dark beers, ambers, pilsners and things like that. Fresh Coast came out and was an easy go-to for everybody. It allowed us to keep growing and filling up this building.”
The brewery drops dozens of limited releases each year, ranging from pastry stouts to all iterations of IPA to sour ales and slushy beers. It added a hard seltzer line, Cloudless, in early 2020.
But the barrel-aging program at 3 Sheeps is key reason why the brewery has gained a dedicated following over the past decade. It began with Midnight Bourbon Imperial Black Wheat in 2015 and continued with big stouts like the coconut-infused Paid Time Off and coffee bomb Uber Joe. The barrel program found a flagship of its own in 2017 with The Wolf, an exceptionally balanced barrel-aged imperial stout that is now released annually, with multiple variants a year.
“The idea of having a barrel-aged stout, we took our time with that,” explained Pauly. “We did a lot of experimentation with a lot of barrels. There weren’t a lot of resources available, so it was trial and error. Wolf is a perfect example of that, and that’s when our barrel program started to be appreciated. It got these legs underneath it and people started looking for our barrel-aged beers.”
The brewery is releasing two more barrel-aged beers to mark its 10-year anniversary. Once More Around the Sun is an imperial stout finished in 12-year Elijah Craig barrels. Double Digits is a bourbon barrel-aged stout made with vanilla from Uganda and cocoa nibs from Ghana. Both are available for presale and can be picked up at 3 Sheeps’ anniversary party this Saturday.
The Next 10 Years
Early local success was the foundation of 3 Sheeps, and don’t expect that to change.
“We love Wisconsin and want to grow with the state,” said Pauly. “We were brewery No. 64 (in Wisconsin) when we opened, and now the state is pushing 300. It was fun being a part of that growth to see what customers wanted. We live in a great state. We want to become ubiquitous with Wisconsin craft beer. We want to still be innovative and try new things and make beer that works for any occasion.”
3 Sheeps Anniversary Party Details
Where: 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. (1837 North Ave., Sheboygan)
When: Saturday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
What to Expect: Limited beer releases, anniversary beer pick up, food trucks, live music.