Earlier this week, Jester King Brewery announced that Garrett Crowell, who had started there as a volunteer and worked his way to the head brewer position, was leaving to pursue a brewery of his own.
The brewery production manager, Averie Swanson, has been promoted and is taking his place as head brewer at Jester King.
But Crowell doesn’t intend to go far. In an interview with beer publication Good Beer Hunting, he said he hopes to open a brewery about 50 miles west of Austin in Johnson City, where he moved last year with his girlfriend Adrienne Ballou, previously the head of the barrel program at Jester King and now pursuing her love of winemaking.
There, he’s also not far from his older brother Todd Crowell, who serves as head winemaker for Yates and Spicewood Vineyards (and joked in an interview with me earlier this year that his influence is the reason Garrett mastered the fermentation process so well).
Unquestionably, Garrett Crowell was integral in making Jester King the powerhouse that it’s become in the category of mixed-culture beers, but he noted in the Good Beer Hunting article that his brewery might not head in that same direction. At least not completely.
“I found that my idea of what I wanted beer to be, and what Jester King wanted it to be, began to slowly diverge,” he said in the story. “That’s certainly not to say there isn’t merit in the direction Jester King has gone, but it’s just a deviation from the path I’d personally like to be on, so I’ve decided to take a turn. Opening a brewery was an inevitable decision, made long ago, and Jester King was an incredible road to travel on to get there.”
As an example of the kind of beer he might make one day — because it’s hard to pigeonhole into one style — he cited Brasserie Au Baron’s Cuvee des Jonquilles.
“It is a beer that inspires me to make something without guidelines,” he said in the story. “It could be a Bière de Garde or it could be a saison, but it doesn’t quite make a difference because it’s just an incredible beer, and that’s all that really matters.”
To him, it’s important to distinguish that ‘mixed culture fermentation’ is a broad term that has come to mean, for many, that these beers are sour, with an “acid-forward” profile. He’s hoping to pursue his own ideas about what that type of fermentation means, noting in an email to me that the main goal is simply to make beer “exciting for us to drink.”
“The beer will most certainly be mixed culture fermentation, but not deliberately ‘sour,'” he wrote in the email. “(We’ll have) some surprises too. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Mexican Lager!”
Sadly, the day we’ll get to try some of those beers probably won’t come until 2018 or later, as Crowell is in the very early planning stages and still looking for the right space.