Just south of Chicago in Munster, Indiana, 3 Floyds Brewery attracts a cult following for beers like Zombie Dust (a gushing American pale ale) and Dark Lord, a Russian imperial stout released once a year at an annual festival called Dark Lord Day. But as of 2016, 3 Floyds brews up more than just beer: owner Nick Floyd also writes his own comic book.
“We’ve always had characters for our brand,” says Floyd. Alpha King, the protagonist and title character of the series, is also the name of the brewery’s American pale ale. Arctic Panzer Wolf is their double IPA; Big Tiddy Assassin is their Flanders red ale. “Barnaby Struve, our vice president and one of the most book-read people I’ve met, said that we should write down the fucking mythology.”
What better art medium for a loud, colorful, and irreverent brewery than a comic book? The series tells the story of a brewer in Munster who creates such a fantastic beer that he raises the ire of the Rice King, who transports him to a different dimension.
Conveniently, Struve knew the heads of both Marvel and DC (two of the biggest comic book publishers), because Chicago’s comic conventions often coincided with 3 Floyds’ annual release of Dark Lord. Floyd also connected with Simon Bisley, the artist behind Sláine. He then asked Brian Azzarello, the writer for 100 Bullets as well as several issues of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, who might make a good co-author.
“What about me?” Azzarello said. Unbeknownst to Floyd, the acclaimed writer often hung out in Chicago and drank Alpha King.
“You’re writing Batman,” Floyd said. “You’re a little out of our league.”
But Azzarello was hooked. Every week or two, he and Floyd met, drank, and hashed out the storyline; after that, Azzarello structured it for a comic. Floyd gave approval, added descriptions, and then sent it to Simon Bisley in the UK to start the actual art. The final product was published by Image, which also published The Walking Dead.
“We’re looking to do five issues a year, and then we’ll do a hardbound version with footnotes,” Floyd says.
Alpha King represents more than an amusing novelty. At a time when many breweries dilute their brands and products by selling out or growing too quickly, 3 Floyds invests in their roots. The comic makes their brand accessible to an entirely new audience and differentiates them in a competitive market. As the beer industry continues to expand, 3 Floyds stands out as a positive example for creative, independent thinking.