Yesterday we brewed our first 100% spontaneously fermented beer of 2017! We had the pleasure of being joined by Brandon Jones of Yazoo Brewing Co. / Embrace the Funk in Nashville, Tennessee. Brandon is a great brewer, even better person, and his work as a professional and amateur has inspired us over the years. Like us, Brandon has a passion for spontaneous fermentation. The randomness of the results based on the airborne microbes, and the connection of the beer to a time, place, and people, really appeals to both of us.
In advance of his trip, Brandon sent us Tennessee-grown oats, rose hips, and lemongrass. We combined the oats with Texas-grown Silver Star malted barley and raw Texas-grown wheat, both from Blacklands Malt in Leander, Texas. We did a turbid mash, long boil with aged hops, knocked out to our coolship, and let the wort chill overnight, become inoculated with airborne yeast and bacteria, and steep with the rose hips and lemongrass. This morning, we’re racking the wort to oak barrels for 100% spontaneous fermentation. How long the beer takes to be ready, if at all, is anyone’s guess. My guess would probably be 18 to 24 months.
Central Texas winter weather is highly variable. It could be an overnight low of 35F or 65F. Brandon happened to be visiting us during a warm stretch of weather, which came on the heels of some frigid weather (for us anyway). The overnight low temperature wasn’t sufficient to cool the wort, so we used our immersion chiller in the coolship. The immersion chiller runs cold water through copper pipes that come into contact with the wort. Despite overnight lows in the 60s, the wort this morning was nice and cool to the touch. How the microbial balance with warmer temperature effects the fermentation is something we’ll find out. We did a similar experiment with warmer overnight temperature and an immersion chiller last winter with Fonta Flora Brewery, and the results are tasting fantastic about a year later. So we have high hopes for this spontaneous fermentation despite less than ideal weather. We’ll see!
I did want to point out that while this beer will be 100% spontaneously fermented (no yeast or bacteria pitched), it does not follow the process of making SPON — Méthode Gueuze, which is closely linked to and inspired by authentic Belgian Gueuze. We made some key departures from Méthode Gueuze, including for instance our use of an immersion chiller, warmer than appropriate winter weather, and the addition of adjunct ingredients like rose hips and lemongrass. I’m actually glad we can put forth an example of a spontaneous fermentation that isn’t so closely tied to the Lambic/Gueuze tradition. I love the tradition immensely, and find it incredibly inspirational, but spontaneous fermentation is a broad category, and Méthode Gueuze is just a part of it. We enjoy the freedom to experiment with unique techniques, interesting ingredients, and great friends, all while still doing 100% spontaneous fermentation.
It was an honor having Brandon down here to Texas to brew with us! We’ll patiently wait and see how this 100% spontaneous fermentation turns out in the months and years ahead. Here are some pictures and a video from the last 24 hours brewing with Brandon!
This Friday, January 6th at 4pm, we’ll be releasing 2016 Jester King Bière de Blanc du Bois! Bière de Blanc du Bois is a blend of barrel aged sour beer fermented with our mixed culture of native yeast and bacteria, refermented with Texas-grown Blanc du Bois grapes.
It will be available by the glass and in bottles to go. We have about 1,800 bottles (500ml/$20), and the bottle limit is two per customer per day. Aside from special events, Bière de Blanc du Bois will only be available at our tasting room.
We have a very exciting announcement to make at Jester King Brewery! We could not be more pleased to announce that our Brewery Production Manager Averie Swanson has been promoted to Head Brewer!
Averie has been with us at Jester King for over four years now. She has risen from volunteer, to apprentice, to brewer, to Brewery Production Manager, to Head Brewer! She has displayed wonderful commitment, intelligence, ingenuity, and leadership along the way. Her promotion is testament to the power of hard work and dedication.
As our Brewery Production Manager, Averie oversaw and ran beer making at Jester King. She coordinated our brewing and fermentation schedule, managed barrel aging, blending, and fruit refermentation, supervised our brewers and packaging team, sourced raw materials, came up with scores of creative new ideas for beers, and fixed innumerable everyday problems through sheer commitment and grit. She will continue on with all of these responsibilities as Head Brewer.
On top of all these duties, Averie has been a wealth of new and powerful ideas for other parts of the business, as a member of Jester King’s management team. She has and will continue to represent Jester King with professionalism and class at home and abroad by managing our offsite events and giving brewery tours.
Overall, we could not be more pleased with the job Averie has done over the years at Jester King, and can not think of a more deserved and qualified person for this promotion. We’re excited to see an important driver of our process and product over the last several years take the helm. We fully expect her to continue to do great things for us for years to come!
If you happen across Averie at the brewery or out there in the beer world, I’d encourage you to congratulate her on this most merited accomplishment.
We’d like congratulate our Head Brewer Garrett Crowell on his decision to pursue opening his own brewery!
Garrett has done wonderful work for us during his almost three years as our Head Brewer and two years prior to that as brewer and volunteer. Most notably, he created our mixed culture of brewers yeast, native yeast, and native bacteria that we use to ferment all our beer, apart from our 100% spontaneous fermentations. Through his thoughtfulness, creativity, and skill, Garrett has done an exemplary job helping us make beer tied to a time, place, and people. His work has helped us document our natural surroundings through beer and breath life into our core philosophy. He’s also done a wonderful job representing us publicly and spreading the gospel of mixed culture fermentation. We expect continued great things from Garrett going forward.
We encourage you to wish Garrett the best as he pursues the next step in his exciting brewing career. He can be reached going forward at firstname.lastname@example.org.