On the label of every 750ml bottle of beer we make it states, “Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country on the outskirts of Austin.” This is a statement we take very seriously, and we are constantly looking to breath more life into it. While we’ve embraced naturally occurring, wild microorganisms in our oak barrel fermentations since we opened in 2010, up until this past summer, our primary fermentations in staineless steel tanks were conducted with pure culture brewer’s yeast, specifically the French Saison strain. This is no longer the case. All of our fermentations now incorporate a diverse blend of microorganisms consisting of dozens of different types of yeast and bacteria. We’ve harvested naturally occurring wild yeast from the flora at our brewery and blended it with various types of Saccharomyces yeast, Brettanomyces yeast, and lactic acid producing bacteria to ferment all of our beer.
Wild yeast harvest experiment with flora from our land
We made this change to impart a greater degree of complexity, authenticity, and hopefully enjoyment to our beers. We’ve become somewhat troubled by the fact that beer we commercially refer to as “farmhouse ale” was fermented with pure culture brewer’s yeast. From everything we’ve been able to discern, this was not how these beers were fermented historically. In fact, all beer was once fermented at least in part with wild yeasts prior to the discovery, isolation, and widespread adoption of pure culture brewer’s yeast that helped give rise to the modern beer making practices we know today. This is not to denigrate pure culture fermentation, which has done wonders for consistency and quality control, and has been responsible for countless numbers of excellent beers. However, we agree with 20th century Belgian brewing scientist Marc H. Van Laer, who posits that the rise of pure culture fermentation has in some ways taken something away from beer making:
“It is certain that the introduction of pure yeasts into industrial fermentation does not constitute the crowning achievement of a system that is henceforth immutable. It seems, for example, that if the application of the pure cultures method has improved the average quality of the beer, if it has decreased the chances of infection, it has given us beer with less character than before.”
Due to the historical absence of pure culture fermentation in the making of farmhouse ales, each farmhouse brewery most certainly would have had its own unique house character and produced beer with a sense of place. To some extent, we lament the fact that our previous pure culture fermentations with French Saison yeast resulted in beers that did not exhibit a sense of place to the degree we would like to see. We’ve come to subscribe wholeheartedly to the description of farmhouse ales (in this case saison in particular) given by Belgian brewer Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne, as contained in Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales:
“A saison must therefore be low in alcohol (in the modern — and Belgian — sense of the word in any case), around 4.5 to 6.5%. It must be highly attenuated (90 to 95% on average, if not more, as apparent attenuation) and dry. It must also be either sour or very bitter (with a bitterness obtained by the use of a massive amount of hops low in alpha acid). It shouldn’t in any case be smooth. If spices are used, it must be with the utmost moderation. A saison is not by any means a spice soup. Ideally, it should be fermented, at least partially, by wild yeasts as well as by cultured varieties. An authentic saison has a small “wild” side, rustic, indefinable, far from the clean aspect of certain engineered beers of today. In one word, it must have extraordinary character.”
On a practical level, the “either sour or very bitter” divide that De Baets describes is one we’ve latched onto. As previously mentioned, all of our fermentations now incorporate a variety of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. For various beers such Le Petit Prince, Noble King, and Mad Meg, we use a large dose of organic noble hops to keep the bacteria in check. For other beers, we use much smaller doses of hops in order to allow a healthier environment for bacteria to impart acidity to the beer. We also now see a greater degree of attenuation in our beer with virtually all of the fermentable sugar being consumed. All of our fermentations are now reaching “super-attenuation” with finishing gravities of 1.000. Finally, the flavors and aromas from fermentation with wild microorgansims are apparent in all our beers.
Right below where it states “Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery…” on our labels, it states, “We brew what we like, drink what we want, and offer the rest to those who share our tastes.” While we are very excited about this change in the way we ferment our beer, we understand that not everyone will embrace it. We hope however that they can appreciate why we are compelled to make this change.
35 days ago
38 days ago
We’d like to apologize to everyone who did not enjoy their experience at our Funk n’ Sour Fest due to the long lines. We acknowledge that the bottles to go line was much too long and that check-in did not run smoothly. We’re sorry that our attendees had to spend too much of their time at our brewery waiting in line, as opposed to enjoying a beer list we are very proud of. In the future, we’ll focus on having events that are smaller and more efficiently run.
As we’ve said before, we want our brewery to be a relaxed, laid back, stress free environment in the beautiful Texas Hill Country to enjoy beer, the company of friends or family, and the scenery. It wasn’t all of those things yesterday, and for that, we apologize. We promise to make sure our brewery is in fact all of those things for our future events.
42 days ago
Yesterday we had the great pleasure of brewing with Raphaël Mettler of Brasserie Trois Dames in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland and Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver, Colorado.
Raphaël and Chad make some of our favorite beer in the world and possess a wealth of knowledge on artisan beer making techniques, ingredients, and science. It was an honor to brew with them. The yet-to-be-named collaboration will be a long-term fermentation project featuring some special barrels we’ve sourced from Western Europe.
50 days ago
UPDATE: EVENT IS SOLD OUT
We’ll be joining with our friends at Ruination Press and Sweet Fuzion in San Antonio again to put on the Sweet & Sour Soirée as part of this year’s Funk n’ Sour Fest. Ticket holders for the now sold out Funk n’ Sour Fest have the option of also purchasing a ticket for the Sweet & Sour Soirée, which is a pairing of artisan cupcakes with sour beer. It will take place on the grounds of Jester King at 2pm on Sunday, October 27th during the Funk n’ Sour Fest. The event will feature the following pairings:
Jester King Omniscience & Proselytism paired with Berry Funky Rhubarb Cupcake
Jester King Atrial Rubicite paired with Kickin’ Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake
Jester King Nocturn Chrysalis paired with Hops of Herb Lemonade Cupcake
Jester King Funk Metal paired with Cabrito Café Cupcake
Each course will include a three ounce pour of the beer.
Conducting the guided tasting will be Michelle Solis from Sweet Fuzion, Jeremy Banas from Ruination Press, and Ron Extract from Jester King.
Each attendee of the Sweet & Sour Soirée must already have a ticket to the Funk n’ Sour Fest. We will be confirming this in advance of the event.
Tickets to the Sweet & Sour Soirée are $20. Twenty-Five tickets are available.
52 days ago
We are very excited and honored to have received a bronze medal at The Great American Beer Festival this year for our Atrial Rubicite in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category. Some of our very favorite breweries making beer we really love were participating in the competition, so to have our beer recognized is an unbelievable thrill. Thank you very much to all of the competition judges and everyone at the Brewers Association.