Jester King Craft Brewery

First Harvest at Jester King

Last month, we had our first ever harvest at Jester King! We harvested thirteen watermelon varieties, six muskmelon varieties, and a little squash and sorghum that we planted back in March.

This year’s harvest was largely experimental. We planted many different varieties to see what would grow well here and what would not. We’re trying to grow ingredients and make beer that’s tied to a place and time. That means we’re content to take what nature gives us and what thrives here, rather than trying to force nature to our will. Next year, we’ll take the seeds from the varieties that did well, plant them, and if all goes well, make beer with the fruit. We’ll pursue future experiments with grapes, hops, pumpkins, squash, pomegranates, jujubees, persimmons, goji berries, blueberries, elderberries, peaches, and plums.

Here’s an account of this year’s planting and harvest, as told by Jester King co-founder Michael Steffing:

Initial tilling was in early March.

Rocky soil was encountered — an expectation for a farm located on the eastern margin of the limestone-rich Edwards Plateau.

Our growing region is dominated by an arid, drought-like climate interrupted by brief periods of flooding. Rows (berms) and ditches (swales) were built to retain as much rainwater as possible.

To boost plant productivity and improve crop yield, we conditioned the soil with several truckloads of cotton burr compost. Cotton is grown and ginned in the Lubbock area, and waste cotton burr material is composted as an excellent soil amendment.

By late June, the field is overrun with the green of melon leaves, under which melons are growing.

Each crop row has a perforated tube running its length; water is efficiently dripped directly into the root zone. When the plants require nutrients beyond what our well water provides (mostly nitrogen but sometimes phosphorus or potassium), we run the fertigator. The fertigator is a water-driven pump, which injects small doses of nutrient-rich liquid into the drip lines. Here we’re dosing a fertilizer of fish emulsion, molasses, seaweed, and humic acid. What would happen if we used Jester King beer cultures as fertilizer?

To improve the pollination (and thereby improve yield) we established two bee colonies adjacent to the melon field. These small nucleus colonies each hold around 10,000 bees.

One of the colony queens with daub of yellow paint (a harmless way beekeepers identify this important colony member).

Results of field examination at day 59.

After about two months we had a picture of what thrived:

PlantVarietyDay 59 Germination Rate
MuskmelonHale’s Best 4560%
CantaloupeTasty Bites70%
MuskmelonEmerald Gem100%
MuskmelonHa’ Ogen100%
WatermelonSugar Baby100%
WatermelonNavajo Red80%
WatermelonAli Baba100%
WatermelonChris Chross80%
WatermelonDesert King80%
WatermelonSweet Dakota Rose50%
WatermelonMoon and Stars60%
WatermelonSugar Baby30%
WatermelonBlacktail Mountain30%
WatermelonOrange Crisp20%

Special thanks to Kate Grimes, Will Grimes, Sean Peppy Meyer, and Stayten Willows for their help with the project.

Sean Peppy Meyer

Kate Grimes

Michael Steffing