Off Color Brewing Open House

July 19 2013 - 4:12 PM

Courtesy of the good folks at River North Beer Distributors, I was invited to attend an open house at the new Off Color brewery.  Off Color’s brewers, namely, former Goose Island brewer John Laffler and former Two Brothers brewer Dave Bleitner, are more aptly described as beer deconstructionists than as brewers.  Their beers announce the fact that these fermenters have little interest in making popular styles of beer; but, rather, their mission is to create beers that capture the essence of familiar styles but forge entirely new concepts.

With a brewery housed in a warehouse with a garage door and situated deep on Chicago’s west side, Off Color appears to be making a conscious effort to in every way possible separate themselves from the gaggle of new brewers populating the North Side within a mile or two of the lake.  Their beers certainly emulate such a contrast.  Guests were allowed to self-pour beers from various tap handles in various locations throughout the facility.  My first pour was of the Scurry, a 5% pils that would, by description, seem like ordinary fare.  Automatically, the palate is alerted to this beer’s singularity as it strikes the palate with strong acidity, a malty backbone and a herbaceous spiciness with a touch of sweetness.  Brewed with honey and molasses, this beer might remind drinkers of a light pils or an amber with caramel malts, but carries a pleasantly low density along with far more herbal character than an ordinary pils.

Similarly quirky, the Troublesome Gose is a bit sour and tart with a hint of spiciness to it.  This drinks almost like an Italian white wine and harbors a bit of creamy roundness. It hints at coriander and herbs.  I imagine this beer being an absolute hit in hot weather given its general airiness and refreshing palate-cleansing nature.

Next was the Three Floyds collaboration, the Tonneire Neige.  It features a hazy-yellow color and tastes of a slight nuttiness along with banana, peach, and spices.  It is richer and more creamy than the Gose.  Finally, the Beer Geek Mus it the most deconstructionist of all.  A Mikkeller collaboration described as an imperial porter or stout, depending on your source, it houses an ABV of – get this – 3.5%.   You couldn’t kill a goldfish on such a low abv.  Some “imperial” beer, right?  A buddy of mine called it a “skinny jeans porter”.  But make no mistake: one taste and you know this is a porter, and it is full of rich, smoky flavor but without the density of most porters, or other imperial beers for that matter.

Overall, Off Color has automatically distinguished themselves from the pack. Their beers may make casual drinkers a bit leery at first, as the beers have unique styles and ingredients.  But their roster will clearly and undoubtedly appeal to a large section of the beer community that is fed up with huge ABV’s, excessive hops, dense bodies, and an overall lack of imagination.  There’s no denying that Off Color has launched its operations with a clear vision of the kind of bold innovations they desire to craft, and they seem poised to position themselves as sessionable artisans, an unprecedented spot in the brewing world.

I also note that I hope Off Color does more events like these, as their beer garden/patio in back of the tank room is surrounded by a wall and was a pleasant place to drink and mingle as a storm rolled into town.