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Brew Day At Goose Island Clybourn

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 9, 2010 3:20PM

Rare Tea Cellar's Emperor's Lemon Meritage tea, the piece de resistance to our collaborative beer.

(Part 1 in a series.)

Goose Island Clybourn pub brewer Jared Rouben and I discussed having a brew day back in February, after tasting out his “rind grind” series of imperial stouts. At the time he had just started his “chef’s collaboration” series, brewing beers with Rob and Allie Levitt of mado, and Vie’s Paul Virant. Since then he’s brewed with Hot Chocolate’s Mindy Segal, Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse and Nicole Pedersen of C-House, among others. Collaborations with Paul Kahan and Graham Elliot Bowles are in the works. I suggested to Rouben he reach out to Rodrick Markus, founder of tea purveyor Rare Tea Cellar, to possibly brew a beer with one of his teas.

Rouben, not one to let the grass grow under his feet, ran with the idea. After some tasting, he and Markus decided upon brewing a beer with Rare Tea Cellar’s Emperor’s Lemon Meritage tea, a blend of five different lemon teas with a rich smell and flavor. Markus gave me a sample pack of the tea and, served with just a light dollop of honey, it quickly became a breakfast favorite. Once the tea choice was settled, we were faced with coming up with a beer to brew.

A couple of weeks back Rouben, Markus and I met at Goose Island Clybourn to lock down a brew date and a beer recipe. From the first time I sampled the lemon meritage tea, I had an idea for a take on a shandy, only with some character and heft. I thought a saison spiced with the tea could be a great summer beer, coming in at around 7-8 percent ABV, but with that lemon flavor it would go down like a session beer. I described my wishes for the beer to Rouben, who quickly sketched out a recipe the way a police sketch artist. Asked for his input, Markus, who admitted he hadn’t had much experience with beer, put his faith in Rouben and me to hash out a recipe.

Further cementing my wish to brew a saison was the sample of Rouben’s collaboration with Pedersen we tasted out, a heavy version of the style brewed with Goose Island’s Sofie yeast they christened “Chicago Saison.” Sampled straight from the fermentation tank at 74 degrees, the flavors from the Rouben/Pedersen brew was a good template for what I was hoping our beer would turn out. It had a spicy mouthfeel, while the Sofie yeast let me know in no uncertain terms that I was drinking a farmhouse ale. Rouben, Markus and I then locked in a brew date. We would met up at Goose Island Clybourn one week from our meeting, 10 a.m. sharp, to brew.