Thursday, June 20, 2013

No-Frills Beer Thrills at Off Color Brewing

With a name like Off Color Brewing, a certain amount of abnormality is bound to be expected in everything you do, whether it's the beers you produce or events that you hold. Monday night's release party at the finally-up-and-running brewery in western Logan Square was no exception.

Arriving at the brewery, you'd never suspect at first glance (or second, or third) that it even IS a brewery. It's a warehouse. Not even a particularly pretty one. But like all good things, what's on the inside is what counts. Or, in this case, the beer produced by what (and who) is on the inside. Regardless, an air of irregularity seemed to spill out of the open bay door as the evening began.



Early on, the small crowd seemed a bit at a loss as to what do or even where to go. Walking into the mostly empty warehouse, with the brewhouse and fermentation tanks to the left, pallets, forklift and not-quite-ready-for-primetime bottling equipment to the right, you almost got the feeling that owners John Laffler and Dave Bleitner dropped everything a half hour earlier to prep for their guests. A couple bags of Munchies and plastic cups were laid out, kegs were tapped and placed around the warehouse and outside on the makeshift, top secret and nonexistent patio, and that was about it for amenities.

 


Not that that's a bad thing. It was actually quite refreshing. It left room to breathe and roam. No DJ with off-kilter headphones punching laptop keys while playing way-too-loud trendy tunes. No pretentious finger food. Not a single sticker or button promoting the almighty brand to be found.

Instead, attendees received a short speech describing the beers by self-proclaimed socially-awkward Bleitner, maybe four words by Laffler, and then nothing but time and space to let the beers speak for themselves.


On tap were two previously-released collaborations along with two new proprietary beers:
  • Tonnerre Neige - Sporting the highest ABV (8.0%) of the night, this saison, brewed with Three Floyds, could be dangerous in the wrong hands. A twist of tangerine.
  • Beer Geek Mus - A Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Mikkeller. Don't let the sessionable ABV (only 3.5%) fool you, the roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors are intense. However, the mouthfeel was a bit thin for my personal taste.
  • Scurry - An altbier with maltiness in spades, it paired well with the previously mentioned, uber-salty Munchies. Very little trace of the 5.3% ABV.
  • Troublesome - For me, and several others I talked to, Troublesome was the brewery's ambassador of the evening. A blend of a sour and, as Bleitner described it, a "uninteresting wheat," the lemon tartness and added salt fight your palate for dominance, both quenching and prodding your thirst at the same time.
While their guests mingled and sampled their wares, Laffler and Bleitner kept a fairly low profile, visiting with small groups and patiently explaining their vision for Off Color Brewing while letting their four beers, especially the two originals, have the spotlight. If you missed out on this opportunity to get familiar with Scurry and Troublesome, just wait a bit. Kegs will be heading out to select Chicago location as early as next week, and Off Color will start bottling this fall.

UPDATE:

Here's where you can find Off Color Brewing on tap in Chicago.