89 / 100
500ml bottle given to me by my mate Aaron when visiting him in Denver. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam to wet his new baby's head.
Pours a vivid black-raspberry colour, with a vibrant, fine, candy-pink head, which turns to a pinot-stain ring as it goes down the glass. Body is glossy with a lovely fine bead. It's an exceptional looking beer.
Nose is extraordinary. Very lush raspberry weight, with a bright candy acid tartness. Slight aspirin character, seltzer and saline powder. There's a rougher leafy quality as well, with a hint of mild green peppercorn. There's a slight vinous hint of wine, but absolutely no suggestion of tannin. It's very good.
Taste is also good, but it's not as lush, rich or complex. Slightly briney on the front palate, with raspberry, cherry skin, zesty lemon and salt backing it up. Fine body towards the black, with a long vinous tartness—it's the kind of tartness you associate with a riesling or a sauvignon blanc, which is a trip given the colour. Soft, smooth feel, with just a velvet touch of carbonation.
This is a genuinely lovely beer. It has amazing complexity, and the softness on the palate is very good. But it's the lush fruit which really sets the beer apart. It's really good.
85 / 100
"Brewed with cubeb peppercorns, anise seed, lemon zest, and lemon juice". Tried on-tap at Bitter Phew from a rare keg with expensive single pours.
Pours a dusky golden colour, mildly hazed and bright when held to light. Body has a bit of heft to it and holds minimal coarse bubbles of carbonation when tilted. Head is a fine, slightly off-white ring that leaves filmy steaks of lacing. Looks good.
Nose is crisp and sharp, with some mild underripe fruit and a touch of butter or cream. Definitely some oaky smoothness, which gives it a slightly flabby undertone as a counterpoint to the acid. Barrel definitely comes through. Pretty interesting stuff.
Taste is better. Here, there's a lovely fruit character coming through, mingling with some true tartness and pithy funk. Flavours of bitter melon, mandarin skin and kaffir lime give it punch, while the true acidity draws the palate out into a strident length; parched and arid in the finish. Aftertaste gives a few ephemeral, lambent notes of underripe peach and green bark. Yum.
Feel is clean and biting on the front, but with a restrained cleansing dryness on the back.
Overall, cracking stuff. Really well constructed palate for a sour, with some of the subtle complexities you expect from the best blended gueuzes. Its balance is wonderful though, which means it always feels very easy to drink. A really top drop from JK.
62 / 100
Pours cloudy pale golden with white head. Mid-sized, nice and creamy dense with specks of lace left behind. Nice revival; quite good overall.
Smells smokey. Like rich, slow wood-smoked meat, chewy and dense. Touch of spice, plenty of sweetness, not too much else to it. Metallic at times too. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I'm on board.
Taste is....sour??? Honestly, what the fuck is this beer? Yeah, tart lemony character all over that, ascerbic vinegar notes blending with that smoky meat character. Brett, maybe, with smoke; funky and organically weird... with smoke. Yes, that makes sense. Seriously, does the palate cohere? Not really, it's just like two distinct beers in one glass. Neither is bad, but together they're just weird.
Slight tart , puckering character. Body is a little thin.
This is just too experimental for me. I'm fine with trying disparate flavours, but I don't need them all at the same time. Almost feel like there's no effort here, it's just clashed together and it's discordant and off-putting.
79 / 100
750ml brown bottle purchased at the brewery in Austin, TX, and brought back to Sydney, where I shared it with Rich and Sam during a brewday.
Pours a pleasant peach-yellow colour, with a fine, slightly frothy head of white that leaves intricate patterns of lacing. Body is light and fluid and holds very fine carbonation. Looks really good, all up.
Nose is redolent with smoke, overlaid upon a very pleasant Belgian basis that gives it some rounded sweetness and a hint of something meaty and hearty. There are also some herbal, horticultural characters to it as well—maybe bay leaf, certainly the juniper comes through, with hints of tarragon and sage as well. It's bizarre, but I really like it.
Taste takes an amazingly bizarre u-turn, suddenly becoming extremely sour and funk-driven, with bready overtones and a heap of wet grain-sack. Despite this, there are still botanical notes from the juniper, lacing it with a gin-like fragrance, and lingering smoke that comes from both the aroma, and from the very last beats of the aftertaste, once the acidity has lingered for as long as it feels is polite. Pepper comes through more as it warms, which is a very pleasant counterpoint to the tartness. It's certainly extremely complex.
