Jolly Pumpkin

Jolly Pumpkin could be thought of as the marijuana of my beer world. It has led to other things. For years I've mainly avoided sours, occasionally attempting to expand the pallet and throw one into a mixed six pack to very little success. Even in the wonderful world of food, sour is something I just didn't go for. Sweet and sour chicken wouldn't even be on chinese takeout menus if it were left up to me. Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and kiefer were better left to rot on whatever shelf some poor sap was forced to put them on. At least that's how I used to feel.

Enter Kimchi.

Spending a year in Korea makes it impossible not to love kimchi. It's everywhere, in everything, and the lifeblood of every Korean. If you don't already know and love kimchi, it's a traditional fermented Korean sour and spicy dish usually made of cabbage. The best stuff ferments underground in jars for months (or years). Aside from cabbage, there's also radish, scallion, and cucumber kimchi. They're all fantastic.

So with a new found love for the sour and spicy goodness, and a pre-existing love for finely fermented grains, it was time once again for me to dive into sour beer. With Mr. MacLeod as my guide, I undertook the flight offered at Jolly Pumpkin's Ann Arbor location (311 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104). Here's what was offered (from left to right in the picture) with a description from the Jolly Pumpkin menu and my two cents:

  • La Roja
    • 7.2% Alc./Vol.
    • Deep amber with earthy caramel, spice, and sour fruit notes developed through natural barrel aging.
    • Moderately tart, subtly bitter, and surprisingly easy to drink for something that's 7.2%. As mentioned in their description, the majority of the sour flavor comes from the fruit, which makes this even more drinkable.
  • Luciérnaga "The Firefly"
    • 6.5% Alc./Vol.
    • An artisan pale ale brewed in the Grand Cru tradition. Golden effervescence and gentle hop aroma. Coriander and Grains of Paradise round out the spicy palate, with a silken finish of hoppiness.
    • Quite drinkable and not overly funky like I expected all of the sours to be. Clean, crisp, and smooth with just the right amount of citrus and spice coming through.
  • Bam Noire
    • 4.3% Alc./Vol.
    • Dark, smooth and delicious, with aromas of worn leather, notes of sweet plum, and hints of coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish.
    • Lightly sweet, lightly bitter, and mediumly sour, this is as easy to drink as the 4.3% abv would imply. Would be a fine choice for a summer session ale.
  • Oro de Calabaza
    • 8% Alc./Vol.
    • Spicy and peppery with a gentle hop bouquet and the beguiling influence of wild yeast. New york times' #1 in a blind taste test of 20 belgian-style golden ales.
    • All around the beer scene in Ann Arbor, wild yeast was the absolute rage. The Oro de Calabaza most definitely waves the funky yeast flag with pride. Lemon and white pepper are the stars in flavor.
  • Bière de Mars
    • 7% Alc./Vol.
    • A sustaining beer that is brewed to comfort in the gusty ides of March and welcome in a wealth of warmer weather. 
    • Sour cherries and apple show up the most, but it's amazingly well balanced overall. 

Since this flight I've been trying quite a few more sours and would highly recommend doing the same if you're not already on that path. They're a fine summer companion and pair nicely with Asian dishes or simply drinking in the sunshine. If you're unsure and haven't had great luck with sours, go for anything Jolly Pumpkin you can find and you'll be converted before the glass is empty. 


  1. I love sour beers and especially Jolly Pumpkin, although New Belgium's La Folie Blend sour really knocked my socks off recently! Glad you're coming around to the deliciousness of sours!!



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