Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Jester King Brewery (Austin, TX)

A brewery whose beers I’ve admired for a while is Jester King Brewing.  I knew, from experience, that they produced some seriously interesting and experimental beers, but until I went there I did not fully grasp how special Jester King is.

Located in the Texas Hill Country, on the outskirts of Austin, Jester King sits on 58 acres of ranchland.   The portion surrounding the brewery has been turned into a very pleasant beer garden.  Adjacent to them there is a pizza restaurant that also serves beer –and, of course, one can bring one’s beer down to the pizza place, and the pizza up to the brewery’s beer garden.

Jester King is committed to infusing as much of the Texas Hill Country terroir into their beers as they can.    Water is drawn from an on-site well, and the barrel house was once the site’s dairy barn. Even the large corrugated metal building that houses the 30-bbl brewhouse is recycled. It was located on a farm in southern Texas, dismantled, and reassembled on Jester King’s property.

Most of the parcel, naturally, is open space and provides the native environment in which the wild yeasts that Jester King relies on naturally thrive and propagate.

In the cool months, wort is pumped into a copper coolship in the barrel house’s second story loft. The windows are left open to the cool night air and the area’s natural wild “bugs” allowed to settle on to the wort.

The wort then racked into barrels and foeders, where it spends from a few months to a several years fermenting and maturing.

Averie Swanson, head brewer (and now part owner) of Jester King, who led our tour, explained that while they have to reject about one in ten barrels because they developed off flavors, but most of the time patience is the key, recognizing that different micro-organisms do their thing at different rates and stages of the fermentation, and just giving them time to clean up a beer.

Interestingly, she also noted that whenever they send samples off for analysis, the labs return a list of a couple dozen micro-organisms that they recognize and note the presence of “about 100 more” that they’ve never seen before.

On part of the land, the brewery has planted grape vines, the fruits of which will be used to infuse new and interesting character into beers.  In order to increase the locality of the flora they will contribute, and in a gesture toward “closing the circle”, the spot where each vine was to be planted was first innoculated with microflora from brewery.

About the only thing that regularly goes into Jester King brews that doesn’t come from Texas is the hops.  Hops just don’t do well in the heat and shorter days of Texas.  Now, Jester King is experimenting with growing hops, hoping to find a variety that will grow well-enough there to be usable, but until they  find it they are reliant on hops from the Pacific Northwest. However, to infuse “as much Texas Hill Country character as possible” into them, the hops cones are placed in burlap sacks and stored for a year or so in the rafters of a horse barn just down the road.

The result of all that is not only some pretty fantastic, if funky, beers, but also beers –such as Wanderflora, Abcission, or the SPON series– that are redolent with a sense of place. This place.

 

 

Jester King Brewery
13187 Fitzhugh Rd
Austin, TX

jesterkingbrewery.com

Figueroa Mountain Brewing’s “Lizard’s Mouth” Imperial IPA

 

Figueroa Mountain Brewing is a family-owned craft brewery located in Buellton, CA, with six taprooms along the south-central coast: in Buellton, Arroyo Grande, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, and Westlake Village.

I was happy to be given the chance to sample some beers by Figueroa Mountain Brewing, who, last week, sent me a couple of bottles for review.

The first of those -which I opened yesterday- is Lizard’s Mouth Imperial India Pale Ale.

My first impression upon pouring Lizard’s Mouth was that this is a pretty beer. Starting with the clear, golden color, an on to that snow-white head.

My bottle was appropriately carbonated, producing steady streams of tiny bubbles rising up through the beer, what people sometimes refer to as “strings of pearls”. Lizard’s Mouth also has good head retention, and plenty long-lasting lacing in the glass as the volume of liquid goes down.

Lizard’s Mouth is full-bodied, with a creamy mouthfeel. It has a little bit of warmth -one can tell it is a higher alcohol brew- but doesn’t taste at all “hot” or alcoholic.

As for the hops, they are definitely up near the front in the aroma and taste, but they don’t smack one in the face. Lizard’s Mouth has plenty of malt body and sweetness to balance out the 75 IBUs of hops (Simcoe, Citra, and Centennial, if you must know).

Unlike many American double IPA’s, which are very much hop-forward, Lizard’s Mouth may be better described as malt-forward –of course, maybe that’s why it’s described as an “imperial” and not a “double” IPA.  It tastes malty, with some notes of biscuit, a little toast. There’s notes of citrus in there as well, and tropical fruit — I get guava, passion fruit, maybe some pineapple.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem with a 9% abv brew, as I was finishing my glass of Lizard’s Mouth, it occurred to me that “this a session imperial IPA”! I could have easily drunk another bottle of it, which doesn’t happen a lot with big IPA’s.  I mean, yes, there was a hop flavor and bitterness aftertaste, but my tastebuds didn’t feel overwhelmed. In fact, I was able to enjoy a meal immediately thereafter and actually be able to taste something other than hops.

