Like any trained chef, Jared Rouben knows a thing or two about the importance of using fresh ingredients, be it fragrant nectarines or plucked-from-the-garden herbs. But rather than create meals with his bounty of finds, he’s brewing palate-pleasing beers at Moody Tongue, a Chicago-based brewery he opened after spending much of his career working in the food industry.
Prior to Moody Tongue, the Culinary Institute of America-trained former chef worked in some of the nation’s hottest restaurants, including Michelin-starred Martini House in Napa and Per Se in New York City. But after moving to Chicago he decided to trade in his chef’s whites for the brewer’s ensemble of a well-worn baseball cap and sneakers. He started at the bottom of the beer barrel, earning a diploma in brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology. After a stint at Rock Bottom, a restaurant and brewery in Chicago, he worked as the brewmaster at the Goose Island Clybourn brewpub. Today he’s the head brewmaster at Moody Tongue, where his role is a mix between brewer and mad scientist.
Like others in the brewing industry, Rouben cranks out IPAs, porters, and saisons, but that’s where the similarities end. He applies his culinary knowledge and mingles each brew with whatever ingredients are in season at the time, and the results will make both beer geeks and foodies salivate.
“Brewing is an extension of cooking and baking,” says Rouben. “I want to take my culinary education and my chef’s mindset and apply it to brewing.”
Currently on tap is a Caramelized Chocolate Churro Malted Porter made with Oaxacan cacao and vanilla to mimic the flavor and aromatics of a churro. He adds these ingredients both before and after fermentation. About the only thing missing is the crunch and crumbs. For summer he’s also brewing a Sliced Nectarine IPA using—you guessed it—fresh nectarines, as well as a Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison.
“The pillars of culinary brewing are sourcing the best ingredients, handling them properly, and knowing when to put them into the liquid,” he says. “I try to layer the flavors into the beer. So, for the Sliced Nectarine IPA, you’ll find nectarine on the nose and [the fruit’s] flesh on the palate. I try to highlight its flavor and aromatics. Even when we name our beers we put the culinary technique first, then the flavor and aromatic you’ll experience, and finally the type of beer.”
Rouben finds most of his ingredients the same way as chefs, scouring local farmers markets bright and early before they get picked over. He also gets much of his inspiration by dining at various restaurants and sampling different cuisines. Over the years, Rouben has developed partnerships with area farmers, which has helped guarantee him first dibs on the latest crops. He’s also become close with local chefs, even collaborating with a few to create special beer releases when he was at Goose Island, a partnership he hopes to reboot one day at Moody Tongue.
“I want to connect with people through their palates,” he says. “I want my beers to be the ones that make people want to take another sip.”
Moody Tongue beers are currently available on draft at various bars and restaurants in Chicago, New York City, and Louisville, Kentucky. Check for bottles at your local Whole Foods in those cities.