In a distillery space on the Hill Country outskirts of Austin, Revolution Spirits has become known for making unusual spirits and liqueurs to accompany its flagship gin. But the latest product might be the wildest one yet — in more ways than one.
Releasing as a limited offering on Thursday is Revolution's Spirit de Spon, a clear liquor drawing its primary flavor from spontaneously fermented beer produced at the neighboring Jester King Brewery. As such, the experimental spirit might not be like anything you've had before.
The idea for Spirit de Spon came from the exact place where the beers that inspired Jester King's Jeff Stuffings are made: in Belgium. Most specifically, the Revolution team, which includes co-founder Aaron Day and distillers Forrest Allen, Brian Meola and John Henry, had noticed the efforts of respected Belgian brewery Drie Fonteinen to create a spirit from spontaneously fermented beer, made in the traditional Belgian gueuze method, after it had gotten ruined from a thermostat malfunction.
Though those 100,000 bottles of beer were no longer able to be sold, the beer could be distilled into something new. So Drie Fonteinen's brewer, Armand Develder, took distillation classes after the 2010 incident in the hopes of saving his product.
The result was "Armand'Spirit, a completely unique eau de vie made from spontaneously fermented wort," according to Revolution Spirits' Facebook post announcing the arrival of Spirit de Spon. "Ever since the release of Spon, we have wanted to do something similar and see how the complex flavors of the beer would come through after distillation."
Spon debuted at Jester King in late 2016. Founder Stuffings believes in making beers with a sense of place, featuring ingredients such as Texas-grown and -malted barley, well water from the Trinity Aquifer, hops that have been aged on-site and — particularly key to the spontaneous fermentation process — yeast and bacteria from the surrounding Hill Country. The resulting wild ales define Jester King's beer program.
Spontaneous fermentation involves allowing the wort (the hop and barley mixture) to inoculate naturally with airborne microorganisms, then having it ferment over time in barrels. (Most craft brewers make their wares by quicker fermentation in stainless steel tanks.) Jester King's Spon series is a true American-born example of Belgian gueuze because each beer in the series is a multi-year blend of these spontaneously fermented ales.
Since 2016, Jester King has released a number of Spon brews. The brewery down the road from Revolution Spirits has collaborated with the distillery on past projects, and for this one, it provided wort that went through spontaneous fermentation at Revolution's stillhouse. It was then distilled twice. Distillation can profoundly change the original liquid, but that's not what happened with Spirit de Spon.
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"We were very happy to find that much of the earthy, complex flavors and aromas that are indicative of the farmhouse beers of Jester King were retained in the final product. It truly captures the characteristics that define the beer and the spontaneous fermentation process in general," according to the Revolution Spirits Facebook post.
If that sounds like something you want to try, head to Revolution Spirits, at 12345 Pauls Valley Rd., Bldg. G., starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday to pick up a bottle. Bottles are super limited, and sales will be limited to one per customer.