John Laffler and Dave Bleitner
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.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.