Since it opened last winter, Jester King Craft Brewery has been churning out consistently creative farmhouse ales, and their Hill Country brewery has become a place of pilgrimage for Austin beer enthusiasts eager for weekly tastings complemented by local food and music. Their artisanal ales, which currently include six year-round products and countless limited editions, are brewed using filtered well water from their own backyard, and they use wild Hill Country yeast whenever possible.
At the start of the summer, Jester King was also named a certified organic producer, under the USDA’s National Organic Program, making it the only beer brewery in Texas authorized to label their beers “certified organic.”
“Since we first began brewing, we’ve been using organic malts whenever we were able to do so,” explains brewer Ron Extract. “Fortunately, the variety and quality of organic malts available [have] improved dramatically over the last few years, and we’re now able to source most of what we use organically without compromising quality in any way.” Currently, the only Jester King beer that isn’t certified organic is the Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout, which uses a small amount of nonorganic specialty malt. However, since over 70 percent of its ingredients are organic, it will still carry a “made with organic ingredients” label, as well as a seal from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).
“The certification process was somewhat difficult, time-consuming and costly,” admits Extract. In order to add new organic products, or even make certain changes to existing labels, Jester King had to amend their brewery registration and resubmit it for review by the TDA before submitting the labels to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and subsequently to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. “It creates some additional hoops that we must now jump through in order to bring new beers to the market,” says Extract, “but we wanted our customers to know that this was something we took seriously.”
Currently, the hops used in production are not required to be organic under the USDA’s National Organic Program. However, this will become a requirement in 2013, which will make the selection of usable hops more expensive and difficult for brewers to source. Jester King is currently on a search for the right organic hops to complement their beers without sacrificing flavor. “We’ve found some sources of organic hops that we believe will work very well in our beers,” says Extract. “In some cases, this involves working directly with growers, which is actually really nice, in that it creates some additional traceability in our beer—something that we feel is consistent with our broader efforts to make truly authentic farmhouse ales.”—Veronica Meewes
Jester King Craft Brewery
13005 Fitzhugh Rd., Building B