Jester King: Figlet (on TV?!)

Figlet Jester King Brewery CollaborationWe’re very excited to introduce Jester King Figlet, brewed in collaboration with the world famous Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas! We love working with local artisans doing exceptional and creative things in the food and beverage world, and Franklin Barbecue is of course no exception.

The original impetus for this collaboration came from the filming of an upcoming episode of BBQ With Franklin, which will air on KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. Aaron Franklin set out to explore the use of smoke in beer making for the episode. We wanted to branch out beyond the traditional use of smoked malt and opted to take a local ingredient that was in season — Texas figs — and use it as a medium to impart characteristics from Franklin’s barbecue pits into the beer. Local figs were caramelized with heat and cold smoked at Franklin Barbecue. Aaron charred a portion of the figs, which imparted a subtle burnt, almost leathery, character to the beer. The base beer was designed to integrate the flavors and aromas of the smoked figs with our house fermentation characteristics, which stem from mixed culture fermentation with a blend of brewer’s yeast, wild yeast from the Texas Hill Country, and native souring bacteria. While we typically brew beer with a sizable majority of pilsner malt in the grist, in this case our Head Brewer Garrett Crowell opted for a base of Dark Munich malt, which he felt complemented the smoky and lightly caramelized character of the figs.

Figlet was brewed in early July of 2014 with Hill Country well water, barley, oats, and hops. It then underwent a long-term fermentation over the course of four months, first in stainless steel and then in bottles, kegs, and casks. As is the case with all our beer, the aromas and flavors are largely created by giving a diverse array of microorganisms, many of which are native to our land in the Texas Hill Country, the ample time they need to work with each other (or against each other!) to create unique characteristics inexorably tied to our land. During the last few weeks of the stainless steel portion of the fermentation, the smoked figs were added to the beer and allowed to referment. During this process, the sugars in the figs were broken down by yeast and bacteria. Through refermentation, the aromas and flavors of the smoked figs were transformed, integrated, and elevated in a way that we believe is greater than the sum of their parts. Figlet is 6.2% alcohol by volume, 1.006 specific gravity, and had a pH of 3.7 at the time of bottling in early September.

Figlet will be released at Jester King Brewery when our tasting room opens at 4pm on Friday, November 21st. It will Figlet bottle and glass from Jester King Brewerybe available by the glass, as well as to go in 750ml bottles ($12, limit 2 per customer per day). Approximately 3,500 bottles are available, and at this point, we do not anticipate Figlet being available outside of Jester King, apart from a few special events. The label art for Figlet was done in house by our own Josh Cockrell.

We’d like to offer a very special thank you to Aaron Franklin for working with us to create our collaboration beer, as well to KLRU-TV, Austin PBS for documenting the process!

Jester King’s Estival Dichotomous: A Beer with a Summer Source

Estival DichotomousFrom Jester King Brewery:
We are excited to introduce Jester King Estival Dichotomous — our summer saison brewed with chamomile and spelt and refermented with strawberries. Estival Dichotomous is our second seasonal saison following Hibernal Dichotomous, which we released in April of 2014. As we mentioned at the time of the Hibernal Dichotomous release, our brewing is largely driven by the seasons. We make farmhouse ales when the weather is hot and temperatures are conducive to fermentation in stainless steel, and we make spontaneously fermented beers and barrel fermented beers when temperatures are cold and conducive to overnight inoculation of wort and slow maturation in oak. We also use the ingredients that are available to us at various times during the year. For instance, in the winter we make beer with citrus fruit, in the spring we use peaches, in the summer we use apricots, blueberries and figs, and in the fall we use grapes, horehound, lemon bee balm, and squash. Estival Dichotomous is an analog for the summer season. It’s a beer that’s evocative of the summer weather and its bounty, particularly the smells of hay resting in the fields late in the season.

Estival Dichotomous was brewed in early July of 2014 with Hill Country well water, barley, spelt, hops, and chamomile. It was fermented with our unique mixed culture of microorganisms consisting of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from our land in the Texas Hill Country, and then refermented with strawberries. Finally, it underwent a long term refermentation and maturation in bottles, kegs, and casks over the course of three months. Mixed culture fermentation is a very slow and patient process, so while Estival Dichotomous is evocative of the summer, its release is not tied to the season from which it originated. In terms of the chamomile addition, we stayed true to the words and wisdom of our friend Yvan De Baets of Brasserie De La Senne in Brussels, Belgium. Yvan writes in Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales, “If spices are used, it must be with the utmost moderation. A saison is not by any means a spice soup.” Estival Dichotomous is 6.0% alcohol by volume, has a finishing gravity of 1.000 (0 degrees Plato), and was 4.1 pH at the time of bottling. Given the tartness that has developed in the flavor profile, we suspect the pH has slowly dropped over the last three months while in the bottles, kegs, and casks.

