Jester King's First Cool Ship

August 19, 2010

Jeff on the brewery roof with Jester King’s “cool ship”

The title of this post is certainly tongue-in-cheek. Our “cool ship” at this point is just a small tub. But we’re very serious about using the naturally occurring wild yeast from the Texas Hill Country in our effort to craft unique beer that incorporates its natural, living environment. At the present time, we’ve created a mini-cool ship to take cooling wort (unfermented beer) and inoculate it with wild yeast from our natural surroundings in the vineyard, orchard and olive grove rich region of the Texas Hill Country. Vineyards in particular tend to be great sources of indigenous wild yeast.

With a cool ship, the cooling wort is placed in a shallow, open-air vessel where naturally occurring wild yeast in the atmosphere have access to it. In our case, once the wort was inoculated with wild yeast at the Jester King brewery, it was sent to the Brewing Science Institute in Colorado for isolation and culturing of the wild yeast strains. Once the wild yeast is cultured and grown up to pitchable quantities in the lab, we will add it to the oak barrels full of beer in our barrel cellar. Over time, the wild yeast will slowly ferment most of the remaining sugar in the beer creating complex and interesting flavors that are the natural product of our own unique geography.

We plan on culturing wild yeast at different times throughout the year as the flora and fauna changes with the seasons. Eventually, we plan on installing a full-size cool ship at Jester King like the one in the picture below. This will allow us to take several barrels of beer at once and spontaneously ferment it with naturally occurring wild yeast. Many centuries ago, all beer was fermented spontaneously prior to the discovery of brewers yeast or saccharomyces cerevisiae. Once the wort is inoculated with wild yeast as it cools in the cool ship, it is transferred to oak barrels for a long, slow fermentation process that can take up to three years. During the long fermentation, several types of wild yeast and bacteria play a role in creating a complex range of flavors.

Cool ship at Allagash in Maine