USA, Austin: Jester King Brewery

USA, Austin: Jester King Brewery

Authentic farmhouse brewery at its best

Although we generally write about beer, wine and spirits experiences on the European mainland in our blogs, we like to make an exception. As I happened to be traveling to Austin, Texas for a family visit, I couldn't resist a visit to the legendary Jester King farm brewery. There are plenty more great craft breweries and craft beer bars in Austin and the surrounding area, but Jester King brewery had been on my bucket list for a while.

Skyline Austin from Mount Bonnell

Texas Hill Country

Because we stayed on the other side of town it was quite a long drive around Austin. On the west side of the city we then got caught up in heavy traffic because of all the roadworks on that side. Looks like Austin is starting to grow a bit at the seams.

As soon as you take the exit from US Highway 290 that runs south of Austin, you leave the urban life behind and enter Texas Hill Country. The road winds a bit, passing a ranch here and there, and without much indication in advance we suddenly saw a sign on our left that indicated that we had arrived at the right place: Jester King - Enter here!

Jester King brewery, just outside Austin, Texas

Authentic farmhouse brewery

Jester King brewery is well-known among beer geeks worldwide, and specializes in farmhouse ales and mixed-culture beers. The brewery was founded in 2010 by brothers Jeff and Michael Steffing and has gained a reputation for producing high-quality and unique beers using locally-sourced ingredients and traditional brewing methods. Jester King places a strong emphasis on sustainability and uses solar power, rainwater harvesting, and other environmentally-friendly practices in their brewing process.

Main hall at Jester King brewery

Just like Brouwerij Boon, the well known Belgian Lambic brewery that we visited and made a short video about, Jester King also uses a traditional brewing vessel called a “coolship”. The hot wort gets transferred into the coolship, typically in the evening, allowing it to cool overnight.

Coolship at Jester King brewery

During this time, the wort is exposed to the open air, allowing wild yeast and bacteria present in the atmosphere to inoculate the liquid. The following morning, the cooled wort is transferred into oak barrels for fermentation and aging. Unfortunately, due to rising temperatures, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the brewery to produce these kind of beers.

Oak barrels in warehouse Jester King

Jester King brewery tour

I had been a bit stupid and had not announced my arrival in advance, only to find out that normally there are no brewery tours on Thursdays. When asked if it was possible to take a look at the brewery, I was given a can of 'Mr. Mingo' and was asked to wait. Mr. Mingo is a Farmhouse Ale of 4.8% alcohol to which hibiscus flowers are added at the end of the brewing process. With such a beer in hand, waiting becomes a pleasant pastime.

Mr. Mingo, Farmhouse Ale brewed at Jester King brewery

After a while 'front of house manager' Luke arrived and was kind enough to take me to the brewery. There I could look around and I was introduced to Sarah, brewer and barrel manager at Jester King. We had a very nice conversation and she showed me the coolship and the impressive warehouse where all the barrels are stored.

Brewhouse Jester King brewery

Foeders at Jester King brewery

To make my visit even more special, she let me sample a 100% spontaneously fermented beer (three year blend, bottled in 2017) and some of Jester King's barrel-aged farmhouse ales that are highly sought after by beer enthusiasts. In a state of bliss, with three large beer bottles in hand and with my mouth full of complex, funky and tart flavors, I said goodbye to Sarah and strolled around the immense grounds of Jester King.

Jester King SPON, three year blend, bottled in 2017

Jester King ranch

The significant amount of land is used for various purposes related to brewing. One of the key functions of the ranch is growing and harvesting certain ingredients used in Jester King's beers. They embrace a farm-to-table approach, utilizing the resources available on the ranch to create beers that reflect the terroir of the area.

The brewery is situated on a property of approximately 66 hectares. You will also find a pizza restaurant and a food truck on site. Availability of food options is subject to change, so it's a good idea to confirm current offerings before visiting Jester King Brewery if you're specifically interested in their food offerings. But I have a feeling that the focus of many visitors will be more on beer.

The goat barn at Jester King farm

Smaller visitors might have the focus on goats as Jester King Brewery is known for having goats on their property. They play a role in their sustainable and agricultural practices. The goats help with vegetation management by grazing on the land, helping to control and maintain the growth of grass and plants. They also contribute to the overall ambiance and experience of the brewery as I noticed quite some visitors enjoying and interacting with the goats as part of their visit to the brewery.

Goats at Jester King farm

Goat at Jester King farm

In an attempt to get a nice picture my visit to Jester King ended on my knees with a goat on my back. Forgot to take a selfie, seems a pretty good reason to plan a next trip to Texas!

During the remainder of our wonderful stay with our relatives I enjoyed some really tasty Jester King beers. Like Bug Farm (middle picture), a Farmhouse Ale at 5,1% ABV, refermented with watermelon and brewed with rosemary, lavender and mint. Also Bière de Merlot (left picture), a mildly sour, summery beer where the merlot grape clearly leaves its mark. Wine lovers will also be pleasantly surpised by Bière de Lenoir (right picture), a barrel aged sour beer that is matured for eight to fourteen months before blending and refermention with Texas-grown Lenoir grapes. Another remarkable beer from Jester King brewery and a very tasty farewell to Austin.

Author: Johan de Ligt | Picture credits: Tasty Tales