Jester King Craft Brewery

Cerveza de Tempranillo Blend 2 Release

22 December 2015

When our tasting room opens at Noon on Saturday, December 26th, we’ll be releasing our second ever blend of Cerveza de Tempranillo — our barrel-aged farmhouse ale refermented with Texas-grown Tempranillo grapes. It has been quite some time since we last released Cerveza de Tempranillo. Blend 1 came out in February of 2014.

As we seek to do with all our fruit refermentations, the goal is to ferment the grapes with mature, barrel-aged beer, so as to create aromas and flavors greater than the sum of their parts. For instance, think about the difference between grape juice and wine. Why does the latter have much more complexity than the former? It is because the grape juice has been fermented by microorganisms to create a host of new flavors and aromas. We apply this same principle to the use of fruit in our beer. We referment fruit with beer to create something that had previously not existed. To us, this is more interesting and enjoyable than adding fruit or fruit flavoring to filtered, pasteurized beer, thus creating what is effectively is a beer cooler. This, in our opinion, is one plus one equals two, rather than creating something greater than the sum of the parts.

There are a few differences between blend 1 and blend 2. We’re happy about the fact that the grapes in blend 2 came from Texas, as opposed to California. Not that the California grapes aren’t good, but we prefer to embrace the characteristics we get from Texas microflora and soil, so as to make beer with a sense of place. The alcohol content of blend 2 is slightly lower (7.2% alcohol by volume versus 9.4%), which we believe is due to the Texas grapes having a lower sugar content. Finally, we refermented the grapes with mature beer in stainless steel, as opposed to oak. We wanted a little more control over the fruit refermentation, so as to avoid the development of acetic acid (think vinegar).

Cerveza de Tempranillo blend 2 was brewed with malted barley, malted wheat, raw wheat, oats, and hops. It was fermented with our unique mixed culture of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the air and land around our brewery. After an initial primary fermentation in either a stainless steel tank or a foudre, it was racked to oak barrels for extended maturation and fermentation. It was then refermented with Tempranillo grapes for about a month, then 100% refermented in bottles, kegs, and casks over the course of another month.

Our tasting room will be closed on Friday, December 25th. When we open the following day — Saturday, December 26th at Noon — we’ll release Cerveza de Tempranillo. About 3,000 bottles (500ml/$16) will be available with a bottle limit of two per customer per day. It will also be available by the glass at our tasting room. Aside from special events, Cerveza de Tempranillo blend 2 will only be available at Jester King.

Tempranillo grapes from the Texas high plains prior to refermentation


Austin Beer Guide Best of 2015 Awards

18 December 2015

We are very honored and grateful to have won four awards at last night’s Austin Beer Guide Best of 2015 Awards Ceremony!

Editors’ Choice Best Brewery
Readers’ Choice Best Brewery
Readers’ Choice Best Brewery Taproom
Editors’ Choice Best Single Beer Packaging/Label — Jester King / Live Oak Brewing Company Foudreweizen

Our own Nic de la Rosa also won Best Beer Personality/Advocate, and our neighbor Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza won for Best Beer + Food Spot!

Congrats as well to all the other winners in our great local beer community, and thanks to the Austin Beer Guide for hosting a great event and supporting craft beer in Austin!


Our New/Old Batch of Noble King

17 December 2015

Our beer goes through a lot of changes — some good, some bad. It’s a living thing, teeming with a host of microscopic life that’s outside our immediate control. As you probably know if you follow our brewery, we ferment our beer with a mixed culture of brewers yeast and native microbes (yeast and bacteria) harvested from the land and air around our brewery. Fermenting with a mixed culture presents a lot of challenges. There is a reason most breweries don’t do it. When you work with a mixed culture, the results become a lot less predictable. We don’t know for certain if a new fermentation will last weeks, months, or years. We wait, observe, smell, taste, and eventually, the beer will tell us when it’s ready.

When fermenting with a pure culture, by contrast, it’s possible to know almost exactly how long it will take to make a beer and what it will taste like when it’s finished. Consistency and predictability are paramount in most breweries, and pure culture fermentation allows this to happen. This makes sense in the context of growing a brewery and selling a large volume of beer. Predictable fermentation times and results help brewers to know when to schedule the next batch, distributors to know when to pickup the beer, and customers to know when the beer will be available for sale, and more or less, exactly what it will taste like. Repeat this process over and over, and a brewery can grow by leaps and bounds, enter new markets, and attain regional or national status. In other words, pure culture fermentation has given rise to the international proliferation of beer as we know it today, and that isn’t a bad thing. We’re just of the opinion that somewhere along the way, a piece of the uniqueness and individuality that differentiated one brewery from the next was lost along the way. Idiosyncrasies, surprises, and peculiarities in beer are what motivate us, and ultimately, we’re looking to make something that’s a unique reflection of the land, time of year, and people at our brewery. Mixed culture fermentation, with all its pleasant and unpleasant surprises, is at the heart of this goal.

