New Head Brewer at Goose Island Clybourn has a Stellar Background as a Chef

January 27, 2010 at 10:04 pm

For an article about the Siebel Institute of Technology, I asked Jared Rouben if he ever looked back on his notes from his days there.

“I became the head brewer over here last Monday, and that’s the first thing I did.” “Over here” is the Goose Island Brewpub, 1800 N. Clybourn, in Chicago.

I can’t let that comment wither in the middle of the Siebel article. Especially considering Jared’s background.

Jared was a chef before becoming a brewer. It wasn’t like he was a cook at the local hash house. He worked under celebrity chef Thomas Keller (who also mentored Grant Achatz, of Alinea – Chicago’s temple of molecular gastronomy). He was at Keller’s Per Se, which many consider to be the finest restaurant in New York City. That means it’s within a step or two of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

Many in the industry would kill to have Per Se on the resumé, and then move on up in the chefly world. So why did he decide to become a brewer?

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what makes you happy. Working there taught me a lot of things and opened a lot of doors. You just do whatever you’re passionate about. And I’ve always been passionate about beer. I didn’t want to not try something ‘cause I didn’t know about it. I kind of just went for it.”

In the past, Goose Island has occasionally collaborated with chefs from local restaurants, to create beers uniquely suited to their menus. Jared, with his background, intends to build upon that.

“I always like to do real cool things with restaurants and beer. I’m doing something with L2O [a high-end, seafood-based restaurant in Lincoln Park]. We’re kind of exploring beer science, you know, they do molecular gastronomy. We’re going to incorporate that with beer.”

Another example?

“I guess what I’m most excited about is this beer we’re going to create with Vie [the acclaimed restaurant in Western Springs]. It’s gonna be really, really fun. It’ll be a dark American wheat. You know, they have such a good … they’re homebrewers. Paul [Virant, Vie’s Head Chef] packs his kitchen with homebrewers, which makes my life very easy. They came in, and they knew exactly what they wanted. They go, ‘you know what? We don’t care about style. We want a dark wheat that’s not bitter. We want the aromatic to speak for itself. We really want to entice people through their senses, and [hoppy] aromatic is the way we’re gonna go.’”

Makes sense to Jared. “Coming from a culinary background, you can’t just depend on the palate. So much of taste is smell – I’d say 80% of taste is smell. Because when you’re stuffed up, like most of us are in winter, it’s almost impossible to taste anything.”

I haven’t tasted anything specifically from Jared yet, although I’m looking forward to trying the Imperial Stout he’s about to release. I’ll get there soon.