Longman & Eagle Releases ‘RAM EAGLE’ Beer
It all began with two barrels.
It was mid-January, 2013, and Phil Olson (Bar Manager, Longman and Eagle) was wondering what to do with two empty Willett Bourbon Barrels.
Also in mid-January, 2013, Jared Rouben (Owner/Brewmaster, Moody Tongue Brewing) announced the end of his tenure as Brewmaster of Goose Island Brewpubs.
What transpired from these two separate occurrences is a collaboration beer, Rouben’s last with Goose Island. With help from current Goose Island Brewpub Head Brewer Jacob Sembrano and various L&E staff members (Including Executive Chef and Partner Jared Wentworth), Ram Eagle was born. A barrel-aged Baltic Porter boasting 9% ABV, this beer has turned out to be the source of much pride for all parties involved.
The barrels once held L&E’s now coveted bottles of whiskey, “Longman” and “Eagle.” (We wrote about the interesting circumstances surrounding these barrels in a previous blog post.) The Baltic Porter was a recipe Rouben had groomed to perfection. The union will be launched on tap at L&E on Thursday. March 6th. Complete with Ram Eagle t-shirts (designed by Ryan Duggan) and a dish from our menu specially paired with the beer, this is an experience any beer-centric food lover will thoroughly enjoy.
Don’t just take it from us. We sat down with Phil, Jared, and Jacob to talk about the genius behind Ram Eagle. You can read the full interview below
How did the idea to collaborate come about?
Phil Olson: We had handpicked two barrels of Willett, one which contained our Longman bourbon and the other our Eagle. After all was said and done, we were left with the empty barrels. We all kind of looked at each other and asked: “what do we do with these?” The owners (of Longman and Eagle) proposed we brew our own beer. We had worked with Jared before (Pork Soda, a Belgian Double IPA was released in 2011), so they suggested we give him a call.
Phil: We called Jared and set up a meeting. Chef (Jared Wentworth) and I went into the brewery. We decided we wanted to barrel age something heavy enough to compete with the bourbon, but still very drinkable. Based on that idea, Jared set up a tasting of various styles for us to try.
Jared Rouben: I like working with people who know exactly what they want. Communication is always key. It’s not exactly easy bringing brewers into the kitchen or kitchen into the brewery. Phil and I I had equal amounts of passion about this project. We were thoughtful of every detail.
What do you think of the finished product?
Jared: This is honestly the first time I’ve tasted a chef collaboration from the other side of the bar – I’ve always been the one serving it. I’m big on creating beers you can enjoy more than one of, not ones where you would be like “wow that’s interesting” and move onto the next. This beer, I could sip and sip. I would enjoy, I would share…but I would definitely have two.
Phil: I used the small glass thinking, “Oh, it’s a 9% beer, nobody is going to want to have a big one” but I could see this actually working in a 12 oz. Even a pint of it is not going to overwhelm anybody.
Jacob Sembrano: There was never really a question of it not turning out well. The Baltic Porter tasted amazing fresh. It’s just a recipe for success – you put good beer in good barrels and you’re going to get an amazing product. Everyday that I’d walk past that barrel I would think “Damn. That’s going to be good.”
How did you decide on the Baltic Porter style?
Jacob Sembrano: Phil and the guys walked in here wanting to brew a high gravity beer – something roasty and chocolaty. A Baltic porter made sense. It’s kind of a funky style because it’s a porter that drinks like a stout and is brewed with Lager yeast. I think it suits the character of the restaurant really well. You don’t see barrel aged Baltic porters very often
Phil: We wanted something rich and heavy, but still light enough to pair with food.
Jared: That’s the thing – there’s nothing obtrusive to the palate here. If anything it’s providing a nice, coating layer – it’s inviting food. You know, it’s a lot more flexible than I ever could have imagined putting something in a barrel.
What about the decision to serve it on Nitro?
Phil: That was all Jacob.
Jacob: The differences between the two barrels that Phil selected were pretty extreme. Even more apparent after trying to two whiskeys – the higher proof (the Longman, at 109%) was really heavy on the oak, the other barrel (the Eagle) was a little on the sweeter side. Bringing them together kind of balanced each of them out. Making the call to serve it on Nitro was to pull out some of the characters of the base beer and also to kind of mellow out that charred oak. It became a very cohesive and balanced out product at the end of the day.
Phil: You know – it was a really good decision because I think CO2 may have been a little too sharp.
Jacob: Who doesn’t like a nice dense, fat mousse from a nitro pour on top of their beer? It’s super fitting for Longman and Eagle to have. It’s a different style of beer being aged in barrels from a unique distillery and served on a different serving format.
How long was it in the barrels?
Phil: It wasn’t in the barrels for long at all. We tasted it at around 6 ½ to 7 months and thought “Yeah, it’s ready now.”
Phil: Its crazy to think what has happened since then. Where we were when we brewed this and where we are now. Jared, you started your own brewery. We’ve evolved so much as a business – our family has expanded so much. I hate to get so emotional.
Jared: Let it flow, man.
Jacob: Because it is a 9% beer, it didn’t need 12 months to be aged. It turned around relatively quickly. Even though it didn’t get a ton of time, it still turned out incredibly balanced.
Where did the name Ram Eagle come from?
Phil: We starting researching the Baltic region and found out that Rams are prominent there. I originally wanted to call it Ram Jam, after the “Black Betty” band. Chef Jared (Wentworth) came up with Ram Eagle after much deliberation…not all of which is appropriate. But that’s us, that’s who we are. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and that’s what has kept us around for so long.
Jared, you’ve always been big on Chef Collaborations, a series you began at Goose Island. Will you continue this trend with your new brewery. Moody Tongue?
Jared: I hope to continue doing collaborations. I love the challenge and I get so excited. Honestly, there’s not a chef collaboration or barrel aged beer I have not been emotionally attached to. This was my last one, so I’m definitely attached.
Jacob: I always thought it was a great idea of Jared’s. It was a way for the brewery to stay active in the food community and vice-versa. Now more than ever there’s a gap that’s closing in and it’s getting closer, and closer. With efforts like this collaboration, we’re pulling the industries closer together.
Food wise, what would you pair this with?
Jared: As proud parents, we really need to put this beer in the right school. I would pair this with something sweet and savory to show the versatility. A coconut dessert also comes to mind.
Phil: Sweet and savory is really where Chef Jared excels. We’re actually thinking of creating a special dish to pair with this beer.
Jacob: Proteins that are strong and bold enough to hold up to the beer itself while still complimenting the beer’s flavors. I don’t really think that there’s a beer out there that can’t be paired with food as long as there is a thought process behind it.
written by: Sarah O’Neil
t shirt design: Ryan Duggan