Jester King Craft Brewery

On Gueuzes and Zwanze

7 September 2015

Brasserie Cantillon has been a tremendous source of inspiration to all of us at Jester King, perhaps more so than any other brewery in the world. When we began refermenting our mature barrel-aged beers with fruit, and when we started our spontaneous fermentation program two and a half years ago, we looked to Cantillon for guidance. Jean Van Roy of Cantillon provided us with valuable insight that continues to serve as the foundation for much of what we do.

In 2013, we were immensely honored to have been chosen as one of the host sites for Zwanze Day, a day on which a small number of venues around the world each simultaneously tap a single keg of a special beer brewed and released by Cantillon just for the occasion. That year, it was Cantillon’s take on a spontaneously fermented, strong abbey-style ale. Last year, when we were once again selected, it was a a special Grand Cru edition of Cantillon Iris, refermented with a small amount of cherries and delicately dry-hopped with Bramling Cross.

Of course, because Cantillon does not have a Texas license, we could not legally sell their beer. In most states, licensing to sell beers from overseas breweries is held by their U.S. importer, and for a relatively modest licensing fee, that importer is able to sell its entire portfolio into the state. This is also how it works in Texas when it comes to wine and spirits. However, any overseas brewery that wants to sell its beer in Texas, even for a single, one-time event, is required to obtain its own licensing, costing over $4,000, and in many cases, over $6,000 every two years. For small breweries like Cantillon, which can’t even come close to meeting the demand in the markets they’re already in, and which simply wouldn’t be able to supply enough beer to recover this cost, selling beer in Texas doesn’t make practical sense, which is why we tend not to see much beer from truly small, artisan brewers outside the state.

Because we couldn’t legally sell Zwanze, we decided to give it away for free each of the last two years. We had planned to do the same this year when we were once again honored to have been selected, but as it turns out, that’s not what we will be doing. In fact, Zwanze Day will not take place in Texas on September 19th when it’s taking place throughout the rest of the world. Instead, with the permission of Cantillon, we will be holding our celebration sometime in October, when their Texas license has been approved.

Yes, that’s correct, Cantillon has applied for a Texas license, which, based on current processing times, we expect to be issued sometime in early October. At our suggestion, in order to cover the cost of this license, Shelton Brothers Importers, the company responsible for Cantillon’s U.S. distribution, will be selling the keg of 2015 Zwanze to their Texas distributor, Flood Distribution, for approximately $2,000 more than they would ordinarily charge, and we will be paying Flood Distribution roughly $2,000 more than we would otherwise pay. This money will then be applied directly to the licensing fee, covering a bit less than half of what Shelton Brothers and/or Cantillon will have to pay every other year, for as long as they maintain the license or until we’re able to change the law.

For our 2015 Zwanze Celebration, which should occur at Jester King this October, we will be selling 200 tickets for $50 each. Each ticket includes a 4 oz. sample of 2015 Zwanze (a spontaneously fermented stout), a cheese pairing, a souvenir glass, and the first opportunity to purchase Cantillon bottles and draught legally sold in Texas. Please note, all net proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild Legislative Committee and Open the Taps, so that we can change the laws in order to give Texas consumers better access to small, artisan breweries like Cantillon. The licensing of Cantillon in Texas creates a unique opportunity to help fund the movement to build a better beer landscape in our state, and we’re grateful to Cantillon, Shelton Brothers, and Flood Distribution for the opportunity.

Additional details, including the new October date for Zwanze Day at Jester King, will be announced once Cantillon’s license has been approved.


Introducing Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite

3 September 2015

We’re excited to introduce Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite. As the name suggests, it’s our Atrial Rubicite (blend #4) aged for 15 months in a Spanish sherry barrel!

A lot of time went into making this beer. This isn’t to suggest that very long periods of maturation in oak automatically lead to good beer. Far from it. In fact, some of our favorite beers we’ve made have achieved some really nice characteristics in just a few months. However, we’re really pleased with the way Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite turned out and are happy it received all the time it did.

The base beer for Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was brewed in 2013. After maturing in oak barrels for about a year, it was blended during the spring of 2014 and refermented with raspberries. It was then racked to a single 500 liter Spanish sherry barrel for further aging and maturation. In July of 2015, fifteen months later, we racked the beer out of the sherry barrel and bottled it. All together, Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite took a little over two years to make. Again, this isn’t to suggest that long periods of fermentation and maturation necessarily equate to enjoyable beer, but in this case, we think it does.

Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was brewed with Hill Country well water, barley, wheat, oats, and hops. It was fermented with our mixed culture of microorganisms consisting of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the air and wildflowers around our brewery, and refermented with raspberries grown in Washington. Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was packaged in July of 2015 and is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and 100% naturally conditioned. At the time of bottling, it was 7.0% alcohol by volume, 1.003 specific gravity (0.75 degrees Plato), 7 IBU, and 3.3 pH.

Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite will be released when our tasting room opens early for Labor Day weekend at Noon on Friday, September 4th. It is our first beer packaged in 330ml bottles. We chose a smaller bottle size simply so that there are more bottles to go around. About 1,000 bottles will be available ($12/bottle) with a limit of one per customer per day. We do not anticipate it being available beyond Jester King, aside from a few special events. The label art for Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was created by our in-house artist Josh Cockrell.

500 liter Spanish sherry barrel


Introducing Brasserie Dunham / Jester King Amicis Mortis

20 August 2015

We’re pleased to introduce Amicis Mortis — a farmhouse ale brewed with sweet potatoes, chili peppers, and coconut in collaboration with Brasserie Dunham in Dunham, Quebec. We first tasted beer from Brasserie Dunham at Shelton Bros. The Festival in Los Angeles, California in the fall of 2014 and were completely and utterly impressed. The integration of yeast character, acidity, dryness, bitterness, and effervescence in their farmhouse ales was staggeringly good, and they’re wonderful people to boot. We instantly knew we wanted to work with them.

In March of 2015, Eloi Deit of Brasserie Dunham came to Jester King to brew with us. The inspiration for the beer came from a dish cooked with sweet potatoes, chili peppers, and coconut we had with Eloi at Odd Duck the night before brewing. We felt kinship with Eloi through food. We also share a love for low alcohol, slightly bitter, quenching beers. Thus, we wanted to make a very drinkable, table strength beer. We also decided we would add a relatively large dose of hops to the beer, so as to impede bacterial fermentation in favor of more yeast character and bitterness.

Amicis Mortis was brewed with Hill Country well water, malted barley, raw wheat, hops, sweet potatoes, and chili peppers. Sweet potatoes were added to the mash, and a small dose of chili peppers were added late in the boil. It was fermented in stainless steel with our mixed culture of microorganisms consisting of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the air and wildflowers around our brewery. A couple of weeks into fermentation we added coconut and more chili peppers to the beer. Amicis Mortis was packaged on May 20th, 2015 and refermented in bottles, kegs, and casks. It is 4.2% alcohol by volume, has a finishing gravity of 0.999 (zero degrees Plato), and is 32 IBU.

Amicis Mortis will be released at Jester King when our tasting room opens on Friday, August 21st at 4pm. It will be available by the glass, as well as to go in 750ml bottles ($12, limit 2 per customer per day). Approximately 2,400 bottles are available. We do not anticipate Amicis Mortis being available beyond Jester King, aside from a few special events.

The beer name and label art for Amicis Mortis was created by our in-house artist Josh Cockrell. Here is Josh’s description of his thought process:

“I took visual inspiration from medieval works produced in the aesthetic of memento mori (Latin for ‘remember to die’), a practice of focusing on mortality.” The ingredients for this beer all create pause to reflect on death. The word “coconut” comes from old Spanish for “skull.” Chili peppers are in the nightshade family, made famous by the poison created from one of its members atropa belladonna. Sweet potatoes, which are in the morning glory family, with blooms lasting only one day, have long represented mortality. The crown hanging from the skull comes from the coat of arms of the city of Dunham, Quebec, and represents that none of us are above death. I found it interesting that our friendly collaboration ended up settling on ingredients symbolic of mortality, and so named the beer Amicis Mortis meaning “friends of death.”


Re-Introducing Jester King Ambrée

18 August 2015

When our tasting room opened on July 31st, we released two new beers: our Bière de Syrah and our third batch of Ambrée Farmhouse Amber Ale. Ambrée may have gotten a little lost in the excitement over a new wine grape refermentation, but at Jester King, we’re just as enthusiastic about this new simplified, scaled-down batch of Ambrée.

To be perfectly honest, Ambrée started out bearing the fingerprints of our early days as homebrewers. Back then, we attributed complexity largely to the sheer number of ingredients in a beer. If you want to make a beer complex and interesting, load it up with a bunch of different ingredients is what we believed. This mentality led to Ambrée being brewed with EIGHT different malts! It contained Munich, Two-Row, Pilsner, Carared, Amber, Crisp C-120, Melanoidin, and Roasted Barley.

As time has progressed here at Jester King, we’ve come to very much appreciate and subscribe to the principles of subtlety, simplicity, and restraint. We’ve found that some of the most beautiful and enjoyable beers really subscribe to these principles. More specifically, we’ve discarded the mentality that more specialty malts necessarily equate to complexity of flavor. In the culinary world, a few simple ingredients prepared well can be just as complex and elegant a dish made using a ton of specialty ingredients. We wanted Ambrée to reflect the same kind of refinement and balance.

