If you want to literally taste Texas, grab a pint of Jester King. In making their beers, co-founder Jeffrey Stuffings, along with his brother, Michael, rely upon the local Austin air, plus a mix of regional ingredients like Texas barley, unfiltered Hill Country well water, and yeast cultured from native wildflowers to help shape the flavors of their now-legendary brews.
When incorporating mixed culture and spontaneous fermentation into their beer, Stuffings can sense how certain microclimates like wind speed or a rainy day will impact the character. “So much of our food and drink is homogenized, but what gets me excited is having something that’s influenced by its surroundings, and to experience something that’s singular to a time and place,” he explains. While it’s not easy to articulate exactly what flavor that translates to, he notes that stone fruit is the most prominent characteristic.
But before Jester King became a coveted brand, Stuffings was simply a home-brew hobbyist with an inkling of an idea. His first encounter with farmhouse ale, which the brewery is now famous for, was from Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. “It was really eye-opening,” he recalls. “Up to that point, I had only really had pale lagers and IPAs, so that wild ale was mind-blowing. I was thinking to myself, ‘Was it wine, was it beer?’”
Eventually, that idea was transformed in an old machine shop, which officially opened in 2010 and then spilled over onto 58 acres of Hill Country preserve. As Stuffings puts it, growing produce on their own land adds an extra layer of authenticity to the craft, which manifests into true farm-to-bottle releases, like the SPON Estate Honey, which has been re-fermented with the estate’s honey, or the Kvass ale brewed with homemade rye bread.
So, what does Stuffings do when he’s not managing the brewery’s operations? Here, he tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share what he wished he knew five years ago, the weirdest drink request he’s ever gotten and his usual dive bar order. —Tatiana Bautista
Cofounder/Managing Member at Jester King Brewery
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Professional basketball player.
Best thing you ever drank:
Vin jaune barrel-aged Lambic from [Belgium’s] Brasserie Cantillon. Acidity and funk with layer of oxidized sherry-esque character. Delightful.
Worst thing you ever drank:
First time you ever got drunk:
A high school friend’s uncle flew F-16s for the Air Force and taught me how to drink. In hindsight, it was a smart, safe environment to get drunk for the first time.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Aquabats’ “Super Rad.” Motivational, goofy, fun, and moving.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I used to home brew, which involved spending long nights in my garage with simmering pots and pans. That’s kind of weird, right?
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That brewers would turn into juice-drink peddlers. I kid.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I wish I had the chops to do something truly weird! I leave that up to the professionals.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking, or drink-making?
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Someone once suggested we age a beer on old books.
Your favorite bar, and why:
When I visited Of Love & Regret in Baltimore, it was an odyssey of amazing alcohol. Thoroughly enjoyable and educational.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Uchiko in Austin never ceases to amaze. Their brussels sprouts find a way to steal the show.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Something incorporating Amaro. I love herbal and bitter.
Preferably something funky, tart, and fermented with native yeast.
In a dive bar?
I still opt for independent craft no matter where I am, so hopefully a craft beer.
Your preferred hangover recovery regimen:
Coffee, water, physical activity, and, if that doesn’t work, more alcohol.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Lactose-infused, fruit-puree beer slurpees.
The last text message you sent:
Probably a bitmoji.