There’s a growing wine-beer movement across the country, from the coasts of Oregon to Midwestern prairies and even Texas hill country. Brewhouses stacked high with barrels are increasingly looking and acting like wineries.
Instead of using mass produced barley, wheat and rye malt, brewers around the country are beginning to look to heritage grains to add character and complexity to their beers—varieties packed with flavor and history.
For Jester King’s “creative czar” Josh Cockrell, it started with the peach, the base of the beer. When he learned that peaches originated in China, he dug into the country’s folklore and discovered the tale of “The Shared Peach.” A man shares a peach with his same-sex lover, wanting him to share in its beauty.
Scattered across the country, a few enterprising brewers have begun working with an unusual ingredient: kombucha, a mildly alcoholic fermented tea. Wild fermenting organisms in the tea help lend uniquely funky and tart flavors to their beers, driving curiosity among consumers.
Beyond alcohol limits, many Southern states struggle with taxes, breweries operating off-site brewpubs, various antiquated distribution woes, prohibitive homebrewing regulations and much more. But thanks to the region’s proactive beer makers and consumers, many of those laws are beginning to change.
The original plan was to build Jester King in an industrial part of Austin, but when a local farmer just outside the city offered his 200-acre farm as a brewery site, the three managing partners accepted. Today, Jester King is producing some of Texas’ most intriguing beers in a style that seems more suited to Belgium than the American Heartland.