Jester King Brewery - Black Metal
- ABV: 10.8%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 55–61° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Chalice, or Pinot Glass
Jester King’s Black Metal currently sees very limited distribution, with only about 20 cases sold in the U.S. in 2018. This year’s limited run will be predominantly heading to our Rare Beer Club members, with around 50 to 75 cases left over for distribution solely in Texas. Jester King Black Metal is brewed with a variety of malted barleys and rolled oats, English-style hops, aerated and filtered Texas Hill Country well water, and fermented with a mixture of traditional brewers yeast and locally harvested native yeast and bacteria (and black metal music played to the beer during fermentation, of course). It’s essentially pure black in color at first glance—it’s actually a super dark brown when held to a penetrating light source—blanketed by a very thick, brownish head. There’s a show on display here as cascading effects fizzle down the side of the glass at the interface of the liquid and foam formation.
Make sure the beer is served at the correct temperature—cold is its only known weakness! Expect big notes of roasted barley from the start, with quite a bit of coffee, anise, and even some toffee, plus a little suggestion of the hefty 10.8% ABV, at least when this is served on the lower end of the suggested serving temperature (the alcohol does start to reveal itself with added temp). From the aroma alone, it seems like this beer might have been played a softer, gentler kind of black metal during fermentation, with comforting notes of treacle-ish, singed syrup and deep chocolate. But while it starts with some sweetness, this is quickly dried up by the unleashing of coffee (espresso, esp.), burnt currants, vinous warmth, scorched raisins and charred wood. Esters are perceived as low, but they are there if you look for them, offset by a bit of fruity impact from the alcohol. Black Metal finishes with heaps of coffee and treacle, and ends quite dry for the style, thanks to a very high attenuating traditional yeast strain. The sudden flash of citrus rind and earthy hoppiness contribute on the bitterness side, working nicely with the malt-derived bitterness from this beer’s specialty malt additions.
This beer’s certainly an anomaly for Texan beer—and Jester King’s Black Metal is also a bit anomalous for the style itself, remaining balanced for what it is and almost unnervingly easy to drink, with a sort of split personality: for those seeking out extended waves of flavor and intensity, you’ll get it. But if you’re seeking more subtlety and sophistication, you’ll get that too, though it may take a particularly refined palate to realize it given the richness of flavor. This is not just a big bad monster of a beer thrashing about, beating its chest and crushing beer cans on its forehead, but a well crafted, smart, interesting beast of a beer that manages to retain balance and poise. It’s an impressive juggling act, even for the ablest of jesters.
The 10+% ABV and style category here suggest Black Metal should do just fine with, say, six months or more in the cellar, as some of the core chocolate notes gravitate toward more of a caramel focus with time. We suggest pairing this with a maduro cigar, sinister heavy metal, a mace (or other similarly unwieldy device), and maybe something by Dante for balance.
Michael Jackson once remarked on Austin, Texas’ counterintuitively rich beer scene. In the heart of a land not necessarily renowned for good beer, the Austin environs had numerous brewpubs and breweries, and offered a welcome breeding ground for better beer culture. Even the legendary Pierre Celis, famous resurrectionist of Belgian Witbier, settled there in the 1990s to open his U.S. brewery. Austin helped foster strong bits of creativity and growth for brewers in the microbrewery boom of the 1990s. But it didn’t last... Various downtown brewpubs were almost all shuttered, Celis’ own brewery was dismantled, and a few breweries evaporated in the brutal heat of Texas’ overall feelings about beer. That was back then.
For much of its more recent history, Texas’ craft brewers have had to be rather careful not to stray too far off the map, sticking to traditional, almost “starter” beers in their lineups. It was a training-wheels approach that seems to have lasted a bit longer than in other states. But the craft beer movement has helped pierce that balloon, and what’s rushing through the aperture is better beer. The newest influx of Texas breweries hit the scene at a rapid pace.
One of them is the Jester King Brewery, located on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country on the outskirts of Austin. The folks behind the brewery have opted out of the “safe and careful approach,” deciding instead to brew anything from authentic, oak-aged farmhouse ales made with wild Texas yeast harvested atop the brewery’s rooftop, to a European-inspired, porter-colored mild ale, to a monstrous double stout. Not the standard opening lineup of an amber, a blonde and a pale ale, they instead debuted with an oaked rye IPA called Wytchmaker, and Commercial Suicide, their English dark mild ale—a 3% ABV session brew that drinks like a beer twice its strength. They have a passion for marrying the extreme with poise—which means some of their beers are made using techniques such as open fermentation, whisky barrel aging, and bottle-conditioning with wine yeast. Or, you know, brewed to 10%+ ABV. But remarkably, for extreme domestic craft beers, they’ve remained refined and balanced.
The Jester King brand continues to evolve while maintaining its artisan vibe. Local artist Josh Cockrell, who was at the brewery during our three initial visits giving tours, sterilizing things, filling kegs, rolling barrels—whatever was needed at the time—designed their label artwork, brewery logos, and tap handles. We found a couple of his tap handles while in Austin checking out the local better beer scene, and these handles are truly works of art. We’ve long been fans of Jester King’s attention to detail, the passionate commitment to unleashing unconventional beers on the marketplace, the artisanship, the risk-taking, the do-it-yourselfism, the brewing prowess shown by these homebrewers turned pro, the will to experiment, and the drive to source and use local, organic ingredients and harvested rainwater. We think you’ll dig what Jester King’s up to. For more info, check out their website over at jesterkingbrewery.com.
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