Feel is light, but with a bit of weight behind it—too light and it could let the acidity overwhelm.
Overall, though, this is a bizarre monster of a beer—extremely unusual and very idiosyncratic. It has some of the classic Jester King weirdnesses, and then adds a few more for good measure. This is definitely one of the stand outs from their range as far as I'm concerned.
74 / 100
Tried on-tap at the brewery outside Austin, TX.
Pours a very, very pale straw yellow colour with very solid hazing that makes it almost look like a Berliner Weisse. Body is very light, but that's not unexpected for a 2.9% ABV beer. Head is pure-white forming a solid ring that leaves long streaks of lace. Carbonation is very very fine and strangely languid, which is surprising. Looks decent all up though.
Pleasant characters on the nose, almost with a little bit of hefeweizen-like spice to start with, and a nice rounded Belgian yeast character. There's some mild fruitiness to it as well giving it a bit of a fragrant life. The yeast characters are dominant though, almost giving a savoury meat-jus character to the aroma. I love it.
Taste is quite light and fruity to start with, but quickly becomes a lot drier, allowing a mineral and chlorine edge to come through. Rounded yeast notes valiantly attempt to salvage something, but there's only so much they can do with such a light body to work with. Falls out on the back to a salty dryness, with an almost fishy tone to it. Crisp but empty on the back and slightly bitter, giving a mild astringency like coriander or fruit skin in the aftertaste. It's not bad all up because it is fairly light, and I certainly appreciate that there's a lot going on.
It's really quite drinkable for some of its oddities. I love that there's so much complexity in such a small beer. Something to smooth the rocky path would be great, but then you may end up looking at a bigger beer and a different beast altogether. Maybe I'd like to see it on cask some time, I can imagine that would be great.
Tried from a bottle at the brewery in the Hill Country outside Austin, TX. A long slow ferment over three-and-a-half months makes this seem a fairly labour-intensive brew.
Pours a hazy brown-amber hue with a firm, but fluid body. Head is a middling ring of beige that settles out quite quickly, just leaving some patchy smears of lace. Carbonation is fine and soft, especially when swirling or tilting the glass. Looks good.
Nose is odd, and not in the ways I was expecting. Mostly, it smells very worty, with a sweet amber, crystalline sweetness that seems really quite out-of-place. Slight weird funk comes through that turns slightly herbal or organic. But it's always seeming to work against that wort character—I can't say I'm a fan.
Light and tart entry on the palate suggests that the sweetness might just be an anomaly, but there is a little bit of it through the centre. Here it just adds a little smoothness against the crisp tartness, almost giving a mild nut-husk flavour to the beer. The sweetness does come through again on the back through, again cut with some mild acid that leaves a linger of bitter-tart grapefruit in the aftertaste.
Feel is clean but long, with that mildly astringent citric bitter note sticking around.
It's a really weird combo all up though. That thick, malty aroma is really mismatched in my opinion, and it really detracts from the brew as a whole. That being said, the rest of the structure is really good, and if that leaves the beer as just a curiosity overall, then it still means it's worth trying.
79 / 100
Served from a bottle at the brewery in Austin, TX. This is a saison brewed with beets, oranges and local thyme, and fermented using JK's blend of local wild yeasts and bacteria.
Pours a deep beet-red, but light and clear in the body. Weight is also fairly light and fluid as it swirls. Head is just off-white tending towards pink, forming a filmy bubbled cap. Lace is thin and sketchy in patches. Carbonation is very fine giving the suggestion that there's a bit more weight to it. Looks good.
Nose is very rustic in classic Jester King style. Vegetative and herbal with big root veg characters coming through. Definitely some beetroot, but also a savoury richness reminiscent of carrot soup or vegetable stew. And yet, it's also bright with zesty acidic characters. It's really unique and really very interesting.
Light and clean entry on the palate, getting a little peppery with some notes of medicinal herbs. In the mid-palate, we get more of those root vegetable characters, almost sweet, while the body stays clean and pithy with a spicy acidity. Back is quite dry with just a bit of lingering pepper, which builds up in the aftertaste to something slightly astringent.