So what does this philosophy mean in terms of our latest batch of Noble King? Well, the beer initially surprised us — not in a good way. After being brewed in early March of 2015 and packaged by April 1st (somewhat appropriately), the beer had some off-aromas that we used words and phrases like “chlorine” and “shrimp shell” to describe. It was palatable beer, but not something we’d tie our reputation to and release. Rather than dumping it down the drain, we knew the beer would change with time because it’s alive and teeming with microbes that would take the beer down different paths over the long run. Now, after eight months since packaging, the beer has indeed changed to the point where we’re excited to release it! Among other attributes, the nose has become quite funky, and a nice, quenching acidity has developed.

This batch of Noble King won’t present like previous versions did at the time of release. The herbal hop aroma and relatively clean fermentation profile associated with younger Noble King is long gone. Funk and sourness are more prominent as mentioned. This batch is testament to one of the mantras we have around the brewery, which is “give it more time”. The mixed culture of microbes, not always, but often have a way of resolving a beer in the long run. This aspect of our beer making has resulted in our “new” batch of Noble King being released over nine months after it was brewed.

Noble King (batch 17) will be released this Friday, December 18th when our tasting room opens at 4pm. A portion of the batch will see distribution in Texas, and some of it was packaged in green bottles.


Our First Coolship Test Blends

8 December 2015

Recently, we evaluated our first ever test blends of 100% spontaneously fermented beer. The blends were a product of three year old, two year old, and one year old barrel stock. By “spontaneous”, we mean that we did not pitch yeast for fermentation. Rather, the wort was fermented by the native yeast and bacteria captured as it cooled overnight in our coolship. We’ve been making 100% spontaneously fermented beer for nearly three years now. We started back in February of 2013 and have continued every winter ever since. This coming winter will be our fourth coolship season, with the only difference being, this winter we will both brew and blend.

We’ve been slowly building up stock over the past three years, and we’ve now reached the point where we have enough mature beer for blending. In preparation for our first blends, we’ve been doing a number of blending experiments, with which there has been no set formula or scientific precision. Rather, the blends are a product of feel, intuition, and our sensory experience tasting and smelling the beer. The various “vintages” provide a lot of fun and interesting beer to work with. The diversity of flavors and aromas from various barrels filled at different times has been quite surprising, intriguing, and has left us a little mystified, often not knowing the “why” behind the way a fermentation has progressed.

We think this is where the fun and artistry lies with beer making! We take somewhat peculiar satisfaction with not being the “brewmaster”. Rather than rigidly controlling every aspect and variable of the process so as to achieve a predetermined outcome, we’re intrigued by creating a set of circumstances where microorganisms can express themselves in a relatively unknown way, and the results can literally run the gamut between eye-popping elation and vile despicableness. We don’t engage in unpredictable fermentations for the sake of being unpredictable, but rather seek to intentionally create an environment where factors beyond our immediate control can achieve results that we as brewers could not have contemplated in advance. Again, this is where the fun and excitement in beer making lies for us. We’re also drawn to the singularity of the results — meaning that each batch of beer is inextricably linked to a particular time and place, never to be precisely reproduced. Time, temperature, wind, and microbial momentum — among other things — combine to create a set of circumstances that take the beer in interesting directions, once again, outside of our immediate control.

Anyhow, philosophy aside, we’re excited about our first test blends! Frankly, it’s astounding to us that beer we made without actually pitching yeast has ended up being some of our very favorite. We’ll begin packaging our spontaneously fermented beer this winter in bottles, kegs, and casks, then allow it to naturally referment over the course of several more months. Ultimately, if all goes well, we should release our first 100% spontaneously fermented beer sometime in 2016.

Streaks of yeast on the side of the bottle after horizontal conditioning

Our first bottle pour of 100% spontaneously fermented beer


In Remembrance of Steve Anderson

30 November 2015

We were very saddened to learn of the recent passing of Steve Anderson. Steve was one of the pioneers of Texas brewing, and most recently was the Brewmaster at Big Bend Brewing Co. He led an amazing career and was one of the nicest, most down to earth persons we’ve ever encountered in the brewing industry. We learned a great deal from Steve, especially during Jester King’s startup phase when we were struggling to make the transition from homebrewing to professional brewing. Steve was very generous with his time, and was happy to welcome and help newcomers to the scene like us. We were very saddened to learn of his passing and will miss him.


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