Estival Dichotomous bottleEstival Dichotomous will be released at Jester King Brewery on Friday, November 14th when our tasting room opens at 4pm. It will be available by the glass, as well as to go in 750ml bottles ($12, limit 3 per customer per day). Approximately 3,000 bottles are available, and at this point, we do not anticipate Estival Dichotomous being available beyond Jester King, aside from a few special events.

Jim Koch, Samuel Adams, and a Paradigm Shift.

Jim Koch of Samuel AdamsThere is a sweet spot in craft beer culture that offers the most recognition for a brewery. One could call it the “Goldilocks zone”, as it occurs when a brewery is neither too small nor too large. Names like 3 Floyds, Cigar City, New Glarus, and Funkwerks were spoken of in almost a consistent drone at GABF. Not to say that these breweries are not exceptional and worthy of such praise, but It seems that the craft beer culture often can’t see the forest for the trees. That might explain why I am often given a quizzical look when I state that Brooklyn and Avery consistently rate among my favorite breweries. I guess those guys have grown outside the “goldilocks zone”. We tend to forget that there is a reason why breweries grow beyond that point- because they provide consistent and exceptional quality in their offerings.

It seems though that I was susceptible to this mindset more than I care to admit in regards to the Boston Beer Company, producer of the Sam Adams line of beers. Other than their barrel aged series, and the holy grail Utopias, I had completely dismissed their offerings as boring and unimaginative. Then at a simple press event Jim Koch gave me a figurative backhand across the face and told me to wake up and smell the Boston Lager.

Exhausted from the trip to Colorado and a couple of nights out as well as one day of GABF under my belt, I can honestly say I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down about this press event, especially since it was mid-morning. The event was well put together and the food looked amazing, but I had already eaten a phenomenal meal at Snooze, a well-regarded local breakfast joint. Ben Esely and I made our way to the bar after our arrival, stacked with glasses and a range of offerings by Sam Adams. I started off with a Boston Lager, and then moved to one of my favorites from Sam Adams, the gloriously sour Stoneybrook Red.

Time went on, and we talked to other journalists (or bloggers, whichever). Most of us had a kind of blah attitude about us, and I assumed the other journalists were anti-morning as well. We drank at the bar, murmured amongst each other, and waited.

Jim Koch stepped up on an elevated platform. I can’t say whether he was formally introduced to the crowd, I just know that he was on stage alone instead of surrounded by people on floor level. There were no longer drones of discussion amongst the media, but applause from fans who happened to be strapped with cameras and equipment. I joined in the applause and got the feeling that even though a lot of us had perhaps dismissed Sam Adams in the past, we all felt admiration to Jim Koch. If there was one person responsible for all the fantastic beer we have had in our lives, it is him.

Jim Koch Samuel Adams and Longshot Homebrew CompetitionJim is exactly like you see in the commercials, except he cusses a whole lot more. He is a man who truly enjoys beer and seems really happy. He began speaking of how after 30 years of “working his ass off” he finally had 1% of the market share of beer, and that after another 30 years, he hoped to get 2%. He talked of the recipe for Boston Lager and how it dates from the 1800’s and how he found it in his attic. He spoke of his family history, his past, and the future of beer.

He moved on to talk about the 2014 National LongShot American Homebrew Contest, a contest that he has been putting on every year since 1995. The contest is for aspiring homebrewers who submit their beer to a panel of judges who choose a winner based on the Beer Judge Certification Guidelines for the style the brewers entered under. This year’s winners were Greg Rasmussen’s Robust PorterMatthew Knott’s Classic Rauchbier and John Marra’s Dunkelweiss. You can try these great beers next spring when they’re available in the LongShot 6-pack release.

He then talked about another program at Samuel Adams, The 2015 Brewing and Business Experienceship. This program is for small breweriesDSCF1109 and the winner of the contest receives what amounts to an internship or mentoring program by Samuel Adams and the chance to produce a collaboration beer with Sam Adams. This year’s winners are San Diego’s ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. Be sure to keep an eye on these guys, as obviously they are doing something right…

Next Koch introduced two of Sam Adams’ newest beers, Rebel Rouser DIPA and Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru, a sour ale. We were lucky to try both, and we will post reviews of both at a later (but soon) date.