Feel is light and crisp, which suits it well.
Overall, it's remarkable and quite unique. It works on its own terms, and I really like that it's so different. Definitely one of my picks from Jester King.
76 / 100
Tried on-tap at the brewery outside of Austin, TX. This is a bière de coupage, where young hoppy beer is blended with old beer that's been allowed to sour.
Pours a lovely rich yellow hue with some haze. Head is initially huge, settling to a firm foamy white. Body is light and calm, struck with a little finy, bubbly carbonation. Lacing is awesome, forming in full frothy rings as the beer goes down. Looks great.
Very rustic note that melds some sharp, green harbal characters with a good punch of acid. Vegetative qualities like crushed celery come out along with fresh spicy notes like cracked peppercorns. This is packaged up by a smoothing aroma a little like melon. It's nice stuff.
Taste starts light on the palate, with a hint of pepper that develops into a genuine twang of funky bitterness. Slightly pithy on the mid-palate, with more pepper towards the back. Finish has a slight hint of peachskin as it dries out, with a nice, foamy finish to help smooth everything back together—in fact on the very back, it's almost as though there's a hint of sweetness that wasn't there before.
Feel is good. Clean for the most part, but with a slightly foamy quality that makes it feel a little smoother despite the funk.
A very decent brew all up. The funk provides some bitterness and dryness towards the back which helps keep it drinkable, while the smoothness helps integrate all of the characters together. I like it a lot.
79 / 100
Tried from cask at Jester King Brewery in the Hill Country outside Austin.
Pours a firm, maroon-brown colour that looks quite dark, but which might just be haze. Head is beige-tan in colour, and forms a solid, fine, frothy ring. Lace forms in pleasant long streaks. Carbonation is fine and powdery. All up, it looks really good.
Nose is immediately firmly funky and vinous, with a good dose of barrel to the aroma. This is balanced by some fruit: perhaps some peach or nectarine, apricot pip and a hint of gooseberry, which helps it attach more to those vinous qualities. It's a nice aroma: reminds me of Belgium.
Light, acidic entry to the palate. Definitely peaches here witha hint of smooth oak. A pleasingly crafted tartness develops towards the middle, leaving it long and mildly astringent, again gripped by some light woody characters. Finish has some grapeskin notes, more fruit and a linger and bite of tartness in the aftertaste.
Feel it tight and sharp, which works well for the style.
The acid is high in this beer—higher than even is usual for a Jester King beer. But it's purposeful, and it's used to great stylistic effect here. This perhaps is the most well-rounded, most clearly crafted and defined brew I've had from JK.
70 / 100
Tried on-tap at the brewery in the Hill Country outside Austin, TX.
Pours a light golden colour, with a slightly cloudy body of moderated weight. Head is a very minimal ring of almost white that only leaves small specks of lacing. Carbonation is fine but minimal. Looks decent enough.
Nose is surprisingly pleasant and unexpected. Pearskin and peach come through strongly, with a weird rounded sharpness like fermented melon. There's also a touch of complex minerally qualities, all wrapped up with plenty of straight farmhouse funk. I like it a lot.
Palate is light and crisp on entry, but gains a pithy bitterness by the middle, maybe from the herbal tarragon additions. This almost makes it feel slight medicinal. Subtle fruit on the back with some acid from the funk, which also makes it quite dry. Aftertaste has touches of grit and pepper, but it maintains a lightness that stops it from being too much.
Feel is very light. It doesn't add much to the beer overall, but keeps it approachable at the least.
It's light enough and fairly easy to quaff. But for a low ABV, drinkable brew from JK, I'd definitely stick with Le Petit Prince.
74 / 100
Tried on-tap at the brewery outside of Austin, TX. A saison brewed with squash (by which I believe they mean butternut pumpkin), long pepper and sage.
Pours a musty light brown colour, very thick and cloudy with haze. Body is quite lightweight and promotes only a thin ring of head, pale beige in colour with a hint of orange to it. Lace forms in specks, and the carbonation is coarse. It's a bit of an inauspicious start, to be honest.
