Archive for the 'Jolly Pumpkin' category
Spring is finally upon us, so this beer review will fall under the “better late then never” category, since the beer is a Christmas Holiday beer. I had the beer back in the throws of winter, but, as is my “style”, I am just getting around to placing my review into post form. The first standout feature, and hopefully not the only one, of this beer is the brewers behind it. This is a collaboration beer between Stone, Nøgne-Ø, and Jolly Pumpkin. All three brewers have made exceptional beers in the past, so lets see what happens when they combine forces.
The beer poured a jet black into my snifter, with a head that was of the “small-white-bubble-islands” variety. A big pine aroma hit my nostrils first, reminding me of Stone’s Black IPA. Through this thick pine aroma I also gleamed some typical Christmas beer aromas of coriander and ginger. In the mouth the beer runs smooth, and the pine taste, unsurprisingly, was the bully of the bunch, beating back all the other flavors to near unnoticeable quality. One strange flavoring I did notice was something I noted as “pasta flavor”. Was this a gasp of malt trying to make itself known? I am not really sure. The beer finished big and bitter.
I was not overly impressed with the beer personally, and probably a reason I took so long to post my review. The Allstrom brothers reviewed this beer back in late February for their Volume 11 Issue 8 Weekly Dig beer article (page 14). I did not read the review at the time, having already had the beer and not wanting to “taint” my review with their thoughts. Having just finished writing my review however, I gave their review a read.
I am not even sure we are talking about the same beer! Maybe my nose was off the night I had this, or I got a bad bottle, or the fact everyone tastes things differently. Whatever the reason, they really enjoyed the beer (with qualities I never noticed). So if you find this beer lying on a shelf somewhere, I recommend giving it a shot. It might not have done anything for me, but I’m not going to completely disregard the beer either.
As an ending aside, I enjoy this collaboration trend in brewing. It keeps things very interesting for the beer drinker, and I hope to see its continuation along with its expansion.
You folks may have noticed that I reviewed the E.S. Bam a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who want to be privy to acronyms, that E.S. stands for “Extra Special” – in the case of the E.S. Bam, that meant more hops and more malt than the original Bam. So, tonight, I’m basically drinking the less ‘special’ version of that same farmhouse ale.
The pour of the Bam is a fairly light and medium cloudy golden color with a very persistent stark white head made up of tons of dense bubbles, leaving streaks of spiderwebbing all down the sides of the glass. The aroma of this beer is super sour with lots of citrus, giving us a nice burn in the nose. There is also a reasonable amount of malt presence here, lending this a slight sweetness in the scent. In the mouth, this beer is again super sour. It has some lemony tints and just a hint of sweetness, all the while making you pucker up from that sour blast. This has a lot in common with the flavor of one of those sour lemon candies, except that the sweetness isn’t nearly as pronounced. And, sadly, I kinda wish it was. To me, this beer leans a bit too strongly on the primary distinguishing feature of a saison – the sourness. This certainly has sourness in spades, but it forgets a bit about the drinkability and appeal of the beer. If one really wants to know what makes a saison a saison, then this beer would be a good lesson by virtue of it’s sheer sourness. However, if one is looking for a saison that will be tasty, refreshing, and make you want to keep drinking, then I don’t think this is the one. Just a bit more of a malt backbone would balance the citric sourness and perhaps make this a very drinkable beer. However, this omission instead makes this beer a bit harsh and a tough beer for me to recommend. I know that Jolly Pumpkin makes a great beer, and I don’t think they did something they didn’t mean to do here – they are consistently fastidious with their beers, and I’m sure this is just how Jolly Pumpkin wanted this to taste. However, to my tastebuds, it isn’t too high on my Farmhouse Ale Scale.
I consider Jolly Pumpkin a bit of an ‘arthouse’ brewer. They make expensive beers in creative, nuanced styles. With everything I’ve had of theirs, I’ve been generally pleased. The beers seem big, yet pretty subtle, and quite refined. They don’t make a ton of styles (or at least there aren’t a ton distributed to NC), so I’m usually excited to see something new on the shelf. I thought I had reviewed their other Bam Biere, but it seems I haven’t, so that will hopefully come soon. However, tonight I’ll say a few words about the E.S. Bam, an extra-hoppy version of a Saison ale.
This beer pours a beautiful hue that is cloudy, appears golden around the edges of the glass, and becomes progressively more ruby-shaded as you get towards the center of the beer. There is a dense off-white head that is remarkably persistent, staying thick and creamy well into the beer. The aroma of this beer is musty and sour with some notable citrus adding some burn to the nose. In the mouth, this is a big sour bomb. This thing starts with some citrus sourness on the tip of the tongue that only gets bigger around the middle of the mouth, and it literally made me pucker up – it was a little shocking, to be honest. Also around the middle of the mouth, a big dustiness to the flavor shows up. It’s a difficult flavor to describe, but it’s thick and dense and gives the beer a suddenly large mouthfeel. As we continue down the tongue, some hop bitterness shows up, and it’s more metallic than floral. All these flavors make for a monster sour/bitter beer, and only towards the back of the mouth does some citrus sweetness perk up for just a moment before descending down the throat, leaving a diminishing sour coating all around the mouth. Frankly, this isn’t a beer that a novice beer drinker is going to enjoy. There’s very little sweetness – instead, this is super sour, quite bitter, and a little musty. Personally, I think it’s a rather well-done beer, but it can only be appreciated in relation to other Saison and IPA varieties, and that’s a benefit that only well-seasoned beer drinkers will have. So, if you fall into that category, then this might be a beer worth dropping some cash on. It’s impressive in it’s complexity and scope, but it’s not something you’ll want to share with the special lady friend.
