This weekend we’ll be releasing two new beers from our SPON series — 2016 and 2017 SPON Still. Both of these beers are 100% spontaneously fermented, selected from a single barrel (unblended), and bottled “still” without refermentation in the bottle.
Our SPON beers are inspired by authentic Belgian Lambic. Our goal is to follow the method of making Lambic, but to do so outside the traditional region with our own native ingredients and microflora, so as to create something unique to our own time, place, and people. It’s fairly common for Lambic to be unblended and bottled still. That was our inspiration for SPON Still — unblended, still Lambic.
We selected one barrel from our 2014 brewing season and bottled it unblended in 2016 after about two and a half years in the barrel. This beer is 2016 SPON Still. We also selected one barrel from our 2016 brewing season and bottled it unblended in 2017 after about one and a half years in the barrel. This beer is 2017 SPON Still. The year in the name refers to the year the beer was bottled, not brewed.
Aside from taking a long time, SPON Still is remarkably simple to make. In our opinion, it strips beer down to its most basic elements. We combine well water, malted barley and raw wheat in the mash, take the wort (unfermented beer) and boil it for four hours with aged hops from our barn, cool and inoculate it overnight in our coolship, put the beer into oak barrels, then leave it alone. After a few years go by, we take the beer out of the barrel and put it into bottles. It’s about as simple and hands off of a beer making process as it gets in our experience. The fact that beer can be spontaneously fermented without pitching yeast is still pretty amazing and magical to us, and presenting a really simple, elemental version of spontaneous fermentation is something we find exciting.
We think that beer drinkers will find that 2016 & 2017 SPON Still present pretty distinctly from one another. For starters, they are different fermentations from different years housed in different barrels. Another variable is that 2016 SPON Still was initially corked, but not capped. As it aged in the bottle, we noticed that it picked up an oxidative note, presumably from oxygen passing through the cork into the bottle. The oxidative note in our opinion is not unlike the character you find in sherry or yellow wine. Prior to release, we felt it was best to cap the bottles of 2016 SPON Still, as we can’t be certain how long our customers will age the beer prior to drinking. For 2017 SPON Still, we corked and capped the bottles at the time of packaging. As a result, it does not exhibit as much of the oxidized character as its younger counterpart.
As we’ve written over the years, we like to experiment with flavors and aromas typically perceived as “off”. Oxidized character, especially how it presents in old mixed culture or spontaneously fermented beer, is something we enjoy here at Jester King. We also enjoy “flat” or still beer. We’ve noticed a stigma over the years against still beer. If a beer is flat, it must be bad. We don’t believe this to be the case! Wine doesn’t suffer from this stigma, and neither should beer. If you take grapes, crush them, rack the juice to a barrel, leave it alone, then take the wine out of the barrel and bottle it still, it’s fine. But if you take grains, mash them, rack the wort to a barrel, leave it alone, then take the beer out of the barrel and bottle it still, it must be bad. We don’t subscribe to this belief and enjoy still beer.
2016 SPON Still is 5.4 percent alcohol by volume, 22 IBU, 3.2 pH, and 1.005 specific gravity (1.25 Plato). It was brewed in early 2014 and bottled on August 18, 2016 (Barrel #660). 2017 SPON Still is 5.4 percent alcohol by volume, 36 IBU, 3.4 pH, and 1.005 specific gravity (1.25 Plato). It was brewed in early 2016 and bottled on July 31, 2017 (Barrel #677).
Both beers will be released at 4pm on Friday, September 29th at our tasting room. We have 455 bottles of 2016 SPON Still (750ml/$30) and 489 bottles of 2017 SPON Still (750ml/$25). The bottle limit is one bottle of each beer (two bottles total) per customer per day. There is no draft available, only bottles. Aside from special events, it will only be available at our tasting room.
Founder, Jester King Brewery