Rising Star Brewer John Laffler of Off Color Brewing - Biography

Chicago, IL

May 2015

The pursuit of a doctorate more often leads to, well, a doctorate. But sometimes—peculiar, significant, life-changing times—it can lead to the realization that the doctorate may well be a mistake, and an entirely separate course of action is the answer. For John Laffler, the pursuit of a PhD. in Portland, Oregon, ultimately gave way to the pursuit of something that interested him just a little bit more (and, luckily, surrounded him in his new city): craft beer.

As Laffler found himself increasingly drawn to the breweries and brewpubs of Portland, his interests shifted from academic to fermented. Still geared toward an academic course, Laffler enrolled in Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology to study the art and craft of beer (and met future partner Dave Bleitner).

After interning at Metropolitan Brewing, Laffler was hired at Goose Island, where he went from scrubbing floors to actual brewing, eventually let loose on the barrel program and research and development. Not only did Laffler have a hand in some of Goose Island’s most beloved beers (including the power-packed Bourbon County Stout), he honed his own approach to brewing, which was as much about wandering the local farmers market and talking up beekeepers as it was about the science of fermentation. But with enough time in big breweries between them, Laffler and Bleitner reunited to open Off Color Brewing, where Laffler’s colorfully off-kilter (but no doubt academically meticulous) approach to brewing has free range—freer, as the brewery continues to build toward its 8000 barrel-max volume. In 2015, the pair earned a StarChefs Rising Star Brewers Award for their work at Off Color Brewing.