There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over on the Jester King event page at about 12:05 pm yesterday afternoon. That’s when the 600 premium tickets to the brewery’s 3rd annual Funk n’ Sour Fest that went on sale at 12:00 had sold out. There were a little over 1000 tickets total to the increasingly popular event, all of them including custom glassware and 12 tasting tickets to an incredible lineup of beer, divided into two tiers: 400 entries to the festival with the rest including one bottle each of two new fruited sours. It was those latter 600 that sold out in minutes, leaving many an aficionado out in the proverbial cold.
About a month ago, Jester King had two consecutive weekend releases of Atrial Rubicite, a raspberry sour matured and refermented at the farmhouse brewery outside of Austin. Very limited quantities of the 500 ml bottles were released, with the rest on tap during tour hours. Jester King has made a name for itself creating traditional farmhouse and sour ales, cultivating a hill country terroir with wild native yeasts and local fruit when possible. The excitement was justifiably pitched in the days prior to the Atrial Rubicite release, as the brewery’s time-honored methods have produced results approaching their venerated Belgian origins. They further experimented with their mature sour beer by refermenting with Fredericksburg strawberries, Oglesby blackberries, and Northern California apricots to produce Omniscience & Proselytism, Nocturn Chrysalis, and Aurelean Lure, respectively. All have been bottled, though the first will be poured only at the festival and not distributed, while the latter two bottles were included in the price of the premium tickets to be taken home.
The Funk n’ Sour Fest is Jester King’s special event closing out Austin Beer Week and showcasing their experimental sour beers, a unique subset of the recent craft beer renaissance. They tend to be an acquired taste, often embraced later in a beer drinker’s conversion to the craft orthodoxy. But once initiated, their zeal can often become fanatical, like crazed animals after Homer’s tomacco. Thus the rending of garments on the Beer Advocate SW forums, as festival hopefuls threw down their mobile devices in disgust, men fumed, girlfriends wept. Something tells me if you are that devastated over a beer release, you’re doing something wrong, but even founder Jeff Stuffings, a regular commenter and graciously attuned to his customers’ concerns, was surprised by the speed at which the special bottle tickets sold out.
The dismay on the part of those unable to obtain bottles has something to do with the phenomenon of beer trading, using local rare beers, or “whales,” to procure others from out of state not sold here. Jester King has always catered to their local fans, and it would be a shame if many of these bottles were to be shipped out of state. Another problem is hoarders who can’t have their beer and drink it too, but buy up vast quantities for their cellars to the disappointment of other enthusiasts. But the ordeal is also a function of the burgeoning popularity of craft beer in general, with the very success of the breweries that allows the sort of experimentation and expansion that Jester King has seen making it increasingly difficult to attend the festivals or secure special releases. So on that front, there’s little room for complaint. Coming up with an equitable manner of distributing releases and tickets has become a trying task for breweries like Jester King, or Freetail in San Antonio, and others across the country. And beer nerds chomping at the bit have no shortage of untenable suggestions.
The festival is now completely sold out, but regardless, everyone who has a ticket will get to try all of Jester King’s new sour experiments as well as an impressive array of sours from other breweries like Prairie Artisan Ales and Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes – there just aren’t enough bottles to go around. There will be exciting releases in the future, especially as the brewery starts experimenting with their coolship for a 100% naturally fermented wild ale, and their continued success is nothing but good for beer drinkers in Texas.