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Moody Tongue shaved black truffle pilsner
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMoody Tongue shaved black truffle pilsner

Is the $120 Moody Tongue black truffle beer worth it?

Amy Cavanaugh
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Amy Cavanaugh
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Last week, beer writer Karl Klockars and I cracked open a bottle of Moody Tongue's Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner. This wasn’t the typical High Life we usually drink when we meet up. No, getting this beer required signing up for a lottery, winning in the lottery, then going to Binny’s and forking over $120.

The beer is the latest from Moody Tongue brewer Jared Rouben, whose focus is beers brewed with culinary techniques. He’s turned out some truly excellent ones so far (his Green Coriander Wit was on our list of the 100 Best Dishes and Drinks of 2014), so if there’s a brewer in Chicago who can make a black truffle pilsner—and make it taste good—both Karl and I were sure that Rouben was the one. So how did he do?

"It’s hugely aromatic," Karl says. "With big, pillowy gusts of aroma at turns nutty, savory (but not meaty), wooden and maybe a little briny as well."

We were struck how the beer style—a pilsner—is more what you’d expect in spring and summer, while truffle season is winter, so it’s sort of a beer for all seasons. It’s also a beer style that’s light enough to showcase truffles, which would get lost in a heavy porter or stout.

"You almost have to resist the urge to chug the entire bottle, not necessarily because anything about the truffles are so amazing, but rather, the base beer is so amazingly refreshing, bright, light and delicate that it makes for an astonishingly thirst-quenching beer," Karl says.

It’s a terrifically easy drinking beer, with hints of earthiness and lingering truffle notes. Karl said he could still taste them the next day. It finishes crisply and we both agreed that it would be terrific with oysters.

Only 500 bottles were available for the general public to purchase—and they’re gone—but others have just started arriving at Chicago restaurants. GT Fish & Oyster had six bottles as of last week, and was selling them for $90 each—a steal. At the Radler, they’re hanging onto most of their bottles "for pairing with a truffle course in DAS when it opens in the spring," managing partner Adam Hebert told me. "One bottle we will enjoy on NYE and if I have any left over, it will hit the list at The Radler. I’m not sure what I would price it at but it would be somewhere around $160-$180 a bottle." The beer was also sent to Duck Inn, Grace, Vie, theWit Hotel, RPM Steak, Piccolo Sogno and Dusek’s.

So is it worth seeking out?

“It's both status and craft quality," Karl says. "At 5% ABV, there's no major buzz in the bottle even if you aren't sharing it around. At $120, this is an experience solely for the flavor, and barely for the intoxication level that follows. That said, at the price, there is no way to avoid the 'status' of the bottle. Rinse this out, keep it on a shelf, show it to your friends. Hang onto this one.”

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