Hey, you guys. Two words: Jolly Pumpkin. Seriously, these guys make a mean beer. This will be number 4 for me, and every one I’ve had has been both true to the traditional style and slightly askew, in a good way. What this results in is a tasty beer that isn’t easily paralleled in the market. A lot of folks try to pull this off, but few breweries can do so in a fashion that is, as far as my experience indicates, very consistent.
This particular beer is JP’s take on a Belgian white ale. It pours a cloudy dark golden color with a slight bit of debris. The aroma does contain the expected sweetness and hint of citrus. However, it also contains a big blast of tartness that slightly shocks the nose and leaves you curious about the taste. Well, sure as the wind blows, the taste follows suit. Drinking this beer is sorta like drinking a more traditional Belgian white while you’ve got a cheek full of Sweetarts. There is a citrus bite, a bit of spice (coriander and orange peel, if I’m not mistaken), and a light sweetness. However, there is this big burst of tartness that is impossible to ignore. This tartness mingles with the sweetness to give us this Sweetart flavor that, while strong, isn’t cloying or overbearing. In my opinion, this flavor makes this beer exceptional refreshing and thirst-quenching. Furthermore, it sets the beer far apart from other white ales that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. This is a great beer, and I’d be totally psyched if the whole Jolly Pumpkin line would gain distribution in NC so that I wouldn’t have to work so hard to get them.
This beer, another that was kindly sent to us by Kevin at KevBrews, is an offering that we unfortunately cannot get in NC. Jolly Pumpkin has begun to ship a couple of beers into my fair state, but the Luciernaga is thus far unavailable. This beer is labeled as a pale ale brewed in the “Grand Cru” style, which is generally indicative of a Belgian varietal. However, if you were to ask me, I’d call this a French Saison ale. The beer pours a hazy golden yellow and smells spicy and sour. The aroma, although pungent and quite in-your-face, is really quite pleasant and gives the beer good presence. In the mouth, the beer immediately exhibits a sharp spiciness that is quickly followed by a strong sour. There isn’t very much sweetness involved here, and there isn’t much to balance the sour besides a citrus flavor that, while adding a new element, obviously serves to reinforce the sourness, as well. In the end, a bit of malt peeks out, too, to give the beer a slightly bread-like aftertaste. Generally, I wouldn’t consider this beer terribly complex. Rather, I find it to be a straightforward Saison with the slight addition of additional malt characteristics. That being said, I’ll say that this is a great example of an artisan ale. It follows along the lines of an excellent variety that is time-tested, and it does it proud. Thus far, Jolly Pumpkin doesn’t fail to please.
This is only my second tasting from the Jolly Pumpking brewery, but the first one really rocked socks and so I expected the same from this one. Fortunately, I was not surprised. This amber ale pours a pretty standard dark ruby color – nothing exceptional there. However, you really start to get a feel for how big this beer is with the aroma. This beer has more to say in the aroma than about any Amber I can recall – it is very pungent and spicy, and the smell literally wafts from the table to your nose. None of that up-close-and-personal stick your face in the beer mess. In the mouth, this beer continues to shine. The initial taste is very spicy and slightly burns the tip of the tongue. Developing through the mouth you get a fairly malty competitor to the spice along with tastes of caramel and a slight candy-like sourness. Overall, this is a very very robust beer – probably the biggest Amber I’ve found. I’m continuing to really like what Jolly Pumpkin is doing, and I’m very excited about trying more of their beers as they come available here in NC.
I’m a little jealous of these guys, because I think they’re doing what I wish I was doing – making small-batch good beer for people who appreciate it. Jolly Pumpkin is a relatively young and smallish brewery out of Michigan. They pride themselves on making original beers of “outstanding depth and complexity”. If their Golden Ale is any indication, then they’re pulling it off. This beer pours a hazy golden color and smells sweet and spicy. In the mouth, you are immediately hit with a peppery spice that awakens the taste buds. Through the mouth, the beer maintains this welcome spiciness, mingled with a mild sweetness and a nice floral hop flavor. As far as Golden Ales go, this is rather complex. There are a myriad of flavors, all of which work together to make a tremendous brew. This is a BIT expensive for an American beer at $7.99 from my local beer store. But, it delivers in a big way. I hope to see the prices fall a bit as this becomes more common in the area, and I’m excited to see what else they can do. They’d better have a helluva pumpkin ale.