Jester King Craft Brewery

New Tanks and What They Mean

Our 60 barrel tanks arrived today at Jester King. We’ll spend the next few days getting them ready for brewing. The tanks came from Erie Brewing Co. in Pennsylvania, which was undergoing an expansion and no longer needed them.

Expansion is something that is very common these days among craft breweries, and it’s a very positive thing in many ways. For one, expansion means that more people are demanding beer with character and taste rather than lowest common denominator beer mass produced to be as inoffensive as possible to the largest number of people.

At the same time, expansion makes us a little nervous. Granted, our current expansion is really quite small. Even with these 60 barrel tanks, we will only be able to brew a few thousand barrels per year. By comparison, the largest craft breweries make hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of barrels per year and the multi-national, industrial brewers make hundreds of millions. Still, the sight of large stainless steel vessels growing increasingly closer to our ceiling is a little disconcerting in some ways.

Our goal is to be a small, farmhouse brewery in the Texas Hill Country making small batches of the most complex and enjoyable beer we can using mostly old-world methods and traditions. Towering tanks (at least that’s how they look to us) seem to belie this somehow.

Aside from the philosophical reminder or warning our new tanks provide, we’re excited about them not because they’ll allow us to make increasingly larger batches of the same beers, but rather because they’ll allow us to brew a greater diversity of beers. At this moment, we have only three fermentation tanks that we’re able to use on an ongoing basis, along with a fourth that serves as a brite beer tank and/or packaging tank. This, unfortunately, does not allow us as much room for creativity and diversity as we’d like. Five active tanks, on the other hand, will give us much more flexibility allowing us to brew, among other things, farmhouse versions of all our beers. Our farmhouse method involves a primary fermentation with French Saison yeast followed by a long term secondary fermenation in oak barrels with a blend of wild yeast, Brettanomyces and bacteria.

So we embark upon our expansion not with the mindset of brewing 25,000 barrels per year of the same beer, but with an eye toward moving closer to our mission of “brewing what we like, drinking what we want, and offering the rest to those who share our tastes.”