Logan Square (and Chicago, of course) is home to a stirring craft brewing scene. And folks in the neighborhood love craft beer because of breweries such as Off Color Brewing (@OffColorBrewing, 3925 W. Dickens Ave.) and the entrepreneurs behind its operations.
Opened by John Laffler and Dave Bleitner, Off Color Brewing currently offers two regular brews: Troublesome and Scurry, and they’re both fantastic.
Beer Is What They Do Best
I visited Off Color during a Saturday brewery tour (their second ever, actually) for a taste or two and a chat with Laffler and Bleitner. The owners tag-teamed an hour-long tour, taking nearly 35 eager fans of all things brew through the brewing process. Along the way, they highlighted their brewing philosophies, history and upcoming developments.
The pair also went in-depth about the building and its place in the neighborhood. They said they enjoy the industrial yet friendly area, surrounded by parks and families. They added that price also was important, as their space offers a considerable value compared to other neighborhoods.
Laffler and Bleitner delivered a relaxingly informative tour, and we all laughed along the way. The duo has an affinity for pets, including a dog named Hops, and they named their tanks after old pets: Lady, Sam, George and Waffles.
At Off Color Brewing, what’s most important is the beer. So important, actually, that despite the excellent biergarten space, the owners are not planning to open a brewpub or taproom. They plan to keep Off Color Brewing ultra-local.
“We both worked at big breweries, and we don’t want to do that anymore,” Laffler says. “Our focus is in how to make beer the best that we can.”
Now, about the brews:
Troublesome | 4.5% ABV
The owners lauded this off-color hybrid wheat brew for its distinctive tartness, achieved by blending two beers: a standard wheat and a stronger brew fermented with lactobacillus. The result is an intense flavor, bursting tartness on the front and back of the tongue while maintaining a relatively light mouthfeel. With almost the consistency and appearance of a standard Belgian but twice the carbonation, Troublesome is actually quite a refreshing surprise. Drinkability is aided by the relatively low ABV and the fact that the tartness and bubbles carry themselves down the gullet.
Scurry | 4.5% ABV
Scurry is more of a slow-drinker despite the identical ABV. Heavy molasses and walnut flavors make an impact throughout Scurry’s entire flavor spectrum. The mouthfeel is still lighter than one would expect for a beer with such a nutty and roasty nose. As with the Troublesome, the carbonation is moderately high. In Scurry, it works to dissolve the flavors on your tongue and lift out smokey, burnt and woody nuances that might be lost in a flatter brew. There’s no molasses impact on the back of your tongue, hence the light mouthfeel, so many of the flavors make an impact where you’d normally expect tart and sour to make an appearance. This characteristic makes Scurry wildly interesting and uncharacteristically drinkable for its style.
(Bonus): 15 Feet | 3.5% ABV
I dropped by Longman and Eagle (@LongmanAndEagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.) to have a more intimate experience with this strangely crispy smoked wheat beer ($5, served in snifter). Keeping in mind the session-style 3.5% ABV 15 Feet is one of the most drinkable beers I’ve enjoyed in a while. Despite this, it doesn’t lack mild and subtle tastes. As with the others, the mouthfeel is delicate and the carbonation is elevated, making the 15 Feet especially bright and vivid on the tongue. The sheer refreshment of drinking 15 Feet is juxtaposed by an intense smokiness. The smoke is not burnt or ashed but more along the lines of heated wood.
Off Color represents one of those excellent craft efforts to be distinctive without being outrageous. Each beer produced is eclectic, nuanced and curious, lacking the pretension and forcefulness that plague what comes out of other breweries. Off Color Brewery itself adds a tinge of color and culture to our neighborhood, with two owners spearheading an interesting and valuable business in Logan Square.
“There’s a balance point between being different and just being gimmicky,” Laffler says. “And that’s always a fine balance.”
Learn more about Off Color Brewing and get regular updates on their Saturday tours ($10 per person), typically held at 2 pm.