After the event ended, Ben and I stepped up to talk to the legend who gave the speech. There was a small line, but that was just more time to sample the great beer. By the time we spoke to him, Koch was surrounded by other journalists oddly enough, from Texas. The conversation, as you may guess, gravitated to our wacky laws in the lone star state, and how we’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go. I won’t bore you with the details of our legal speak but it turns out the legend is a pretty down to earth guy. I guess that’s the great thing about beer, even the rockstars are not snobs.

Shortly after our discussion, the crowd thinned and we moved to exit the building. Standing outside the entrance on the sidewalk with other journalists, only one thing was said regarding the previous event- That we all had a new found appreciation for Samuel Adams, despite their size.

Ben Webster is a co-founder, educational writer and beer reviewer for Beer Drinkers Society.

Adelberts’ Sundowner Review

Sundowner from AdelbertsTo start off, I’m going to be completely honest. I haven’t always been a fan of Adelberts’ beers, but as is the case with many other breweries,
they brought me around eventually. Especially with the crazy offerings they’ve had of late, and the Beer du-jour tonight is no exception.
Sundowner is called out on the label as “a Belgian-style ale fermented with champagne yeast”. Okay, Adelberts’, I’m in.
Sundowner pours an opaque goldenrod yellow, with a fluffy, tightly packed head, that recedes to 1/4-inch in under a minute.
(No shocker there, looking at the ABV.) When swirled in the glass, the head does kick back up a bit, but fades down just as quickly as it comes,
leaving wispy lacing that cascades back into the golden murk from whence it was born. As cloudy as it is, it’s difficult to get a read on the carbonation level, at this point, so I guess we’ll have to move on.
The nose leaves nothing to be desired in my book. Everything you’d want from a beer like this is there: Crackery pilsner malt aromas, light herbal hints from Noble hop varietals, nods at orange-peel, and some yeasty funk too. Possibly some lemon zest, and even a nip of basil. Awesome. It smells like it’s seen some Lactic fermentation too, but I could be wrong. Hold please…
Yup. Totally wrong. And, WOW. This is one DRYYYYYYYY beer! The malt note I mentioned is still evident, but the flavor is completely different from the nose. It really hits just like champagne. Lemon rind right up front, white rye bread, and a little bit of basil, again. This little number slides across the tongue like the Duke boys across the hood of a car, and hits all the right spots too. It’s almost creamy, in a way, which is really messing with my mind right now, and yet, still dry enough to let you know where its’ yeasty roots lie. It’s prickly, almost in a white-pepper sort of way, but you know what? That. IS. AWESOME.
I’m completely blown away by this beer, and, if I finish the bottle, will be even more so. Adelberts’ knocked it out of the park with this one, in my book. I could keep tasting, and describing this beer, and not nail down how awesome it is! Instead, I’m going to sit here, play some Uke for my little girl, and enjoy this cool Texas weather.
Damn fine stuff. Go get you some!!!Cheers!

Craft Beer Parenting: A Family at Untapped Fest

Ben Esely and his sonI recently attended The Dallas Untapped Fest, which isn’t new for me, but this time I brought along the entire family; my wife and 2 young sons. This is not an endeavor I would venture into lightly, though. Beer fests are generally a loud party where drinking exquisite craft beer is the number one activity. And if my wife weren’t there, bringing my children would have been out of the question. Since she did want to come along and my sons have a love of great bands like Polyphonic Spree, Deltron 3030 and Cake, we saddled up the stroller and headed out. Here are a couple of tips I gained from my first family beer fest that may help other new parents who enjoy craft beer and want to enjoy it with your families.

Realize that you’re going to split your time. You can’t just hop from booth to booth13 drinking. You need to keep the fest fun for your kids too and seeing the butt or crotch in front of them all night isn’t the most exciting. My boys are still young and seeing new things in the world is exciting for them. So as we ambled along, I’d point out breweries’ logos, introduce them to friends, explain games like corn hole and we talked extensively about the music. This is where it might be a little different for other parents. My eldest son is a music fanatic and my youngest loves to dance to anything. In fact, when Deltron 3030 started playing Clint Eastwood my older son started yelling “That’s Gorillaz! That’s Gorillaz! That’s Gorillaz!” So the music at Untapped may have held more interest for my boys than for other kiddos. Most youngsters do enjoy music. So take some time to really enjoy that music and instill that same enthusiasm in your offspring.
Big man at Untapped Fest

A stroller is your friend. My boys, despite their young ages, are adventurous and love to explore. That yearning for exploration and complete lack of fear make the crowds at a beer fest pretty darn scary for a parent and a little hard to turn your back to grab a beer now and then. I’d suggest having a stroller to a) give your little one a place to sit when they’re tired and b) allow moments to stop at a booth and get a quick taster. Know your terrain when choosing which stroller to bring. The ground behind Gilley’s was a little rocky and a bit tough to navigate with a small wheeled stroller. So maybe pull out that big wheeled jogger that you never use. Don’t bring a stroller or a wagon that’s too big. The crowd and lines can get tight and the bigger your buggy, the tougher it is to navigate the throngs of people. I held back travel trails of people a couple of times to make room for other parents with both of their kiddos in one large wide push stroller.