It's uphill from here though. Pleasant sweetly spicy aromas punctuate the first whiff, and then the warmer roast pumpkin characters come through to create some heady depth. Mild acidity comes through as well, perhaps a touch vinous, and some roasted or cooked herbs. It gives a pleasant sensation of herbal wine, perhaps like white vermouth.
Sharp, clean entry on the palate with some noticeable tartness. The mid-palate is smoother, and richer with flavours of the squash and toasted spices. This leads into a pleasantly smooth back palate with some lingering sweetness. This is balanced somewhat from the fact that the body is still very light—it's not really acidity, but it performs the same function, much in the way carbonation often does.
Feel is light and pleasant.
Overall, after an initial hiccup, this ended up being a pretty fine beer. I liked the way some smoothness and sweetness was incorporated in a way that really nicely balanced with the spices. It's a great aid to a beer like this.
75 / 100
Pours with a ridiculously generous head that neverthless looks wonderful - so dense, beige, soft and inviting. Body is quite dark brown; almost black. The mocha-tinge is just what I look for in a stout head. Yeah, looks great.
Smells light, really - lots of vanilla, bourbon and a hint of banana coming off that. Plenty of booze, with a decent belt of thick roasty grain as well, but not quite enough to ground it. I like that, but I don't really love it.
Taste has far more of the roasty character. There's odd touches here and there of natural ale esters, including acetyldehyde for some apple notes. Chocolate late, caramel, some toasted grain and just dark, boozey characters. Sweet, roasty, boozey. The foil lies in the fact that it's one of those beers I just "like" and yet it doesn't really grab my attention.
Fairly full body, with a big noticeable alcohol grip. Quite like the texture, but it's really rather hot.
Drinks big, drinks well. It's complex with a lot of pleasant characters here. It could use some kind of unusual twist or something to make it stand out from the pack of quality-made American imperial stouts.
78 / 100
Bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
As soon as it's uncapped, I can smell the funk. This is going to be an interesting beer. Pours a deep amber-hued bronze colour, with a filmy, but partially speckled head of white. Lacing is patchy, slightly sudsy, but certainly present. Body is full, carbonation is fine. Looks good.
Nose is unabashedly weird. Strong funk gives a hay-like ripeness, that mingles with a generic green hoppy character giving hints of crushed leaves and earth. The funk also gives off sweeter characters, like coconut and bruised peppers. It's a thoroughly fascinating aroma.
Taste is a lot more subdued, but it still feels pleasantly coherent and tight. Clear malt opens up with a slightly funkified grain character, before a generic hop bitterness hands off some cedar-like bitterness. There are some earthy notes on the finish which are not necessarily all that welcome, but these seem to pleasantly morph into a spicy rye note on the very finish (the first hint of the rye as its own entity). Feel is smooth, with a tickle from the hint of acidity.
Overall, nice stuff. They manage to keep all the elements close enough together to be coherent and balanced, even though they're some really weird stuff going on here. That's a good effort.
Thanks very much to my mate Aaron for bringing this back to Sydney from Texas on a recent trip. Big kudos.
Pours a gorgeously dark and sensuous black with a huge, but fine and believable head of mocha frothy brown. In fact, the head is a little too coarse-bubbled, and the body is surprisingly light; in actuality it's almost as though this beer tricked me into believing it was exceptional. It's still good enough, but it has missed a little something.
Nose is deep and roasted, but... oh, and I really wanted to love this beerâit's also a little flat and stilted, with a carbonic acidity rearing its head and providing a jolt of carbonated nothingness. There's a hint of banana to it, which suggests a touch of sugar in the brew, and overall, it stays light where it should be dark, complex and heavy.
Taste is decent, but very dull and generic. It has a strong roasted component, with a touch of dry earthiness, and very little sweetness. I almost like the dusty aridity of it; that sense that it's truly a stout and don't you dare deny it. But it doesn't have the purpose and drive to make me believe that. It's just dry and dark because it doesn't have the depth and complexity of its betters.
Feel is a little thinâit matches with the rest of the palate, but otherwise it's a bit dim.
Don't get me wrong. It's a good beer. But I'm starting to wonder if it's just a Good Beer From Texas. I wanted to believe that the insular nature of Texas meant that they were just keeping all the best American craft secrets to themselves. In fact, it seems like they're just providing decent but not phenomenal brews.