Jester King Craft Brewery

Our First Coolship Test Blends

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