Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A look at the new Off Color brewery

Posted By on 06.19.13 at 04:35 PM

A tank named George
Off Color Brewing, the new project from John Laffler (formerly of Goose Island) and Dave Bleitner (formerly of Two Brothers), has been in the works (more or less) since 2009, and there have been several opportunities to taste its collaboration beers over the past few months. But Monday was the official release of their two year-round beers, and they celebrated by opening up their brewery to the public and pouring not only those beers, but a couple collaboration brews as well.

To be more precise, they didn't exactly pour the beers. They put some kegs out, along with a bunch of plastic cups, and let people fend for themselves. Which seemed like a reasonable way to do things. The kegs were labeled, for the most part, though the fact that one keg of the Three Floyds/Off Color collaboration beer was labeled Thundersnow and the other Tonnerre Niege (French for "thundersnow") may have caused a little confusion. And one label was just a drawing of a mouse with the words "Off Color"—but a look at the top of the keg revealed that it was Beer Geek Mus, a collaboration with Mikkeller.

Anyway, on to the beers. The two being released were Troublesome, a gose, and Scurry, a kottbusser. Since those aren't styles that are likely to be familiar to the average beer drinker in this country, and because my coworker Philip Montoro did an excellent job explaining them in a blog post a few months ago, I'm going to quote him here.

A gose is a rare German beer—a slightly tart wheat brew from Leipzig and environs, similar to a Berliner weisse—and in Off Color's version it's actually two beers blended together. In Laffler's words, one is a "relatively boring, flabby wheat beer," and the other is a funky acid beer fermented solely with lactobacillus; Off Color pasteurizes the lacto portion so that the finished product is stable and consistent in the bottle and won't infect draft lines. They're also adding salt, as is traditional—a tiny amount, to give the beer an unctuous, creamy body without making it taste salty. A kottbusser is also German—a near extinct wheat beer from northern Prussia, says Laffler, that's made with honey, molasses, and oats.

Beer Geek Mus
The gose, Troublesome, is sour but not overwhelmingly so; it's citrusy, peppery, and refreshing, and while I'm not a big fan of sour beers, I could see it being good in hot weather. I thought I tasted salt, but that could have just been the power of suggestion. The kottbusser, Scurry, is less challenging but equally good. Medium-bodied, it smells of honey and tastes like it too, with a slight spiciness and maltiness.

Beer Geek Mus, the collaboration with Mikkeller, is a Russian imperial stout that weighs in at only 3.5 percent ABV. Maybe it was because of the low alcohol content, but it seemed a little thin to me. I got roasty coffee flavors and a bit of sourness, but not much else. My favorite beer of the evening was the Thundersnow/Tonnerre Neige, though it was a little difficult to taste because both of the kegs were so foamy. Spicy and citrusy with a mild yeasty funkiness, its tang balanced out the slight sweetness.

Off Color brewery

The beer garden area
  • Julia Thiel
  • The "beer garden" area (not open to the public—nor is the brewery, usually)

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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