It’s easy to look at craft brewers as a single group of people with the same intent, the same ethos, the same vision for the future. But part of the goal for Good Beer Hunting, and this podcast in particular, is to defy that conventional wisdom. Sure, craft brewers all share a technical definition under the Brewers Association, but that’s rarely the way a brewer would talk about themselves. Once you get past the marketing, or the trends, or the consumer demands of craft beer, things get more complicated and much more honest. Given a chance, most brewers are relieved to put down the burden of carrying the craft beer banner and instead talk about something more personal, something with more curiosity and life than any definition, or trend, or cynical debate, or hot take could possibly reveal.
If you’ve sat down at the bar with me, and many of you probably have at this point, you’ve probably heard me talk about how breweries often seem like they’re all part of the same craft beer mania that’s driving the current market toward double-digit growth in the past decade. In reality, many of them are part of a story that’s much longer, more personal, and bends toward a slower, more interesting future. Some breweries make beer, some make money, and plenty do both. And some will change or grow so slowly that it’ll take a generation before you really see the path they’re on.
I think today’s guest is one of those slow, but steady movers. How slow and how steady is yet to be seen. But since his days at Goose Island, where he was known for his management of the barrel program, John Laffler has gone on to start one of Chicago’s most intriguing breweries. The beers are often far ahead of any trends. The branding is unique to the point of perplexing. And after some early lessons out of the gate, they’re finding a groove all their own. They’ve somehow become one of Chicago’s favorite everyday six-pack brewers and one of the nation’s most exotic artisan brewers at the same time. And a lot of it has to do with what John calls “otherness."