Thursday, December 6, 2012

[A Beer a Day] Buddha's Brew American Wild Ale w/ Kombucha | Jester King Brewing | Austin, TX

As the Austin beer colony continues to thrive like the beginnings of a fertile Mesopotamian dynasty, Jester King stands as Hammurabi, governors to technique and style progression, while also bearing their trumpet towards the outside lands; allocating a small inventory to leave the city walls before it is pillaged and plundered by dehydrated locals.

As it stands, our local breweries can only narrowly keep up with our hefty demands for regionalistic Jesus Juice; where our most expeditious brewery, Austin Beerworks, is on a Philippides pace to outgrow last year's production by 400%.  Yes, a FOUR ... with TWO fucking zeros behind it.  Frankly, that's too quick for me to even comprehend.  I would need ESPN to do a Sports Science demonstration, with Chris Johnson as Austin Beerworks and my consumption-soaked gastrointestinal tract as LP Field.

And yet still, over the last year, Austinites cannot be sated with just 19 local breweries and brewpubs, a mere dent to Porland, Oregon's or San Diego's battleships.  But the demand for MORE MORE MORE has shifted to BETTER BETTER BETTER, and those who've drank their way through this city certainly know that this is the state of progression in Austin.  Though comparatively in its infancy, the quality of  product is at or near the esteem of the plutocracies in the West Coast, the Northwest, and the Midwest.

Still though, Austin remains on an island of innovation without a realistic means for broadcasting the news of our kickassery by way of a tangible, exported product -- and because so, unless you are a trader or festival go-er, your chances to taste what is offered here is like dialing French Laundry during dinner service to ask if there is a wait.

And where I'm going with this, is that Jester King has begun to make the ballsy tread from the shallow end of Austin's imaginary distribution boundaries.  Reports are, that there is some high quality grade shit as far as Orange County and Chicago. 

That brings forth the question: Now that Jester King is a hotly popular and nationally coveted product, are they still just a beer label, or are they now a brand?

I will admit that when I do write about Jester King, its like major link-bait for the pee sitters over at Beer Advocate, and possibly for others who avoid that site entirely because they already know how to read at an elementary level.  In this way, I consider reputation to precede merit the way any trendy brand might.

Jester King releases beers like the cast of Glee releases pop singles -- and while I can see the indelible charm of having a clever rotation of seasonals and a baiting anticipation of rare one-offs, the grind that Jester King has become, is that few are still giving heed to the beer itself, and are scrambling around town like self-serving jerk-offs because Jester King is their brand.  Its kind-of the same approach one might have towards Russian River, where, regardless of the bottles contents, the fact that it was crafted at the hands of Russian River was 'good enough'.  I'm guilty of it.  Recently, bought another one of these just because it was available to me.  I potentially screwed someone else who may have really wanted it.

So, my hesitation with Jester King is that good is the enemy of great, and often times, I feel like I've spent a minor fortune on just a nice flight of bottles, just not a great one.  Without coming off too critically of a fantastic brewery -- a brewery fast approaching the superiority of one of my favorite breweries of all time, Jolly Pumpkin -- I only want to see more correspondence between consistency, availability, and premium.  In an industry where money and support are parceled out awfully stingily, I do find that Jester King is a place where enthusiasts can gather, and they will shower us with love and generosity. 

But then they took it beyond that.  WAAY beyond love and generosity with the release of this magical thing:  Buddha's Brew.

This beer created my renewed vigor for Jester King.  I wish I could jump through this page to tell you in person how it had done just that, and that I was a giant tit for only grabbing one when so many more were available to me.  This is how far being flippant gets you: one bottle of Buddha's Brew.  Shit.

Many of you in the audience have already read about my opinion on Austin Beerworks' Einhorn -- I know this because I just checked its readership stats, and it just annihilates the next closest by several hundreds -- and I really haven't had the same immediate addiction to a beer since then until I experienced Buddha's Brew.

There are beers made locally that I love like a beautiful and faithful companion -- Hops & Grain Alt-eration, ABW Pearl Snap, Thirsty Planet Jittery Monk come to mind, and those are all pretty wonderful -- but Buddha's Brew is just gnarly teenage hormones.

It is both discretely saccharine and devilishly tart -- a clandestine sour ale with surreptitious balance, it is truly the first recipe from the brewhouse that I felt was under their absolute, expert control.  That is not a jab in any way -- instead, a huge ovation for their practices and tuned technical refinement, since they are most famous for using such highly volatile brewing methods and ingredients.  And that does not even mention the confident use of a monstrously unpredictable focal ingredient, kombucha tea (from Austin's Buddha's Brew, natch), which in and of itself is riddled with wild yeasts, bacteria, and other ferementable variables.

Buddha's Brew was soured and bright and complex, yet deftly clear in focus.  It was refreshing, but worthy of late-evening, fireside enjoyment.  Lemons without insistence on lemonade.  Really, just perfect.

I was completely floored.  It was fantastic.  This was the beer that could define Jester King's legacy -- an agile and daring wild ale -- all while they continue to accomodate the real world with other nice varietals.

But this was it: the iconoclast to the religious followers of Jester King. 

ABV 4.7%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Good luck. A trade might yield better results.
Album Interpol | Antics (2004)

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