If you are in search of a beautifully crafted wild ale, don’t pass up any of Texas-based brewer Jester King’s offerings. A self-described “authentic farmhouse brewery committed to mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation,” Jester King has a sour program that rivals any brewery in the country. The brewery shows off that expertise with its barrel-aged sour red ale RU55. The beer is bottle-conditioned after aging in oak barrels with wild yeast and just the right dose of sour bacteria. Jester King leaves Ru55 unfiltered and unpasteurized, with all of this time and attention resulting in a complex, mouth-puckering brew.
Underneath all the sour funk, RU55’s base beer is a red ale. That base shows up off the pour with a deep red body that has slightly browned with time in the barrel. A unique tan head forms on top of the beer, looking wild and alive like blooming yeast.
RU55’s aroma doesn’t wait around for the pour, filling the nose with tart and funky sour notes as soon as the bottle is popped. Just the smell makes my jaws ache in anticipation of the sourness to come. Light grape and dark fruit aromas peak through from behind the tartness and are complemented by hints of the barrel’s woodiness.
RU55 should be a challenging drink. Instead, Jester King builds on the tartness with layers of fruit, wood, and funk.”
This is not the beer for those drinkers wanting to dip a toe in the waters of sour beer. RU55 is unabashedly tart, overwhelming my palate immediately with a puckering sour sensation. Despite the strong opening tartness, that isn’t the defining flavor of the beer. RU55 is deeply complex, with hefty barnyard funkiness and notes of grape, plum, and oak. The beer feels slick and light, managing to taper off the flavor for an easy finish, lingering minimally.
As one of the tartest sour ales I can remember trying, RU55 should be a challenging drink. Instead, Jester King builds on the tartness with layers of fruit, wood, and funk, accompanied by an easy-drinking mouthfeel that resembles a session ale more than something with this depth of flavor. In other words, it is exactly the kind of beer that helps put Jester King at the forefront of America’s best wild ale producers.