In August 2018, I had the great pleasure to host Jeff Stuffings (co-owner of Jester King Brewery) and his family in Sydney for the making of this beer. Jeff and I first met in July 2014 when I visited their brewery for the first time and became, understandably, enamoured with their process and vision. In October 2015, I re-visited the brewery as an intern to work with their team and pickup a few tips about making mixed-culture beer. This time had an immense impact on me which I wrote about at the time on my blog here. Since then, I have been fortunate to drop in on a couple of occasions while visiting family in Texas. I've been continually impressed and inspired by the beers and culture they have created on their farm. The place and people that work(ed) at Jester King have a special place in my heart and I feel fortunate to call them friends.
My first visit to Jester King with my (from L to R) Mom, Dad, wife Bernadette and cousin Bob.
One of the things that drew me the most to Jester King in the first place was their focus on drinkable, balanced, simple beers. I'm talking of beers like Noble King and Petit Prince, which during my time there, I learned were beers very close to their hearts. This certainly aided in developing my ideologies around focusing Wildflower on two consistent, unfruited, unspruiked in some way beers, Gold and Amber. Still now I think those are the two most important and best beers we make... working month in and month out to marginally improve the quality just that 0.5% better than before... a huge factor in our decisions to focus on sustainably grown raw materials into the future. All of this is to say, though, that the beer I decided to brew with Jeff and Jester King is a materialisation of our shared ideas around simplicity.
Nothing Fancy is that beer. A golden base largely inspired by our 'Gold' recipe but partially hopped with aged hops from the Jester King barn and fermented with a blend of our two house cultures. Jeff brought some fresh, active culture with him on the plane which we grew up before pitching it alongside our house culture for a co-primary fermentation in oak. After about a month, we transferred this beer out of the puncheons they were fermented in to 8 x 225 litre barriques for maturation. In August 2019, a year after brewing, Luke and I selected the cream of the crop and blended together the top 4 barrels which best expressed both our house culture characteristics. On 21 August 2019, we blended these four barrels (1803, 1816, 1859, 1860) and bottled them for refermentation and conditioning for 24 weeks. At bottling it was 5.0% ABV, 25 IBU and 0.3°P (FG= 1.002).
This is a very pretty beer. It shares the best parts of the WF and JK cultures with a meld of citrus and stonefruit that carries from the nose directly to the palate. Luke, Boots and I shared this beer after a warm, busy day of cellar work at the brewery and it was just about as perfect as it can get, immensely refreshing, subtle funky complexity and very high drinkability. I'm really proud to put our name on this beer.
In case you would like to brew a version of your own at home using bottle dregs from ours and their beers, here is a guiding recipe:
OG: 10P, 1.040
60% Ale malt (max 4 EBC), ideally from a local grower and maltster
40% cracked raw wheat
Mash at 68.5 Deg C for 60min
Boil FW: Saaz @ 3.5 IBU, Motueka @ 5 IBU (or sub aged hops for Motueka as we did)
15min: Motueka @ 6.5 IBU (or sub aged hops for Motueka as we did)
Whirlpool: Saaz @ 4.5 IBU, Motueka @ 8.5 IBU
Knockout at 25C
Ferment with yours (or ours) house culture in primary for 10 days, allow to free rise but not exceed 30C, do not use an airlock for initial fermentation (maybe 4 days)
Transfer to oak, or ageing vessel for 1 year. Remember to reduce headspace and occurrences of oxygen ingress.
Bottle with your chosen priming sugar and a small amount of your house yeast to 2.0-2.2 Volumes CO2, allow to condition for a number of months and enjoy.
I have also spent a little bit of time speaking with Jeff about this release and some other related topics on a brief podcast of sorts that can be found here.
To celebrate and share in the release of Nothing Fancy, we have sent kegs to our following friends across the country so that we can all enjoy the beer together. So on Friday 7 February, in addition to our cellar door when we open at 2pm, you will be able to find Nothing Fancy pouring at:
Bitter Phew, Sydney
Carwyn Cellars, Melbourne
The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide
There are under 800 x 750ml bottles of this beer. We will offer a small number of these to our friends across the country who regularly stock our beer. However, the the majority will be available through our online store (250 bottles) and cellar door (250 bottles) with a limit of 2 bottles per person.
Like all our beers, Nothing Fancy is best enjoyed when decanted off a settled natural yeast sediment at cellar temperatures (10-12°C).
Like a planet circumnavigating a star, I feel to have completed a full revolution by releasing this beer. A most sincere thanks to everyone at Jester King, and especially Jeff for your openness and willingness to share so so many ideas.