Pack a kid friendly lunch. Food at beer fests is generally fantastic, but the wait times can get a little harsh for a little one with an empty tummy and the cuisine can be a little too experimental for a finicky eater. So have some food that your little one enjoys, maybe even bring his/her favorite foods to attach yet another pleasant memory with the festival for them. We packed a lunch bag with some of our boys’ favorites; apple sauce, cheese, gold fish crackers, etc.

Keep your head about you. This is probably the toughest advice. When I was younger, drinking was an activity that inevitably lead to intoxication. When I was alone, I could enjoy beer to the fullest and then grab a cab home. When the kids are along, you’ll need to traverse crowds like a mountaineering guide, make harried runs to the restrooms and maintain serious conversations like “Who is that doggy with a pirate eye patch?” So drink your beers, but understand that you may not need that 2nd taster card.

Big Man at Untapped listening to Cake

My eldest with his new buddy.

Untapped’s Dallas festival was my first experiment into family attendance and, from the outcome, it won’t be my last. My elder son was enthralled by Deltron 3030 and Cake, my younger hit his quota for hip swinging and hand waving and both made some new friends.

Ben is a co-f0under and the brewer interviewer for Beer Drinkers Society.
Thanks to Rasy Ran Photography for the shots.

From Jester King: Wytchmaker is All Mixed Up!

Jester King Wytchmaker LabelFrom Jester King:
The most recent batch of Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye IPA really exemplifies the ebb and flow of mixed culture fermentation with dozens of different types of microorganisms, many of which are native to our land in the Texas Hill Country. As is the case with wine, each fermentation of our beer can be treated as a “vintage”, with its own unique flavor and character. Sometimes significant variations occur from one batch to the next. In wine, these deviations result from variation in climate and the impact it has both on  the grapes and the microflora responsible for fermentation. With beer, there are even more variables that influence the procession of microbial dominance. Ingredient variations, tank geometry, temperature stratification within fermentation vessels, mash temperature, hopping rates, fermentation head space, and bottle-conditioning temperature all play significant parts in fermentation character. As such, brewers have the unique opportunity to experience “vintage” in a much shorter timeframe, and more often, than winemakers. In some instances, even two different bottlings of what started out as the same beer will develop very differently throughout the course of the bottle-conditioning process.

This was the case with batch #12 of Wytchmaker, packaged on July 28 and 29, 2014. The beer that was packaged on July 28 is noticeably more tart, with intense tropical, mango, and guava aromatics, soft carbonation, and horsey, almost gueuze-like notes, as well as ripe apricots on the palate. In contrast, the beer packaged on July 29 is less tart, more hop-forward and dank, and more aggressively carbonated, with subtle tropical undertones. We are very pleased with this batch of Wytchmaker, and consider it our favorite to date. Within this batch, each variation offers its own unique character and charm, and, overall, it’s difficult to say which we prefer.

This is what makes mixed culture fermentation exciting to us! When we cede rigid control over the fermentation and allow for the possibility that different yeasts and bacteria will dominate, the results are unpredictable and curious. When we start a new fermentation, we don’t know how long it will take or exactly what the finished beer will taste like. Pure culture fermentation with brewer’s yeast has done much for modern beer making. Beer can be made quickly, cleanly, and consistently, which of course makes sense in terms of running a business and meeting consumer expectations. But we believe that the rise of pure culture fermentation has led to some of the character, charm, excitement, and interest being lost along the way. This quote from 20th Century Belgian brewing scientist Marc H. Van Laer is one we’ve latched onto over the years:

“It is certain that the introduction of pure yeasts into industrial fermentation does not constitute the crowning achievement of a system that is henceforth immutable. It seems, for example, that if the application of the pure cultures method has improved the average quality of the beer, if it has decreased the chances of infection, it has given us beer with less character than before.”

We’re content to explore the idiosyncrasies and curiosities of mixed culture fermentation at Jester King. It’s our passion, and it motivates our everyday work. It allows us to create beer that’s truly original and tied to our little piece of the world in the Texas Hill Country. We could make a lot more beer a lot more quickly using pure culture fermentation, but like we said, we’re excited to sit back and enjoy the show as multitudes of living, microscopic creatures work together (or against one another!) to create interesting beer with unique characteristics from batch to batch.

