By Brian Skaggs
Price Range : $6 - 10
Brewed in: Chicago, Illinois Format: 355 ml bottles, on tap ABV: 4.3% Availability: year-round(ish) in Chicagoland and possibly 23+ states
Where do we go from here?
The words are coming out all weird! Where are you now, integrity, when I need you?
Well, Dear Reader, perhaps I just had the bends and I was really sinking that low. So. Let us depart the barrel-aged imperial stout/corprocratic times of the recent past. Let’s walk or bike approximately six hundred fifty meters south-southeast of Goose Island Clybourn for our new adventure. Shall we?
We’re off—off to the Off Color Brewing taproom. Founded by John Laffler—the brewer who headed the GI barrel program before and after the AB InBev buyout—and former Two Brothers brewer Dave Bleitner, Off Color started boiling, fermenting and souring at their Logan Square(ish) brewery in 2013. Their Lincoln Park taproom, the one we just walked to, adorably named the Mousetrap, opened in November 2017.
Logically, the next couple hundred thousand words would blather on about the wonderful melty choco-mallow-graham-ness of Off Color’s Dino S’mores imperial stout, barrel-aged version, right? Or maybe Class War, their sublime take on the super-common Gotlandsdricka style brewed with rye, juniper, hand-smoked pear wood barley, and the planet as a gunboat in a sea of fear. Or even perhaps—Eeek!—their High Life-meets-funky microbes collaboration with MillerCoors, finished with champagne (of beer) yeast.
Nope. If I’m lucky to ever have any of those beers—or any of their other idiosyncratic offerings that purposely, radically, and refreshingly do not include pale ales headed for the Subcontinent by boat—you’ll get those couple hundred thousand words.
OFF COLOR BREWING’s Troublesome, one of their first beers brewed five years ago, is a gose non-classically concocted from combining a wheat beer and an “overly acidic and funky” barley and oat (maybe?) beer one hundred percent fermented with Lactobacillus. Salt and coriander, the classic Leipziger gose ingredients, are added at the end of fermentation¹. This method must be at least twice as complicated as the normal overnight kettle-souring method most breweries use to create their Lactobacillus fermentations, as Off Color notes in their bottle copy (“and yes, it’s hard to make”).
Yet we, the drinkers, benefit. Greatly. This pale yellow malted, wheated, and oated beverage turns cloudy when you accidentally or purposefully dump in the swirled small yeast layer. Troublesome belies its moniker initially, like you’re sniffing the morning sunrise air on an isolated Gulf of Mexico beach with passionfruit and lemon yogurt just under your nose. The mouthfeel is an absolutely gorgeous lemon-black pepper tart cream soda with a faint lemony ceviche saltiness at the end.
Other beer scribes talk about good goses and Berliner weisses being “inviting,” and it’s a perfect descriptor for Troublesome—its tart/citrus/saline fullness encourages more and more drinks. Far from being scared that there’s nothing underneath, additional sips are needed to decipher how a beer style that’s sadly mistaken as so simple can be so complex and delicious. The low-ish alcohol content is not at all perceptible outside the induced euphoria of enjoying this scrumptious beverage. The citrusy/dark spicy coriander aromas and flavors show up as the beer warms, but there wasn’t much beer left at that point… and perhaps that’s where Troublesome gets its name. If I had a six-pack instead of only one sad lonely bottle, I would have guzzled all 2.13L at once!
Where do we go from here? Maybe lying in the Mousetrap with my drip feed of Troublesome on²? —B.S.
1Based on some recent misadventures baking sourdough bread, it seems logical that salt is added at the end of fermentation as it inhibits our sourdough microbe buddies S. exiguous and L. sanfranciscensis. Do coriander’s terpenes and phenols evaporate off in a boil but add extra pleasant citrusy/spicy characteristics when added during fermentation? Plus, do cilantro haters think coriander beers taste like soap?
2Congratulations, all you North American Radiohead fans that were privileged to witness “The Bends” as a closer in their summer 2018 shows. Super crazy jealous.