According John Laffler, the brewmaster at Chicago’s Off Color Brewing, there are very few perfect beers in the world. There’s Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 3 Floyds Alpha King and, holding a special place in Laffler’s heart, Miller High Life.
“From a technical standpoint,” he says, “High Life is as good as it gets. It’s the epitome of large-batch brewing.”
It should come as little surprise, then, that Off Color’s latest limited release pays homage to the Champagne of Beers: Eeek! is a unique brew that reimagines High Life through the Off Color looking glass. It will be available—on tap and in a limited number of 750mL bottles—this Sunday at Off Color’s Lincoln Park taproom, The Mousetrap, when it opens its doors at 11 a.m.
Eeek! is fruit of Laffler’s longstanding High Life obsession: after years of scheming with friends who work at Miller, Laffler and his team were invited to make their own homebrew version of High Life at Miller’s headquarters in Milwaukee. This culture exchange inspired Eeek’s conception, with the original batch getting a limited premiere in 2016. Laffler knew from first swig that a single batch would not be enough, so, with his personal stash depleted, he decided it was time for the public to experience Eeek! once more.
The mutual admiration between Miller and Off Color may come as a surprise to some but, according to Laffler, beef between big breweries and their craft counterparts is a myth.
“Beer is beer,” he says. “We don’t have to fight about it.” Plus, says Laffler, there’s no reason why the drinking public can’t have the best of both worlds—nuanced brews from craft operations and workhorse beers from large-batch brewers. It’s a philosophy Laffler personally subscribes to. “I’m thinking about beer from the moment I wake up the in the morning,” he says. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to kvetch about beer any more. I want a cold High Life.”
As for how Eeek! compares to it’s big-batch sibling, Laffler says no one will confuse one for the other. “If High Life is a golden retriever,” he says, “then Eeek! is a pet otter.”
Instead, those who make their way to The Mousetrap for a taste of Eeek! can expect a floral brew with notes of citrus with a crisp, bitter finish—recognizable, to the discerning hop head, as High Life-like. Laffler’s one regret with the project is that he couldn’t find clear glass bottles to sell Eeek! in. The tinted bottles he ended up with will go for $20 a pop on Sunday—a little pricier than a 40-ounce High Life but, Laffler hopes, just easy going down.
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