On Location: Moody Tongue Brewing Co. in Chicago
Sure, it was dark and rainy the night I visited. And on this particular west-of-the-river strip of 21st Street in Chicago, the buildings happen to be mostly empty, with nighttime activity virtually constrained to an occasional passing car or bus. Moody Tongue Brewing Co. (2136 S. Peoria St.) gleefully hides amid that environment, however, waiting for the most-devoted and curious of beer aficionados to ferret out its rather obscured entryway.
Moody Tongue does what it calls “culinary brewing”—incorporating fine ingredients from Oaxacan chocolate to black truffles (one pour of black truffle pilsner, $20) in its beers. Those beverages, and the experience of drinking them in Moody Tongue’s taproom, are both largely shaped by the past of Moody Tongue brewmaster Jared Rouben. Rouben is a graduate of the Siebel Institute, the Culinary Institute of America in New York and Washington University in St. Louis, and he’s also a Master Cicerone who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants (including a position with Thomas Keller) as well as at Goose Island Beer Co. and Rock Bottom Brewery.
The tasting room feels more like a swanky restaurant or lounge than a taproom, with a bar of white marble, dark concrete floors, low lighting supplemented by candles and leather half-moon booths sheltered in their own enclaves. There’s even a fireplace, around which a bookshelf boasts worn titles such as A New Key to the Yeasts, The Molson Story, USA Hops Resource Guide and Cereal Chemistry (the trove was donated to Moody Tongue by the Siebel Institute).
As a smooth selection of Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson .Paak played in the background, I found myself grateful that I wore a tie for the visit, during which my guest and I split the tasting room’s only two food items: oysters on the half-shell (dozen or half-dozen) and a behemoth slice of chocolate cake. FYI: Yes, Moody Tongue is a fantastic place for a date (though a little pricey, so be prepared for a premium).
The briny shellfish swam beautifully alongside the honey-tinged, suave drinkability of the brewery’s pilsner and did equally well with the more piquant, tart taste of a barrel-aged sour lemon saison—both of which were served in glassware one would more expect at a wine bar.
The cake ($15) could have served 4-6 people. And alongside a vanilla-y caramelized chocolate churro Baltic porter and a brown-sugar-tasting, dangerously booziness-free bourbon-barrel-aged chocolate barley wine (13.1%), it was unbelievably delicious, but too much to finish even a third.
“I’ve seen one person do it,” said one server when I asked if anyone had managed to finish the titanic 12-layer slice alone (among the layers are espresso cheesecake, toasted pecan and coconut caramel filling, and chocolate buttercream).
She advocated having the rest for breakfast, and at least one of the three of us blushed.
Like I said, Moody Tongue is a fantastic place for a date.