Recently, Sam and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. It was one of the more unique times in our lives to try to figure out some creative and worthwhile way to celebrate during a pandemic. We didn’t have any concrete plans. We are still very good friends, so really having an evening out together without our 4-year-old is an occasion enough for us. But you have to do something to mark the occasion, so we drove to the city to see what we could find to do.
After a few impromptu stops, we realized it was getting on in the afternoon and we needed to land someplace. We were in Lincoln Park, when I remembered reservations are required for Off Color Brewing’s Mousetrap’s taproom, and I know the spots seem to go quickly. Luckily, we were in the neighborhood; I snagged the last available slot for 5 p.m., and we found a spot nearby. Off Color’s reservations last an hour and a half, and you pay $25 for the table, which goes toward your beer purchase.
I love Off Color beer, and I have tried, during the course of this column, to recommend it as much as possible. Off Color was one of the breweries in Chicago that took awhile to settle on a plan they felt safe with that also would honor the ever-changing requirements of the city of Chicago for establishments that do not serve food, as Off Color does not.
This is where things get interesting. First, I don’t remember this person’s name, but they killed it, were super helpful, welcoming and had some rock solid chat but not too much — you know because of the masks and all that. We had a great time and enjoyed a warm Chicago afternoon on the city’s near North Side. So, of the litany of different packaged beer we could buy, they had one bucket that jumped out at me, the Beer for Stuff package, which was $40 for a literal bucket of excellent beers. The package included two beers each for Beers for Golf, Beers for Tacos and Beers for Beaches, as well as one beer each of Beer for Burgers and Beer for Brunch. All were 16-ounce cans. It is hard to recommend a group of people to do anything now, but a small group of four to six meeting up at the Off Color Mousetrap patio is a fantastic idea while it is still warm enough outside. So, this column is devoted to recommending the beers we had as we celebrated our anniversary.
Beer for Golf is Off Color’s version of an Arnold Palmer, which traditionally is half sweetened black tea and half lemonade. If I go to a restaurant that has fountain drinks that also has unsweetened tea, I make this every time. Off Color’s version is a Belgian witbier with black tea and lemon added. I brought a can back for Derek Yarno, of Kankakee, who is an avid golfer, because I knew he would love this beer. It’s only 4.5 percent ABV and would work perfectly in a cooler in the back of a golf cart.
Beer for Tacos is Off Color’s take on a classic margarita with the lime and salt on the rim of the glass. Off Color Brewing is well known for its “sour” beers that feature wild fermentation and barrel aging these tart and funky beers. Beer For Tacos is a Gose-style beer, which traditionally adds salt to the beer to give it a refreshing quality, so if salt is in the classic drink, then the gose is a perfect beer style to emulate it. Off Color adds kaffir lime leaf, key lime, orange and pink Himalayan salt to the mix to make a very refreshing beer.
Beer for Beaches is its take on the cocktail Sex on the Beach. I am not familiar with this drink, so I will have to take their word for it. This was Sam’s favorite beer in the bucket, and we had one to take home with us, which she saved to drink in the pool later that week. Off Color adds peach, cranberry, pineapple and lemon juice to mimic the taste of the cocktail its based on, which they add to a 6 percent Farmhouse or Saison ale as it is listed on Untappd. Off Color calls it a Beach House-style ale, which I did now know was a thing, but it is now.
Beer for Brunch is a stand-up version of the staple drink of brunch goers everywhere, the mimosa. A mimosa is usually orange juice mixed with champagne, which is a delightful enterprise all on its own. Off Color’s concoction is based on a Berliner Weisse, slightly tart kettle sour wheat beer, with orange juice and chardonnay grape juice added. The slightly tart quality of the berliner weisse tartness is what gives the champagne sort of kick to this beverage.
Beer for Burgers rounds out the group as probably my favorite beer of the bunch. Beer for Burgers is a take on the barroom go-to “drink,” the boilermaker, which is a shot of whiskey dropped into a glass of beer. I do not believe I have ever done this, but I have had beer and whiskey in a single sitting, so I think that counts. The Chicago version of this is called the Chicago Handshake, which is a shot of the infamous Malort and a 12-ounce bottle of Old Style or Pabst if you are feeling fresh. Off Color’s version here is a Helles Bock beer aged in Bourbon Barrels to give it the whiskey sort of kick to an already strong lager.
So, we enjoyed a few of the beers from the bucket of beer they brought us. We had dinner at Goose Island Brewpub on Clyborn and had a great night. Thanks, Off Color, for the odd but delightful memories sharing these quirky beers on your patio.
Beer for Tacos from Off Color Brewing
ABV: 4.8 percent
Style: Sour, Gose
Brewery’s notes: “You know what sunshine makes us think of? Tacos. You know what tacos make us think of? Margaritas. So, we made a tart wheat beer, added kaffir lime leaf, key lime, orange and pink Himalayan salt. All it’s missing is the two-hour wait for the Big Star patio. And tacos.”
Where to buy: Binny’s in Orland Park in a four pack of 16-ounce cans for $9.99. I routinely see this series of beers at The Open Bottle in Tinley Park for the same price. I could not find Beer for Beaches or Beer for Burgers anywhere outside of the taproom in Chicago.