Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Moody Tongue Brewmaster Jared Rouben talks about his beers coming to the San Francisco Bay Area

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Moody Tongue Brewmaster Jared Rouben
(Moody Tongue photo)

Yet another brewery is rolling into the Bay Area, this time it's Chicago's Moody Tongue Brewing Company. New breweries arrive in the Bay Area all the time. Sometimes, it's the result of some corporate acquisition and expansion. Others follow the usual "home brewer turns his passion into his business" story. Moody Tongue is a little different. While Moody Tongue Brewmaster and Founder Jared Rouben is a home brewer, he approaches brewing from high-end restaurant perspective.  He graduated from the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America  before a ten year career at the Michelin-starred "Martini House" in St. Helena, CA and Thomas Keller's "Per Se" before starting Moody Tongue in 2014. So when Jared declares his brewery takes a culinary approach to brewing, it isn't just a marketing gimmick. I caught up with Jared last week on the phone to discuss his unique brewing style.

The first thing I noticed about Jared was his amiable inquisitiveness. Most brewers can't wait to talk about their beer in phone interviews. Instead, Jared started asking me a bunch of questions, like "Why did you get involved in writing about beer?" in a calm, relaxed voice. As soon I as I answered, he followed up with "How does running figure into that?". After this kept going for a few minutes, I realized Jared wasn't going to tire from asking questions, which wasn't going to give me much material. So I politely but firmly broke in with "How did you get involved with brewing?"

Jared recalled his time as a student at Washington University in St. Louis when he'd go to the Schnuck's grocery store and saw all the different craft beers from places like Schlafly and Boulevard Brewing. "I'd see all the different labels and wanted to experience the different tastes." Coincidentally,  I also attended Washington University in St. Louis about a decade before Jared did, and an awful lot changed about beer over that time.  Back in the late 80's, buying beer at Schnuck's, or just about anyplace else in St. Louis came down to basically three choices: Bud, Busch, and Bud Light. Sometimes we wanted wanted to the good stuff, we'd splurge on Michelob.

In his last year at Washington University, he took a food journalism course.  "That's when I met a lot of people interested in different tastes, and a found many of them interested in beer." From there, Jared decided to research culinary schools and enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Beer played big role in his education there. "I founded the CIA beer club which still exists today." He learned to use beer in traditional cooking techniques like brining pork butts or braising sausages. "Then, I began asking myself why beer didn’t have stronger representation in restaurants and on menus.  Brewing and cooking are about manipulating raw ingredients with time and temperature. When you use beer, you intoxicate people which I believe is every chef’s dream."

After culinary school, Jared worked at the Martini House in Napa Valley, where he had his "a-ha!" moment with using produce in beer. "They sent me to the farmer's market every Wednesday to pick up produce for the restaurant. I also picked some up for my home brews and people started liking them a lot more." His Pluot Pale Ale was a particular hit from those days in Napa Valley. After a decade of cooking at some of the finest kitchens in the country, he turned in his apron and started Moody Tongue.

"We like to define our beers in the same way what a chef tries to achieve in the kitchen," explains Jared.  "We use the absolute best ingredients.  It's hard to make something great if you start with something that's just good. And we incorporate the ingredients at the right time in the liquid.

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(Moody Tongue photo)

For example, for Moody Tongue's Sliced Nectarine IPA, the nectarines are sourced from Klug Farms, an organic farm in Western Michigan. "Nectarines are a very delicate fruit, you don't want to subject them to high temperatures. They work best under 40 degrees so I use them post-fermentation." For those used to West Coast IPA's crammed full pine, citrus, dankness and alcohol, Sliced Nectarine IPA requires a palate re-calibration to fully appreciate. There's nectarine skin on the nose, with nectarine flash on the tongue, and a bitter finish of tangerine peel. At 6.9% abv, you can have another one with dinner if you'd like. It's a restrained, yet lively composition of flavors.

The same can be said of the other three beers on Moody Tongue's permanent line-up. The Applewood Gold is well balanced, the smoked malt adding a subtle depth to the light ale. The Steeped Emperor's Lemon Saisson is...well, very lemony. The Caramelize Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter sounds like an over the top, everything and the kitchen sink concoction, but the caramel and chocolate worked well in harmony with the underlying, slightly sweet Baltic Porter. I can see this working as a sophisticated dessert beer. For the most part, the flavors of the Moody Tongue beers work well together in balanced, contrasting with a lot of West Coast beers full of big slamming flavors. One way to compare the two is to consider California and French wines. California wines tend to full of big flavors that score well in tasting competitions, but the more restrained French wines tend to pair better with food. Or something like that. Long time readers all know that if you're looking for deep culinary analysis and commentary, you'll need to go to a different blog.

While the Moody Tongue tap room in Chicago features a number of seasonal beers, only Moody Tongue's four beer line-up can be found in the Bay Area. "We'll be focusing on perfecting the technique on our four primary beers like any good kitchen does with its recipes." According to the brewery's press release, "Moody Tongue is available at select retailers such as Berkeley Bowl West, La Riviera Market, and Alchemy Bottle Shop as well as restaurants including The Beer Hall, Imperial Beer Cafe' and the Albany Taproom".

In the Bay Areas deep and crowded beer market, Moody Tongue offer yet another approach to beer and new experiences to its enjoyment.

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