When the United States went into lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, there was a lot of talk about all the self-improvement projects we were going to undertake. We were all going to learn Latin, read Dostoevsky, practice Vinyasa sun salutations every single morning, and bake loaves of sourdough and focaccias decorated to look like edible medieval tapestries. Fast-forward two months and what feels like approximately 100 million years later and most of us have done very little beyond binge Tiger King and develop an Animal Crossing addiction.
Yet while the majority of the country was slipping into an anxiety-induced stupor, there were a few breweries that invested a lot of effort into coming out stronger on the other side. One of them, Jester King, officially reopens today as a sprawling 165-acre nature park, complete with winding trails, six outdoor green spaces with appropriately socially distant picnic tables, and most importantly, baby goats.
“We’ve privately enjoyed these little satellite spots for quite some time. Now we get to share them,” says Jeffrey Stuffings, co-founder of Jester King. “We always thought one day we’d open up this land and make it more of a park, but it’s always been more of a backburner thing. The pandemic gave us both the time and necessity to open up our land.”
This is almost like a state park, with one critical difference: you drink your beer.”
Since 2015, when the brewery bought a sizable portion of its current ranch, the staff have been steadily improving the land. More than 100 fruit trees bearing Asian persimmons, apricots, figs, and pomegranates grow in the orchard. Customers can now wander among them or nurse a beer at a table by the two-year-old vineyard or near the goat barn, where Sean Meyers, better known as Farmer Peppy, looks after the growing matriarchal tribe.
“I just love state parks, county parks,” Stuffings says. “This is almost like a state park, with one critical difference: you drink your beer.”
While few breweries have the land or resources to morph into a lush, Texan Eden, Jester King’s rebirth offers a rare vision of a reopening that doesn’t feel completely dystopian. For the time being, the brewery’s beloved beer hall will remain shut, with the intent to keep everyone in the open air. Stuffings and his colleagues put a great deal of thought into making sure both staff and visitors could stay safe, while beginning to rekindle the sense of connection that has been sorely lacking as of late.
“I think it’s something that people are yearning for right now. What’s been sad for me is to see community kind of being put on hold,” Stuffings says. “Granted, there’ve been virtual meetings to fill some of that void, but there’s just no replacement for that. If we can play a part in starting to rebuild that feeling community, I think that’s a worthy goal.”