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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A homebrewers dream - Jester King Barrel Project

Living in Austin Texas does have it's advantages. We have great live music venues, a great economy, lots of great employers, some of the best BBQ in the world, a growing beer scene many cities would be envious to have and one of the best sour beer breweries in our back yard called Jester King.

Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery committed to making wild ales and spontaneously fermented beers that reflect the unique character of their location here in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  That's how they describe themselves at   Their beer is known throughout the world. It does have a real sense of place and one of the reasons I like them so much is because their place is my place.  I live just minutes from their location.   That is why when I had the chance to participate in a barrel project with the Austin Zealots and Jester King I literally jumped at the opportunity.  Not only did I get the opportunity to participate, I am know the project coordinator.  I gave myself that title.  I believe the Zealots would use something more the likes of "Head Jester King Barrel Project Cat Herder."

As I mentioned, I have now been part of this project two years.  Coordinating such an even basically means that I have the task of making sure everyone shows up to pull their batch from last year and brews the latest recipe to go into the barrel where it will sit and enjoy the many benefits of the Jester King micro flora.  Each year the beer turns out great and this year was no different.

The basic premise for the barrel project is simple.  Eleven passionate brewers decide on a common style, brew 5 gallons of that style and then contribute their 5 gallons to the barrel on a pre-selected day.   Jester King then, purely out of their kindness and fondness for home brewers then manages the barrel in their barrel room for roughly the next year.  Once that year is over, we start all over with eleven more batches being brewed for the next refill of the barrel.  This is usually done with a different style..

The batch we brewed last year for the barrel I participated in was a Belgian Blonde.  After we racked each brewers freshly fermented beer into the barrel we then added a Pinot Nior wine kit with skins for a refermentation in the barrel.  This year, pulling the beer was a treat.  It has a very nice acidity level to it with virtually not brett character.  I think this actually plays very well with the presence of the Pinot grapes.  Most people commented that the beer didn't quite meet our expectation in terms of being more wine forward but over all it is a very good example.   The beer also has a light rose tint and has a fairly good head on it when poured.  Of course I, like most home brewers, am a tinkerer and can not leave well enough alone.

My portion of the batch has been spit.  One half I'm leaving as is as some what of a control.  Frankly after kegging and carbonating, it makes for a great everyday drinker coming in at roughly 6% ABV going into the barrel.  It is probably a tad bit higher because of the refermenation. The other half is going to be dry hop with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand.  Those hops are described as adding a grape aroma and flavor to beer so I'm hoping they will go nicely with the addition of the Pinot Noir wine kit and might even bring those flavors out a bit.

Here are some picture from the Feb 2014 and 2015 empty and refill days at the brewery.  I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to the guys at Jester King.  They have treated us great each time and have done the homebrewing community here in Austin Texas a significant service.  As the title to this post indicates, what homebrewer doesn't dream about getting to rest their hand crafted beer in a world renowned brewery such as Jester King.  Thanks Guys!

Feb. 2014 Empty and Refill


Feb. 28, 2015 Empty and Refill



Barrel Project Part Duex

While I was brewing for the barrel project this year I just happened to brew an extra 5 gallons or so of a Belgian Golden. As the coordinator, I wanted to take extra beer to the event as back up just in case someone didn't brew or in case someone might have brewed some death sauce.   Good for me, I ended up with 5 "extra" gallons of beer....if there is such a thing.   So what to do?  

That's easy.  I have an empty barrel that has had a hard cider sitting in it for a while.  I wan't sure if the barrel was infected or not so I put 5 gallons of cider in it with some maltose to see if it went tart. Mainly I was checking for barrel character and making sure it didn't add anything overly acidic.  I'm not sure if that would have really been a good evaluation or not but I the cider turned out pretty good so I decided to use the barrel as a sour barrel.   I know, wanted to make sure it wasn't sour before I soured it.   That's because I wanted control of the bugs that are least I wanted to influence heavily rules that territory.   

So tonight (March 8, 2015) I racked the "extra" beer into that barrel. Before doing that though, I emptied about a quarter bottle (mostly dregs) of a Russian River Sanctification.  After racking the beer into the barrel, I realized that the barrel was slightly larger than the 5 gallons I had brewed so what better to add to the barrel than the very beer I pulled from the Jester King Barrel Project.  It didn't take much.  Mostly top off and consisted of adding about 3/4 gallon of that beer into the barrel.  I didn't get pictures of that part.  

My hope is that by adding both the Russian River and the Jester King'ish beers to the barrel, I will have something nice after a while.  We will see.  I'll provide an update to this post somewhere in the future once the bugs have had a chance to get acclimated to the environment and do their thing.  Until then, Cheers!