Branding is essential when building a reputation and an image. Branding is whatever the consumer thinks about the product you provide to the market. This is so much more than packaging or a logo. The subliminal message of a brand includes the company image, the quality of the product, word of mouth reputation, all the way to details like smell or emotional attachment. I think of the last time I walked by Gloria Jeans in the mall and took a whiff. I imagine sharing coffee with my mother on our trips to the mall. That is branding. The heart string tug of a puppy’s despondent face as you walk by will always want me to spend the rest of my days in puppy cuddles. Thank you Great Plains SPCA and Wayside Waifs. That is branding.
Looking at Jester King bottle artwork, one could be creeped out to put the bottle back on the shelf. Between the bug eyed Le Petit Prince and the Corpse Bride Vie En Rose, the portraits on each bottle make me pause for a second. The word of mouth and reputation for Jester King makes this hesitation last that mere second as I pop the cap on the big bottles.
This past week, a couple friends and I shared a few Jester King bottles and had a really good time experiencing and describing the beer with each other. We started light with Le Petit Prince. This bottle has a blonde haired bug eyed regal suited make up wearing Voldemort dominating the label. In short creepy! However the beer overcomes the creepiness. This farmhouse table beer was true to style of the original table beer. Farmhouse beers used to be brewed as a safe alternative to water for farmhands to drink and quench their thirst with. Le Petit Prince is light, crisp, with the normal orange and coriander from a farmhouse ale. The two row malt and wheat give a light foundation for spicy and earth hops lingering on the nose and tongue as I sip the gold beer. This beer is not a knock your socks off kind of beer. This is however the design of the beer. As a table beer the purpose is to not be overpowering and super refreshing. My friends got Saaz, Sorachi Ace, and El Dorado hops. However with some research, we saw Jester King used Goldings and Fuggles for their hop additions. The yeast said to be used is a mixed culture but with the phenolics, floral and peppery aromas, there has to be some Belgian yeast strains in there. Overall this was a very light beer that was not overpowering. With a meal it could be overpowered by a lot of food but you could drink a lot of it at 2.8%. I would not be upset if I got to drink this one again.
With a name like Gotlandsdricka, you would expect a very Norseman’s drink and the second beer we had does not fail to deliver. With a little Googling I found that Gotlandsdricka, like sahti, is a dead style of beer traditionally made in Sweden with juniper and smokey malt. There is an island named Gotsland and dricka means drink. Literally, Gotlandsdricka means a drink from Gotland. The Norseman on the label is sinister and macabre with his malicious eyes and nose less face. He has menacing tusks coming out of his mouth, ready to do whatever evil bidding he will listen to. The beer we poured was a brute of a different sort. Gotlandsdricka melds the smokey malts, tartness hitting in the corners of my mouth, and crisp refreshing mouthfeel. Both of my friends said, “Whoa!” We noted the dominant smoke characteristics. Mac said the aroma was misleading for him as he was expecting something lightly smoked and a little tart. But unlike Le Petit Prince, there was intense amazing flavor. There was clean crisp lightly smoke smell. Then I bring in the smoke and tart flavors with Juniper. I was thrown off because these flavors are more congruent with a dark malty beer. This beer is a light opaque golden rod liquid. Andrew, who appreciates and enjoys flavors he describes as dried leather and horse sweat, described Gotlandsdricka as wet musty basement, the end tasted of a humid garage. Despite his description, Andrew is a huge fan of the beer. (WHAT?!) While he is weird and needs to work on describing beers in a more pleasant and appitizing manner, I couldn’t agree more with his positive assessment of Gotlansdricka. I want to go find more of this smokey and tart delight. I would buy this beer all day long!
Another beer we had that night was Simple Means. With the simplest label depicting a fire with wood and rock, the bottle is not creepy at all. Simple Means is a farmhouse Altbier with smoked malt and tarted up with bacteria strain from Texas. This dark stylistically speaking may not be considered by current standards to be an altbier. Though, altbier can refer to any old style beer. Now that you are thanking me for telling you what the side of the bottle says, what does it actually taste like? This was the darkest beer of the night but still had a tartness that balanced well. Roasted barley and smoked malts played well with the tang of acidity. The light mouth feel played games with my head as I saw a dark beer and tasted light. Both of my drinking buddies describe the beer as roasty, toasty, with a raisiny tartness present throughout the drink. Despite being dark I would consider the lighter smoke and acidity to make this beer Gotslandsdricka’s little brother. Mac had the abstract but accurate observation that the two beers were similar but have a significant difference. This was my second favorite of the three beers we had that night.
Moral of the story is to share your drinking experiences with good friends and good beers. This will help you learn more about describing beer as well as show you how your own palate works compared with others. Let me know if you want to join my next bottle share! Have you had any Jester King beers? What other Jester King should I look for next time when I get more Gotlandsdricka?