Austinites wouldn’t have Jester King — at least not in the spontaneously fermented format we’ve come to love — without the influence of a little brewery in Belgium called Cantillon.
Which is why the farmhouse brewery in Dripping Springs decided to pay it forward and announced yesterday that it was helping to bring Cantillon’s beers to Texas. That’s a considerable feat because of the state laws that force overseas breweries to pay hefty fees if they want to bring their beers here.
According to Jester King’s blog, where the news was first announced yesterday, breweries from abroad must obtain the licensing to distribute their beers in Texas, something that can cost upwards of $4,000 or even $6,000 every two years. For a small brewery like the lambic-focused Cantillon, such an expense just isn’t practical. Jester King, however, is going to take care of part of it.
Most states, as yesterday’s blog post noted, don’t make the process of bringing in overseas beers so cost-prohibitive for the brewery. Texas’ restrictive laws (which Jester King and organizations like Open the Taps seek to change in the next legislative session) keep small artisan breweries like Cantillon out of the state — a real shame given how good their beers can be and how much they’ve influenced farmhouse breweries like Jester King.
“Brasserie Cantillon has been a tremendous source of inspiration to all of us at Jester King, perhaps more so than any other brewery in the world,” according to the blog post. “When we began refermenting our mature barrel-aged beers with fruit, and when we started our spontaneous fermentation program two and a half years ago, we looked to Cantillon for guidance. Jean Van Roy of Cantillon provided us with valuable insight that continues to serve as the foundation for much of what we do.”
So far, a very limited number of Texans have savored sips of Cantillon on Zwanze Day — a special event whereby places around the world tap a single keg of Cantillon beer on the same day (this year’s is Sept. 19). Zwanze Day has been at Jester King for the past two years; although it will be again, the brewery’s choosing to host it on a later date.
That later date is intentional: Jester King wants to celebrate once Cantillon has secured a Texas license to sell here in early October.
“In order to cover the cost of this license, Shelton Brothers Importers, the company responsible for Cantillon’s U.S. distribution, will be selling the keg of 2015 Zwanze to their Texas distributor, Flood Distribution, for approximately $2,000 more than they would ordinarily charge, and we will be paying Flood Distribution roughly $2,000 more than we would otherwise pay,” according to Jester King’s blog post. “This money will then be applied directly to the licensing fee, covering a bit less than half of what Shelton Brothers and/or Cantillon will have to pay every other year, for as long as they maintain the license or until we’re able to change the law.”
As exciting as this news is for Texas beer fans, we’ve also got to remind ourselves just how limited Zwanze Day will continue to be. Jester King is selling only 200 tickets to the big day for $50 each, meaning that you’d better hope you’re by a computer when these tickets go on sale. They’ll be well worth their cost.
Each one “includes a 4 oz. sample of 2015 Zwanze (a spontaneously fermented stout), a cheese pairing, a souvenir glass, and the first opportunity to purchase Cantillon bottles and draught legally sold in Texas,” according to the blog post.
For more information, visit jesterkingbrewery.com.