Ultimate Pairing: Chef and Brewer

by Caroline Hatchett
Caroline Hatchett
November 2011


Brewer Jared Rouben
Goose Island Brewpub – Chicago, IL

Chef Andrew Hroza
Goose Island Brewpub – Chicago, IL

Chef Dirk Flanigan
Henri and The Gage – Chicago, IL


Chef Andrew Hroza and Brewer Jared Rouben of Goose Island Brew Pub – Chicago, IL

Custom Beer Pairing Dinners

Chef and Certified Cicerone Andrew Hroza pairs brews from Rouben’s Farmers Market and Chef Collaboration series for special beer pairing dinners and lunches at Goose Island Brewpub. For Dirk Flanigan’s Luciana, he prepared Tagliatelle, Rhubarb Compote, Pork Demi-Glace, and Farmer's Egg Yolk.

Despite Goose Island’s sale to Anheuser-Busch this spring (and much lamenting from the craft brewing community), brewer Jared Rouben keeps the independent spirit of the company alive. Working out of the brewery’s original Clybourn location, Rouben focuses on experimental beer making, with two wildly successful brewing programs that highlight the best of Chicago’s food world. In his Farmers’ Market series, Rouben selects one ingredient each week from a single farmer to craft a distinct seasonal beer. And for his Chefs Collaboration series, Rouben has partnered with the city’s culinary elite—Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan, and Rising Stars Mindy Segal, Dirk Flanigan, Chris Pandel, and Stephanie Izard, to name a few. After meeting with the chefs, Rouben—who has a degree from the CIA and expedited in the kitchen of Thomas Keller’s Per Se—helps design a custom beer that fits their specific cuisine, selecting the hops, yeast, malt, and produce to craft a personal reflection of the chef in a (highly) drinkable form.

One such libation is Rouben’s collaboration with Flanigan—a Belgian red ale named after the Henri chef’s daughter, Luciana. After their initial meeting, where they determined what beers Flanigan likes to drink (session beers and robust Pilsners) and his cuisine style, Flanigan and Rouben decided on a combination of toasted malt, smoked malt, chocolate malt, rye, Chinook hops, and Belgian yeast. The formula resulted in food-friendly beer with gentle hops, bright acidity, aromatics of fig and dates, and notes of rhubarb and chocolate. Ultimately—and perhaps not surprisingly—those characteristics yielded a brew that could accompany 85 percent of the menu at The Gage and 50 percent of the menu at Henri. At least it would have accompanied the menu, except Luciana never actually made it to Henri. The beer sold out in a lightning 13 days. “The staff [at The Gage] was so into it. We sold 90 beers on the first night,” said Flanigan.

Flanigan and Rouben were so impressed with the beer that they aged half of the Luciana stock in barrels that once housed Elijah Craig 18-year bourbon (a nod to Rouben’s Kentucky roots). They added “cheesy, earthy, dirty wild yeast,” says Flanigan. “It’s like eating a piece of bark in the Black Forest.” This second barrel fermentation will bring the beer up to a whopping 12 percent ABV—a beverage better suited to match the game items, such as caribou and elk, on Flanigan’s menus. The older, matured beer will be named Devlin, after Flanigan’s oldest daughter, and will be released in June 2012, along with a new batch of Luciana.

After the effort that went into making the beer—“lots of work shoveling and, especially, cleaning” and even a quickly resolved tank malfunction and injury (we’re not naming names)—Flanigan has even greater admiration for the brewing process. “It’s fascinating. It’s so exciting. And I’m totally addicted to it,” he says. “And I have a total appreciation for what [Jared’s team] does. I would love to have [Luciana] as a house brew.”