Jester King Brewery - Simple Means

Jester King Brewery - Simple Means

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club


Farmhouse Altbier with Smoked Malt


United States

Alcohol by Volume:


Jester King Brewery - Simple Means

  • ABV:

  • Serving Temperature:

    45–52° F
  • Suggested Glassware:

    Tulip, Nonic, Goblet or Pinot Glass
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One of our favorite things about Simple Means is that all its elements—from initial pour to crisp finish, seem perfectly synced. In the glass, it looks like a well-foamed dunkelweizen: all mousse-y, light-brown bubbles filling the top quarter of the glass, lasting basically forever. A nearly opaque, ruby-tinged liquid sits beneath, almost the color of dark tea in some lights. It almost looks (given some artistic license) like a thick plume of smoke above rich, red wood.

Pretty on point for a smoked beer.

The smoked malt’s contributions, it’s worth emphasizing, aren’t the only things that serve to define this beer. In the aromatics, they appear as sweet, vanilla-tinged barbeque smokiness: a plush core note, for sure, but hardly alone as elements of candied malt and peppery yeast are there as well, and at similar volume. And initial notes of deep smoke and roast soon ease off after a few sips, with red fruits and Jester King’s signature yeast profile showing more fully.

Because, sure… it’s a smoked beer. But it’s also a bunch of things.

As it warms, initial campfire and barbecue aromas subside to something more structural, an almost brown-sugar bitterness that builds in tandem with the caramelized malts. Sourdough and fresh bread start to billow out as well, alongside deeper berry notes and cracked pepper. It also—propelled by the toasty yeast character—stays immensely crisp and mouthwatering.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how this one develops with some age behind it. It’s unfiltered, unpasteurized and bottle-conditioned—with just a hint of funky yeast as of yet.

Maybe it’s the mention of Hill County Well Water on the label that triggers the recognition, but there’s a lean, mineral feel to this that’s only amplified by a robust carbonation, courtesy of the bottle-conditioning. Part of it is the spicy and herbaceous hops, definitely. Part of it’s the bitterness from the smoked malt. But there’s something just cool and refreshing here.

Spearmint, maybe? Whatever it is: a welcome counterpoint to smoke.

So let’s take it in as a full picture: Fire-roasted sweetened breads. Cherry-almond elements as a combination of the wood and esters. A smoked beer, with yeast qualities that in most other beers would steal the show. Caramel apples without the cloying. Forest fires in a berry farm.

On the whole: a unique, beautifully executed release from Jester King. Look for pairings that bring out some of those more subtle elements. Berry pie with a flaky crust, matching well to those smoked and red-fruit notes? Some chocolate-caramel tortes, to match the caramelized elements in Simple Means? Or, vanilla-bean ice cream to amplify? We kept thinking dessert.

By now, you hopefully know about Jester King. But that very likely wasn’t the case when we featured their Black Metal Imperial Stout in The Rare Beer Club, back in February 2011. The brewery, when our newsletter notes went to print, hadn’t even celebrated its grand opening.

That was their very first bottling! We’ve once again got something brand new for you.

For a fresh look at this world-class Texas brewery, we’ve been called back by the temptation of Simple Means: a farmhouse altbier made with perfect measures of smoked malted barley, while still showcasing Jester King’s crackling house yeast character. It’s by no means simple.

Michael Jackson once remarked on Austin, Texas’ counterintuitively rich beer scene. In the heart of a land not known 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, that famous beer style of conversion that has provided the “wow moment” for many who now enjoy craft-brewed beers, settled there in the 1990s to open his U.S. brewery. Austin, the capital of the largest Bud-Miller-Coors-frenzied state in the union, is different from much of the rest of Texas.

Jester King Craft Brewery is located on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country on the outskirts of Austin. The fine folks behind it 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 oak-threaded rye IPA called Wytchmaker, along with Commercial Suicide, their English-style dark mild ale: a 3% ABV session brew that drinks like a beer twice its strength. They also have a passion for marrying the extreme with poise—which means some of their beers are made using techniques like open fermentation, oak and whisky barrel aging, and bottle-conditioning with wine yeast, or brewed to 10%+ ABV. Yet remarkably, for extreme U.S. craft beers, the releases are consistently refined and balanced.

For our featured selection from Jester King this month, we’re digging into a brand-new beer. Our Rare Beer Club members have been allocated most of this initial run, as this one will see very modest distribution otherwise: 50–100 cases, mostly into Texas and their tasting room.

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