Brew Diligence: The Austin-San Antonio Craft Beer Scene
Jester King Craft Brewery
Located in an area of unincorporated Austin, the brewers at Jester King find the farmhouse setting the perfect place to make their farmhouse-style beers. With six year-round beers in his arsenal and a constant influx of experimental specialties, managing partner and “artisan of ales” Ron Extract is another classic example of an Austin brewer: a beermaker with an unexpected background influencing his style of brewing. Finding a love of beer while in a graduate program in philosophy at the University of Chicago, Extract became excited about the philosophy of terroir in beer after reading the work of Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the king of pop), who focuses on the influence of place, culture, and people on beer styles.
Extract went to brewing school at the renowned Siebel Institute in Chicago, and then worked for Shelton Brothers, importers of artisanal beers from around the world. This experience enhanced his love of small production beers that expressed their sense of place. Continuing this need to express local flavor and embrace nature, Extract and partner/fellow brewer Jeff Stuffings recently switched from using traditional English yeast, and now make most of their beers with yeast cultivated on their very own roof. Talk about local!
Das Wunderkind! Sour Saison: One of Extract’s favorites. The slow fermentation coaxes out the subtle, naturally tart spice qualities of the yeast. We tasted from both a gravity keg and a bottled version, in which the carbonation seemed more complex and brighter in taste and color, and the sour flavor was more pronounced. But Extract reminded us that the gravity keg, less carbonated and a little cloudy from the yeast, allows you taste all the other softer and more subtle components better. Extract emphasized that tasting his beers is not a one-night stand, it’s more like a series of dates where you get to know the beer. And at only 4.2 percent alcohol, you can enjoy a few “dates” over many hours of conversation, just as they do in the Old World.
Wytchmaker, Farmhouse Rye India Pale Ale: Jester King originally made this beer from traditional English yeast, but switched to the farmhouse yeast once it was viable. The switch of yeasts and Extract’s desire to express terroir was at first controversial, but the beer's funky, yeasty character and bright, piney and citrus notes from the American hops has won people over. Tons of spicy and earthy notes from the rye make this their most “in your face” flavor profile (yet still remains balanced). The farmhouse yeast requires a lowered fermentation temperature, which in turn allows the hops to have leading role, so it’s still considered equal to a West Coast IPA, with a 7.2 percent alcohol content.
Boxer’s Revenge, Barrel-Aged Wild Ale: The second of Jester King’s sour wild beers is made in the same process as Das Wunderkind: barrel aged and blended, but with a stronger base beer and an ABV of 9.3 percent. The fairly high alcohol and hops content keep the flavors of wild yeast in check, so this beer is less sour and tart than Das Wunderkind, with more malt and fruit notes. The extra time spent barrel aging allows the yeast to work more, bringing out the citrus in the hops, and resulting in a bigger beer but one with a beautiful balance, a difficult feat in rustic beers.