For the last 100 years or so the basics steps for brewing beer have been pretty much the same: soak grains in water to create wort, boil then cool the wort, add some yeast and wait for beer to be created. Obviously there are more details to be followed along the way but if you follow these basics steps you will make beer. Craft brewers across the country are always looking to tweak this process here and there to come up with interesting results. Jester King in Austin, Texas has been tweaking that process and coming up with amazing results.
In the winter of 2013 Jester King made a big decision to go back to the way beer was brewed long ago by not relying on cultivated yeast to turn their wort into beer. Unlike the vast majority of brewers today, the team at Jester King does not pick all of their yeast strains from a catalog or a website. They capture some of it from the open Texas air surrounding their brewery. By taking the just boiled wort and putting it into a coolship1 they let the beer sit over night exposed to the elements to collect what ever yeast and organisms it can from the open air. This is how beer was first brewed for thousands of years before the Dutch and Germans learned to cultivate and store yeast for bread and beer making in the early 1800s. This method of open air brewing is referred to as open, wild or spontaneous fermentation and is commonly used in parts of Europe. It is also starting to grow in popularity in America with more and more breweries building coolships in America every year.2
With my fascination for wild fermented and sour beers I was very excited to get my hands on Jester King’s Aurelian Lure for this week’s review.3 This barrel-aged sour beer was fermented using a coolship and the wild critters from the Austin, Texas air. It was then allowed to ferment in oak barrels with California apricots. The beer was give the time to ferment all the way to 1.001 FG.4
The beer pours a hazy yellow with minimal carbonation. The smell of funky brettanomyces fills the air before I even finish the pour. As I raise the glass I get notes of lactic acid, lemons, apricots and peach but the funky barnyard character of the brettanomyces stands out the most to me. It does not smell like the sourness will be too over powering but it is there in the nose.
As I get my first taste of Aurelian Lure I immediately understand the hype surrounding this beer. A wonderfully sharp sour note is met with a vast array of flavors. A big fruity character reminiscent of lemons peaches and apricots along with a mild sweetness that helps to cut through the sourness. The sour character is no where near as assertive as Cantillon or even a Bruery sour beer, but just enough to give it a nice bite while not making it a chore to finish the bottle by myself. As I work my way through the bottle I also pick up notes of oak along with a very faint salinity that adds another level of complexity. The beer finished quite dry with a lingering funky fruit character.