2014 NTX Beer Week Events

Here’s a little bit of what you can expect from the craft beer scene in D-FW next week during The North Texas Beer Week. For a full & extensive list of craft beer happenings during NTX Beer Week check out NTX Beer Week’s calendar:

-Untapped Fest!! Cake, Deltron 3030, local and national rare and special brews…do we need to say more?!
-Four Corners Brewing is releasing their Smore Stout at 2:30 at their All Day Alehouse.
-Grab your costume and get over to FireWheel Brewing from 11am-3pm for their Halloween Costume Party. You’ll get a free beer if you’re wearing a costume.
-Armadillo Ale Works will be at Square One Cafe in Lewisville for a tap takeover and glass night with four Armadillo Brews and cook off. Tappings start at 7:00 PM with The Thieves of Sunrise taking the stage at 8:00 PM.

-The Bearded Lady BEER BINGO with Erik Ogershok
Enjoy a flight of 8 Real Ale beers, have a chance to win a Real Ale prize package and hang out with the Master Brewer!
-Get over to LUCK to try 4 super limited releases from Peticolas Brewing (starts at 5pm)
-The chaps of Rabbit Hole Brewing will be at Flying Saucer The Lake with a special firkin at 5pm
-6pm at The Common Table is Lakewood Love-In: Come hang with the Lakewood crew and enjoy some psychedelic tunes and beers. Featuring Manimal, La Dame du Bois, Lion’s Share II, French Quarter Temptress
-East Side Denton Tx is having a Community Beer Company Pint Night at 7pm. Keep the glass!!

-Four Corners is tapping their American Lime Wheat at their All Day Alehouse (taproom) at 7pm
-Flying Saucer Fort Worth MYSTERY FLIGHT VERSUS Erik Ogershok
Can you pick out a beer style blind? Can you guess 5 Real Ale beers? Put yourself to the test with a flight of Real Ale Brewing Beers, and have the chance to win a Real Ale YETI Cooler packed with goodies! (7:30pm)
-Ghost Stories with Brooklyn Brewery’s Garret Oliver at The Common Table: Join us for an evening of rare beers & stories w/ Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. Limit 35 people. $25/person. Reservations required – email to reserve a spot. (starts at 9:30pm)
-Franconia Beer Dinner at Copelands of Southlake from 7-9pm. To make reservations, please call 214-457-7507.

– Flying Saucer Addison Happy Hour with Erik Ogershok (4-7pm)
-Hang out with the Braindead Brewing team at The Common Table (6-10pm). “We will have Printed Threads out live screening T Shirts and of course Jeff, Sam, Drew and David will be on hand dishing out all the free hi fives you can handle!”
– Magnolia Motor Lounge Live music with special Tapping (9pm)
Come tap a keg of Scots Gone Wild and enjoy live music by Dirty Pool. Keep a special Glass!
-“Remember, Remember Deschutes in November” is a Guy Fawkes themed tap takeover at The Bottle Shop that start at 6pm.

-Lakewood Growler Mysterium Verum Vol. XVII Tapping and Tap Takeover
Come fill your growlers with a variety of Real Ale Beers and have your first taste of our NEWEST MV Release!
-Try Four Corners’ Belgian Waffel Trippel at their All Day Alehouse taproom at 6pm.
-Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel 1-7 vertical tasting at Flying Saucer Fort Worth (starts at 7pm)
-Pub Quiz and Peticolas prizes at The Common Table. Email to reserve your limited spot.

-Inaugural Brewer’s Ball

-DOUBLE EVENT with The Rustic TAP TAKEOVER and Pints for Pups @ Mutts Canine Cantina. Enjoy some delicious food and beer with Brad Farbstein, then grab your pup and head over to Mutts Canine Cantina for the Pints for Pups event benefiting Rockwall Pets! (12-4pm)
-Get the first sip of 2 collaboration brews from Four Corners Brewing and Braindead Brewing (Rye Scotch Ale) and Grapevine Craft Brewery (Imperial Golden Stout) at 2:30pm at the FCBC All Day Alehouse.
-The Meddlesome Moth is tapping Founders’ KBS at noon.
-Goodfriend Beer Garden is hosting “The End of All Endings”, a barrel aged extravaganza from Stone Brewing from 11am-2pm.
-Head over to The Flying Saucer in Addison at 5pm for some rare and cellared beer from Firestone Walker.