Goose Island brewmaster experiments with local fruits, veggies

September 1, 2011 (CHICAGO)

"Every single day we experiment here but we're never trying to put an ingredient there because we think it's cool or different or better advertisement. We really think about how the flavors will mix together," said Rouben.

Every week, the Sunday Goose Club gets together and tries a new beer with a new ingredient. This week's ingredient: sweetie melons. Rouben picked these heirloom melons from Seedling Orchard, in South Haven, Mich. He says these unique melons taste like a mix between honeydew melons and cantaloupes.

"We picked it out on Wednesday. We scooped the sweet melons. We put it in a Belgium Blonde with brettanomyces . It has such a subtle sweetness and we had all this acidity from the Belgian Blonde yeast. So the two together was kind of a seesaw of flavors," said Rouben.

Rouben is at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday. He talks to local farmers and tastes their products, which he uses in the different brews for Sunday Goose Club.

"The beer goes on tap as the fruit goes into the market. We're dependent on seasons. We're dependent on Mother Nature and I think that's fun. Because you remember it and even if you want to replicate it, you got to wait until next season," said Rouben.

Rouben has used everything from green peas to carrots to bubblegum plums in his beers.

"I don't really think of beer as an alcohol. I think of beer as grain, which is from the same place that all these fruits and vegetables come from. You know beer is just made out of water, hops, barley and year, all very natural and organic ingredients," said Rouben.

This Sunday is Nancy Benovitz's first time at Sunday Goose Club. She says she's not the biggest beer drinker. But the Sunday Goose Club offered her something different.

"I think it's so interesting that I can go to a farmers market and I can buy their ingredient and make my own creations in my kitchen. And a local brewer can figure out a beer from all these flavors and he can make something so interesting from the same fruits that I'm buying," said Benovitz.

But Rouben's brews boil down to more than just experimenting with fruits and vegetables.

"They don't stick to one style of beer so you get to taste beers in all the possible ways they can be experienced, either through the tartness, the sweetness, the acidity level," said Anna Madden, a long-term Sunday Goose Club member.

These farmers market beers go on tap on Sundays. But they don't last long.

"It rarely lasts more than one day, the point isn't for the beer to last a long time, it's for it to taste as fresh as possible," said Rouben.

The Sweetie Melon Belgian Blonde may have run dry, but Rouben's weekly brews continue through the year.

Sunday Goose Club
Sunday Goose Club meets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every week at 1800 N. Clybourn Ave. in Chicago. The Club began a year ago as a collaboration between Rouben and the Green City Market Junior Board.

Rouben showcases one ingredient, from one farm, in one keg every week to promote local farms.

Seedling Orchard
Seedling Orchard, where Rouben picked out the sweetie melons, grows a variety of fruits at its farm in Michigan. They have more than 70 varieties of apples, as well as varieties of pears, plums and apricots.

They are at Green City Market Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Green City Market is located at 1790 N. Clark St., in Lincoln Park. Seedling Orchard also has stands in farmers markets in Lincoln Square, West Side, Wicker Park, and Evanston, Ill.

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