Our initial inspiration for Ambrée came from some of our favorite farmhouse ales from French Flanders, notably the beers brewed by Brasserie Thiriez in Esquelbecq, France. But for the third batch, we looked much closer to home for inspiration: Live Oak Brewing Company in Austin. We’ve gotten to learn much from Live Oak during the last year or so while collaborating with them. Live Oak makes beautiful wort using very simple ingredients. For instance, for Kollaborationsbier they took two malts and worked with them using a technique called a decoction mash to create some of the richest, most delicious wort we’ve ever tasted. Decoction mashing involves separating out a portion of the mash, boiling it in the kettle, and then returning it to the mash tun.

For our third batch of Ambrée, we took inspiration from Live Oak and appreciation for subtlety, simplicity, and restraint to create a simple, amber farmhouse ale. We brewed it with three malts (Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna) instead of eight using a decoction mash. The wort was then fermented with our mixed culture of brewer’s yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the air and wildflowers around our brewery. We also scaled down the gravity of Ambrée, which resulted in a lower alcohol by volume. Our third batch of Ambrée is 4.5% ABV, whereas before it was in the 7% range. We think this has lead to a more drinkable, enjoyable beer. We also believe Ambrée now has some nice symmetry as a middle ground between Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer and Commercial Suicide Farmhouse Mild.

Ambrée Batch 3 was brewed with Hill Country well water, barley, and hops. It was fermented in stainless steel for five weeks with our mixed culture, then naturally conditioned through refermentation in the serving vessel for another four weeks prior to release. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized. At the time of bottling, it had a finishing gravity of 1.002, a pH of 4.39, and was 25 IBUs. Ambrée is available on draught in our tasting room and in 750ml bottles, both in our tasting room and in stores throughout Texas.


Introducing Jester King Vulgar Affectation

5 August 2015

We are excited to introduce Jester King Vulgar Affectation — a nearly one year old farmhouse ale brewed with native lemon beebalm and horehound growing in the fields surrounding our brewery. The inspiration behind Vulgar Affectation came from a couple of different sources — our desire to make beer with a sense of place unique to our land in the Texas Hill Country, our enjoyment of foraged beers, and our specific admiration for Pissenlit from Brasserie Fantôme, which is brewed with wildflowers gathered from around their brewery in Soy, Belgium.

To make Pissenlit, Fantôme’s Dany Prignon picks wild dandelions, dries them, and makes a concentrated tea that he adds at the end of the boil. In the summer of 2014, an intense purple field of lemon beebalm wildflowers (pictured below) grew around Jester King. Our Head Brewer Garret Crowell picked some of the leaves and flowers and dried them for several months. On brew day in late September of 2014, he picked fresh horehound around our brewery and added it to the dried lemon beebalm leaves and flowers. He then made a concentrated tea of horehound and lemon beebalm and added it at the end of the boil.

This process exemplifies our mission at Jester King, to make beers that embody the place and time in which they’re made. Using the seasonal resources that grow around us ties our beer to our location, and a specific moment in time. Vulgar Affectation spent close to six months fermenting in stainless steel tanks, and then another four months bottle conditioning, which means that its release coincides with the time of year when lemon beebalm and horehound are growing in our fields once again!

Vulgar Affectation was brewed with Hill Country well water, barley, wheat, rye, rolled oats, lemon beebalm, horehound, and hops. It was fermented with our mixed culture of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the Texas Hill Country. It is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and 100% naturally conditioned in bottles, kegs, and casks. Vulgar Affectation is 5.0% alcohol by volume, 38 IBU, 3.6 pH at the time of packaging in April 2015, and has a finishing gravity of 1.002 (0.5 degrees Plato).

Vulgar Affectation will be released at Jester King when our tasting room opens at 4pm on Friday, August 7th, with a special pre-release during the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow presentation of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on Thursday, August 6th. It will be available by the glass and to go in 750ml bottles ($12/bottle, limit 3 per customer per day, approximately 3,000 bottles available). A very limited amount of Vulgar Affectation will be available by the glass in our tasting room. Outside of special events, Vulgar Affectation will only be available at our tasting room. The label art was created by our own Josh Cockrell.

Vulgar Affectation

Field of Lemon Beebalm

Lemon Beebalm

Jester King Horehound

Dried Lemon Beebalm

Adding Horehound to the Tea

Wildflower Tea

Head Brewer Garrett Crowell Adding Wildflower Tea to Whirlpool


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