So, Pliny, this isn’t.  Double IPAs of that school are meant to showcase hops. Figueroa Mountain’s Lizard’s Mouth Imperial IPA, on the other hand, was clearly designed to attain a balance.  The result is a beer that is surprisingly easy to drink despite the high hop rate and abv.

Honestly, I liked it a lot.

 

The ABGB (Austin, TX)

An article in this month’s Zymurgy magazine -the journal of the American Homebrewers Association- featuring an interview with Brain Peters, the owner and brewer at the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. reminded me that I hadn’t posted anything relating to my recent visit to Austin.  (I been trying to post at least every two weeks, but clearly, I’m failing at that.)

Knowing my predilection for beer and brewing, my friends, Michelle and Dan, suggested we met at Austin Beer Garden Brewing, known locally as The ABGB.

Located just south of downtown, the ABGB occupies a large warehouse-type space. One side is given to the bar and taps, while one of the ends holds a stage for live music on the weekends. The brewing and fermenting gear peeks out from behind both.  The public space is filled with long communal tables, making for a friendly space. However, it is with the outside seating that the ABGB really earns it’s moniker.

Thanks to Austin’s warm weather, one can sit at the outside tables long into the evening, under the strings of Edison lights.   The ABGB serves some rather nice pizza, and of course the beer can be ordered by the pitcher to go with the pies.

How’s the beer?  Actually, pretty good. It’s no wonder that the ABGB is one of Austin’s prime beer spots.

I am not sure what we had with the pizza, as it was not I doing the ordering, but as I waited for Michelle and Dan to arrive I did sample a glass of “YSB [You’ll See, Baby] #5: Fiona”.  Fiona is a mild apple sour first released in 2015.  It must have proved popular for it to be still be on tap in early 2018. As I made a note of at the time, Fiona is “Crisp, dry, apple. Tart. I like!”

So, if you should find yourself with time to kill in Austin, the ABGB is well-worth checking out.

 

ABGB
1305 W. Oltorf
Austin, TX

theabgb.com

Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co. (Watsonville, CA)

Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co. is one of a growing number of breweries ringing the wide half-moon arc of Monterey Bay. Located in a semi-industrial neighborhood on the northern outskirts of Watsonville, it is a surprisingly cozy place given its surroundings.

There are several couches and armchairs arranged between the no-frills bar and the space given over to the 7-bbl brew-house, forming little nooks for patrons to sit at, drink, and talk.  There is clearly a sizeable corps of regulars and most seem to be on a name-basis with the servers. Moreover, the place is decidedly dog-friendly (servers even know the regulars’ dogs by name!).

The vibe is friendly and open.  In fact, I got to chatting with one of the regulars, a former cop named Dave, who, upon learning it was my first time at the brewery, insisted on buying a me few beers, so I could try some beyond the flight I had ordered.

The beers are quite enjoyable. A solid line-up.  Elkhorn Ale, a smooth, copper-colored, 6.7% abv California lager, and Pajaro Gold, a 5.9 ABV ale, seem to be their flagship beers. Both are admittedly nice, but I was drawn more to their selection of wilder brews.

Sucrosity is a “wild farmhouse wheat beer aged in Chardonnay barrels”. It is mildly sweet-tart, with notes of fruit and plum. It  checks in at 6.8% ABV.

Lemon Kush is a  Tequila barrel-aged sour-mashed “wild” lemon gose.  It has ample notes of citrus, with a touch of spice. 6.2% ABV.

My favorite, I’d have to say, was probably Green Jewel.  It is a 7.2%  ABV “barrel-aged wild sour blonde ale with Cannabis terpennes”.  Green Jewel is golden in color, light-bodied, with a mild tartness.

 

 

Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co.
65 Hangar Way, Unit D
Watsonville, CA

elkhornsloughbrew.com

Opening: Ghost Town Brewing (Oakland, CA)

Ghost Town Brewing opens the doors to its taproom and brewery to the public tonight after a long wait and many hurdles.

I had the opportunity to visit last night at its soft opening event, and I must say the place is very nice indeed.   It is located in a large warehouse space, split roughly down the middle between the shiny 15-bbl brewhouse and assorted fermentation tanks, and the serving and public areas of the house.

Care was given to making sure the small details were not overlooked, down to having sleeves with the brewery’s logo wrapping around the table supports and coffin-shaped bike posts in one corner.  (Both, incidentally, were sourced locally from a steelworks just a couple of blocks away.)

With plenty of room at the bar, lots of seating, and a corn-hole court, the taproom is the kind of place that makes you just want to hang out. Hang out and drink beer.

As to the beers -crafted by Justin Burdt, recently of the now-closed Black Diamond Brewing Co.- are all excellent.  I tasted a fair selection of what they had on offer and there was not one that would quibble with, but I would particularly recommend asking for Lecherous Haze, a 6% NE IPA;  Melmac, a 5.5% pale ale; or Old Trepanner,  10.7% barley wine.

 

Ghost Town Brewing
1960 Adeline St (corner of Adeline and 21st St)
Oakland, CA

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