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Logan Square brewers hoping to serve up beers not tasted in 500 years

John Laffler (L) Dave Bleitner are opening brewery called 'Off Color Brewery' this spot 3900 block west Dickens. | Tom

John Laffler (L) and Dave Bleitner are opening a brewery called "Off Color Brewery" at this spot in the 3900 block of west Dickens. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 29, 2012 6:35AM



Two brewers setting up shop on the West Side are breathing life into a couple of German beers last served some 500 years ago.

Sort of like Jurassic Park with a head on it.

John Laffler and Dave Bleitner hope to resurrect the brews and conduct all sorts of beer experiments at Off Color Brewery in the West Logan Square warehouse they’re currently rehabbing.

Laffler, 31, just gave notice he’ll be leaving his beer research and development gig with Goose Island (He once sat in a room for three days experimenting with vanilla beans.). And his partner, Dave Bleitner, 29, recently left his job brewing at Two Brothers in Warrenville.

The two met while studying beer at the Siebel Institute in Lincoln Park.

Bleitner studied abroad in Germany and has always been fascinated with German beers. He extensively researched the long forgotten German brews.

Laffler has won international brewing awards. His job at Goose was to bring such esteem to the brand by creating specialty and seasonal beers.

And he has a following: five groups of 60 people who each shelled out $75 recently to attend a beer tasting and talk he gave.

Add the words beer and Chicago to his name and Google spits more than 80,000 results.

The first of the beers they resurrected is a wheat beer they call Ampel Weiss (4.2 percent alcohol). There’s not much like it on the market, but when pressed for a comparison Laffler said the refreshing wheat beer is “like Blue Moon with more personality.” The second beer is a yet-to-be named dry brown ale with hints of honey and molasses. Both beers will be sold year round, and several seasonals are in the works.

The German beers fell off the map when the German government began regulating how beer was made about 500 years ago.

“We aren’t beer archeologists, but we have a good understanding how the beer was supposed to taste,” said Laffler.

Expect beer aromas to start wafting out of their 7,500 foot facility early next year. Its arched wooden roof, wood rafters, and cinder block walls are nestled next to Metra tracks near Armitage and Pulaski.

A group of 30 beer-centric investors are behind the operation, including one “who seemed more interested in having the business card than returns,” said Bleitner. “People are passionate about beer,” said Bleitner.

Several unsolicited emails from potential interns sat in Laffler’s inbox hours after word of their new business got out Tuesday.

The name Off Color Brewery stems from the fact that the pair have off-kilter personalities mixed with a dash of dark humor.

The trait is evident in an upcoming beer Laffler has tentatively titled “I Think That Stripper Really Liked Me.”

They hope to have their first batch of beer in stores and on tap by March.

The duo expect to sell every drop of beer they make in the first three months, but then the real test will begin as their “new kid on the block” charm wears off and the quality of their beer takes over.

“This is our chance to do what we want for ourselves in the way we want to do it,” said Laffler.

“I’m terrified, but I feel alive,” said Laffler.



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