Off Color Brewing

Off Color logo

1460 N Kingsbury St, Chicago,
Illinois 60642


(312) 929-2916

First Visited

September 4, 2021

At some point John Laffler and Dave Bleitner. They did other stuff for a while and then they figured out they were better at making beer than at the other stuff. So that’s what they do now. They met while both studied at the oldest and most respected brewing school (of the two…and by the brewers that went to the one) in the US, the Siebel Institute, in 2008 and the brewery was envisioned while they both interned at Metropolitan Brewing afterwards.

John’s start came about when a particularly insightful ex-girlfriend pointed out that perhaps them moving to Portland for John to get a doctorate in something that made him cranky most of the time may not be the best idea. Since he was happier looking at all the little brewpubs and breweries there than the school itself, John enrolled in Siebel instead. After interning at Metropolitan Brewing, he was hired at Goose Island to scrub floors, and clean kegs. A while later they let him fiddle with the barrel program and do research and development brewing becoming the man responsible for many of their unique barrel-aged beers like Juliet and Madame Rose.

As for Dave, in 2008 he found out that he didn’t have a job trading options anymore. Unemployed and very drunk on his 25th birthday, Dave decided to enroll at the Siebel Institute, thinking worst-case scenario, it would be a cool vacation. After, he started interning at Metropolitan Brewing, where he and John began the plans for Off Color Brewing. Afterwards, the Institute of Brewing & Distilling awarded him the 2009 Worshipful Company of Brewers GCB award. After, Dave flew to England to accept the award and was jealous that the Lord Mayor of London got a firkin and all he got was a tankard. Dave, then, got a job at Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville which was 40 miles from his house, one way. After commuting 52,000 miles, he stopped driving to Warrenville and now drives to Logan Square which is 5 miles from his house, a vast improvement.

The way they chose to finance their operation has built another kind of network, made up of 37 investors — scientists, politicians, a box manufacturer, generally an eclectic group of people that act as a sounding board for specific needs, with no single investor owning more than 4% of the brewery, but supporting its success with everything they’ve got.

John and Dave officially opened their brewery in June 2013. The focus when they began operation was on brewing forgotten styles of beer, particularly those made in Germany before Reinheitsgebot (i.e. the Bavarian Purity Law) was proclaimed in the late 15th century, effectively condemning myriad styles of beer not made solely with barley, water, and hops.

The beers are brewed at their 7,500 sq ft warehouse at the western edge of Logan Square. The brewery is made up of a Dickens Production Brewery, consisting of  a 20 bbl Newlands two vessel brewhouse with various tanks which were named after dead childhood pets: 1 x 60 bbl Acer fermentor, 2 x 60 bbl ABT fermentors, 1 x 20 bbl GW Kent fermentor, 3 x 60 bbl GW Kent fermentors, 2 x 40 bbl GW Kent fermentors, 1 x 60 bbl GW Kent brite tank, 1 x 60 bbl ABT brite tank, 2 x 12 bbl farmboy rigged acid tanks, 1 x 30 bbl POS tank that is used for bacteria. The other equipment is a kegging machine, the KHS Kegboy two head keg cleaner/filler and a DMT Manual Keg Washer. The filter is a plate and frame filter with 3 attached wheels and one detachable wheel. Bottling is done using  a 6-head Meheen 12 ounce bottle filler from the year 2000 and a 4-head Meheen 750 mL bottle filler from the year 2016. 

The Mousetrap, a 150-seat taproom opened in Lincoln Park in mid-October 2017, as the demand for a taproom increased. While many taprooms and brewpubs can only sell products made on the premises, Mousetrap has a full tavern license, so they sell wine, beer, and spirits from various wine producers.

At the Mousetrap, the same Dickens Production Equipment – the 20 bbl Newlands two vessel brewhouse, with various tanks are used, but instead of a bunch of stainless steel tanks, they are a bunch of wood ones consisting of five 15-year-old former 58-hectoliter (58 hL) foeders (58 hectoliters is approximately 1,500 gallons, or about 100 standard-size kegs)  that were originally used in a winery in Piedmont, Italy. The foeders were made from Salvonian Oak, and were used for Barolo (Nebbiolo grapes). Alongside the foeders is a 34-hectoliter Calvados cask.

The Mousetrap is devoted to experimental projects and beers made with wild yeasts and bacteria, while the original location producing Off Color’s core lineup—mostly Apex Predator, a farmhouse ale that accounts for about 80 percent of the beer Off Color brews.

Off Color’s mascot is the grain mouse, “the only mammal that’s at the brewery more than us,” Laffler says. During the planning stages of the taproom, Laffler had been calling the place Meow Town (he likes cats). Dave Bleitner, the brewery’s cofounder, asked, “You’re not planning to do a cat bar, like those cat cafes, are you?” Laffler’s response was, “That’s a great idea!” Bleitner disagreed, and the name Mousetrap evolved from there.

We make beer. Sometimes we do other things but not as well.

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