Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

Brewery/Name: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales La Roja Artisan Amber Ale
Style: American Wild
Brewed In: Dexter, Michigan
Origin: USA
ABV: 7.2
Serving Glass: Goblet
OMG Beer Rating: 8.5

Jolly Pumpkin of Michigan specializes in the beer techniques that give us some of the more off the wall beers - open fermentation, oak aging, and bottle conditioning. Think sour, think well aged and intense in flavor, and far as possible from that lager you had at a bbq a few weeks ago. La Roja is a "wild" ale, which means open fermentation, then barrel aging after fermentation is complete. Wild Michigan yeasts do their work on the beer over time, and each batch is a blend of barrels aged from 2 months to a year. The bottle says "batch three," bottled in April of 2010. Fresh when I bought, but stored for another three months purely do to the intimidation of reviewing my first wild/sour ale.

I had no reason to be intimidated. Unlike some belgian sours, which have danced along my tongue like a sour mystery I couldn't quite penetrate, this is upfront in flavor. It's also a gorgeous beer, with a slightly tan thick head and a deep cloudy red interior. The aroma is sour and fruity. Suggests cherries, sour apple, and red wine. But, there's also a waft of booze and some sweet maltiness hiding under the intense sourness. The first sip is sour cherries, a hint of caramel and then a spiciness that is also like white pepper and maybe cardamom. The sourness might be more under control than in the aroma. The aftertaste makes me think of a very fruity, yet dry red wine, only with the addition of residual sourness, and some hints of apple. Like the more typical american amber, this is medium-bodied, but more highly carbonated.

Interestingly, a quick survey of the Beer Advocate reviews for La Roja shows just how all over the place our tongues can be, especially when presented with something so out of ordinary drinking experience. People describe it as sweet, as horse blanket like (I'm sure they've all licked and smelled horse blankets, like any responsible beer reviewer), as sour, as tart, as tart but balanced against sour, and so on. I can see myself revising the score. I love this beer, but as far as wilds go, I've only had about a dozen up until now, and by that I mean a dozen total, about 4 seperate 4 or 5 beers. So far, this exceeds them all by various degrees, both in complexity, quality, and drinkability. Ugh, drinkability, what a ruined word.

1 comment:

  1. Don't cellar Jolly Pumpkin beers. I had a bottle blow up on me. I emailed the brewery, and Ron Jeffries emailed me back to say I should have consumed it earlier!

    It makes sense, too - their process is inherently loosely controlled, and a weak bottle plus strong microbes makes for a big mess. They do use stronger-than-usual bottles, but even so, things can go wrong.