John Laffler and Dave Bleitner Credit: Philip Montoro

After four years of scheming, former Goose Island “innovation brewer” John Laffler and former Two Brothers brewer Dave Bleitner are finally in business, juicing up obscure or borderline-extinct traditional European styles with the anything-goes creativity of American craft brewing. They’ve chosen a grain mouse as their mascot, and their two year-round beers are a kottbusser called Scurry (“like an ale version of a dunkel,” says Bleitner) and a gose called Troublesome (similar in flavor to a Berliner weisse, which they’ve also got on deck). On a May visit to their brew house, I tried their 15 Feet grätzer (a fruity, toasty Polish smoked wheat ale, with its smoke from apple wood) and an espresso-dark “Russian imperial stout” brewed to a comically low 3.5 percent alcohol (the style often hits double digits) to give it the nutty, roasty flavor of an excellent porter but the clean, light body of an all-day session beer; its name, Beer Geek Mus, riffs on Mikkeller’s beloved Beer Geek stouts and on the Danish word for “mouse.” Also in the planning stages are a tripel, a saison, and a Belgian “Valentine’s Day” ale brewed with flowers (it’ll be called “I’m Sorry”). In case you’re wondering: Most of Off Color’s tanks are named after the brewers’ dead pets, and Waffles was a Belgian sheepdog. The others are Lady, Sam, George, Salt, and Pepper.