Most brewers will tell you that attending the Great American Beer Festival is one of the highlights of the year for them. It is a big spectacle of beer, brewers, and beer lovers. It is something for every beer geek’s bucket list.
Last Saturday, my wife and I went to Jester King’s Funk’n Sour Gravity Fest out at their brewery on the west side of Austin. That day, the brewery was serving soured versions of some their beers. Most of the soured version were aged in oak barrels with added microbes to sour the beer. Jester King uses “commercial” strains of bacteria, plus some microbes they’ve harvested at their brewery. To do that, they exposed fresh wort to the Texas Hill Country air and let the mixed culture grow. They then sent samples off to a lab to be examined and have the more promising bacterial strains isolated and cultured for them. Of their soured beers, my favorite was the oak-aged Commercial Suicide (a 3.6% ABV English dark mild).
The brewery also showed off the “farmhouse” versions of some of their English ales. For these beers, they replaced their usual English ale yeast with a saison yeast. Although the saison yeast is more finicky than their regular ale yeast, the brewers like the complexity it adds. I really liked the Wytchmaker Rye IPA done with the saison yeast.
In all, it was a great time. As expected, I ran into a few Austin ZEALOTS. I also got to spend a little time talking to Michael and Jeffrey Stuffings, the two brothers who founded the brewery. The brewery has some new beers coming out, including a beer called Noble King, which they describe as a hoppy farmhouse ale, and they’ve got a whole bunch of other ideas, too. One is to start brewing with captured rainwater -- a project that will have to wait until it actually rains here. (Central Texas experienced it’s worst drought in recorded history this year.)
The final bit of news from Jester King is that they are suing the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision (TABC), claiming the state’s ridiculous labeling laws infringe on the breweries First Amendment right to accurately describe their beer. The also have a suit claiming the the TABCs rules on beer distributing are a violotion of the Fourteenth Amendment. You can see the details at: http://jesterkingbrewery.com/blog/ (These guys might be Jesters, but they're no fools. Jeffrey was a lawyer before opening the brewery.)...
Living the Dream
I received an email from a homebrewer dreaming of becoming a commercial brewer and he asked, “How late is too late for a determined fool to chase an old dream?”
When things were going well, the former president of my undergraduate institution (Augustana College, Sioux Falls SD) used to say, “It’s a good day to be a Viking.” (In case you're wondering, he wasn't insane, Vikings were our mascot.) This weekend, it was good to be a Viking . . . although not for any reasons associated with my alma mater.
This weekend, my wife and I went to the Dixie Cup. The Dixie Cup is the annual conference of the Foam Rangers, a homebrewing club in Houston, TX. It is one of the largest homebrew gatherings in the US. (This year they had 1,200 entries in their contest.) I have been to the Dixie Cup several times and it is always a blast.
Many years, members of my club coordinate on what to wear for the Dixie Cup. Usually, we take the theme of the Dixie Cup, and then dress up as if we misunderstood it. For example, on the year they had a Star Wars theme, we came dressed as characters from Star Trek. Most years, however, we simply dress as Vikings. (Or, more technically, we dress as Vikings dress in popular mythology. In reality, Vikings never wore helmets with horns. That portrayal was an invention of the British, in the 17th Century. The British — who bore much of the brunt of Vikings raids in the Age of the Vikings (from the late 8th through 11th Centuries) — were intent on portraying Vikings as simple barbarians instead of the highly-organized and disciplined raiders that they were . . . but I digress.) This year’s theme was The Dixie Cup Goes Down (Under) — and had an Australian flair. So, it’s probably best we just went as "Vikings."
In any case, we Vikings plundered this year. The Austin ZEALOTS won the Dixie Cup! In addition, one of our members, Mark Schoppe, scored the most points as an individual. (Another member, Kerry Martin, came in second.) The brewing team of Keith and Pam Bradley came in first in the team standings. And, our finish at the Dixie Cup meant that we also won the Lone Star Circuit — the circuit that includes all the homebrew competitions in Texas, except (ironically) our own (the Austin ZEALOTS Homebrew Inquisition). So, it was a good day to be a Viking . . . or, as I mentioned, a British re-imagining of a Viking....
Congratulations to Corey Martin, of my homebrewing club the Austin ZEALOTS, for winning this year's Sam Adams Longshot contest. Corey's beer — a Munich dunkel — will be brewed commercially by Sam Adams and be a part of this year's Longshot mixed 6-pack.
In the next few weeks, I will be blogging about my recent trip to Belgium. BYO's publisher (Brad Ring) took me and our advertising driector (Kiev Rattee) to the Brussels area in early August and we visited some interesting breweries, beer cafes and beer-themed restaurants.
First though, I'll post the experimental protocol of the next BYO/BBR experiment -- fermenter type. In this experiment, we're asking homebrewing to brew 10 gallons of beer and ferment it in two different fermenters (bucket, carboy or cylindro-conical). Alternately, you can brew 15 gallons, and ferment it in 3 different fermenters. I'll post a protocol and what data to collect in the next couple days.