Our first BrewView for our LAMBICS, SOURS, AND WILD ALES feature that originally started in January 2015 (but carried over into the end of March 2016) was made possible through Darren Cartledge of the awesome drinking establishment – THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka, California.
We obtained this bottle of JOLLY PUMPKIN LA ROJA DU KRIEK (Blend 2, bottled on 4/8/15) from Darren during our travels to Humboldt County California, back in September 2015. La Roja du Kriek was just one example of the many Belgian-style ales that Darren offers at his bar. If you’re ever in the area, you simply must stop in and enjoy a few beers! (You can read about our PLACES review of The Local Beer Bar here. There is also an interview we did with Darren posted at the article). Thank you again Darren, for hooking us up with this awesome beer to start off 2016… Cheers!
ABOUT JOLLY PUMPKIN ARTISAN ALES
WHAT’S IN A NAME, ANYWAY?
From the mind of Ron Jeffries of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales…
“My favorite comment made upon hearing our moniker, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales was:
“You really ought to think about hiring one of those marketing companies. They can come up with names for you and everything. Is it too late to change?”
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Seems people either love it or don’t understand it.
People always ask about the name, asking “where did it come from?” I usually just put a finger to my temple, smile, and sanguinely state “I have a very strange brain.”
And then I tell this story:
The name bubbled forth years ago on a warm spring afternoon. It was one of those rare sunny March Michigan days, the kind that seems much warmer than March really has any right to be. Small piles of snow still dotted the yard as my wife and I sat on the patio in our shirtsleeves. Sipping beers and enjoying the sun on our faces after the long dark, cold Michigan winter. After firming up our business plan for months, the dream had finally evolved enough to need a name. So we sat, pen and paper in hand, brainstorming, smiling and laughing.
Many great names came forth that afternoon, but as the weeks passed, and spring finally sprung, the name that always made us smile was Jolly Pumpkin. It encompassed everything we wanted to express about our brewery. Fun and quirky, all that needed adding were the last two words; “Artisan Ales”, the description of the brewery’s products and mission; The creation of fantastic beers of truly outstanding artisan quality. Maintaining traditional small scale production, keeping beer a beverage of both outstanding complexity and simplicity, this would be our laudable goal. Complexity of flavor, simplicity of ingredient and process. This duality was perfectly balanced in the name. Simple and complex. Complex yet simple.
To our delight with our wonderful new found name we were able to combine some very fun and exciting images:
Everyone’s favorite holiday; Halloween (Who doesn’t enjoy the grinning Jack O’ Lantern?)
Everyone’s favorite Halloween costume; the pirate!
Some of my favorite locations; the tropics!
And my two nicknames: Brewmaster Spooky, and Captain Ron
And hence was born the strange name by the brewer with the dedication to rustic country beers!”
With much aloha from my family to yours,
Captain Spooky Ron J
ABOUT RON JEFFRIES – PRODUCTION MANAGER / CHIEF SQUEEGEE OPERATOR
Ron Jeffries is responsible for Northern United Brewing Company’s Jolly Pumpkin line of beers brewed in Dexter, MI. He also collaborates with the North Peak family. As brewmaster, Ron’s goal is worldwide recognition as a brewer and creator of beers of outstanding art and grace, a philosopher of things beery, and an outspoken advocate of the slower, finer life.
Ron began studying brewing science in 1991-ish with one eye always towards opening his own brewery. He began brewing professionally in 1995, and quickly became a well-known and respected brewer in Michigan’s emerging craft beer scene. Driven and dedicated, he progressed from brewer, to craftsman, to artist, and most recently to philosopher and visionary. Beginning to learn to step back, and decelerate the hectic pace of modern life to a slower, more livable, more enjoyable walk, he learned to smile and laugh, and was finally able to open his own brewery (Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales) in the summer of 2004. Running Jolly Pumpkin, Ron now practices the art of “Hawaiian time,” full time.
ABOUT “BAM” THE BREWERY DOG
“Bam Biére farmhouse ale, Bam Noire dark farmhouse ale, and Weizen Bam farmhouse wheat beer are named for our Jack Russell, who struck by a car, bounced back in fine tenacious Jack Russell fashion, and is brewed for those of us who knocked down, have picked up, dusted off and carried on undaunted.
The Bam Biére farmhouse ale is golden, naturally cloudy, bottle conditioned and dry hopped for a perfectly refreshing balance of spicy malts, hops and yeast. The Bam Noire is dark, smooth and delicious. Aromas of worn leather and cool autumn nights. Notes of sweet plum and toasted raisin, hints of coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish. Weizen Bam Biere is ruddy golden, with yeast driven esters of banana, spicy clove, and nutmeg all wrapped up with a generous dose of rapscillion delight. Please enjoy our beers in good health, And look both ways when crossing the street!”
(Source: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales & Shelton Brothers)
OUR GOOD FRIEND AND MICHIGAN RESIDENT STU STUART (OF BELGIAN BEER ME! BEER TOURS) SPEAKS ABOUT JOLLY PUMPKIN ARTISAN ALES
“Jolly Pumpkin and Ron Jeffries have been producing very respectable wild beers in wood for more than 10 years in Michigan. He was making them before they were “cool” or most Americans (even brewers) even knew this type of beer existed. He chose a hard road. He was trying to sell wild beer in Michigan, a state that had not even adopted craft beer yet. People thought he was crazy. His Oro de Calabaza got mention in a beer list in the New York Times maybe five years ago and suddenly put him on the map. And to my knowledge his wild yeast comes from the wood and not by injecting brett into a stainless steel fermenter and calling it “sour beer.” He makes them the traditional way. Yes, good beers… if you like wild beer, for sure.”
BEER STYLE AND COMMERICAL DESCRIPTION FROM JOLLY PUMPKIN ARTISAN ALES
Style category: Sour Amber Ale with Cherry Juice
3,100 gallons of 2013 La Roja meets 50 gallons of Michigan tart cherry juice to combine in a mellifluous melody of sour and tart Joie de Vivre! Sip, Savor, Enjoy!
OUR BREWVIEW OF jolly pumpkin artisan ales – la roja du kriek
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
7.5 % ABV. Poured into a brandy snifter shaped glass, and served at 47°F. Pours a reddish, amber color, with a SRM value around a 12-13. The slightly off-white colored head pours an easy 2-finger height, and has a rocky density with small and large bubbles. As the head collapses, the Brussels lacing it leaves behind is patchy and coats the glass very nicely (we did ensure that this was a “Beer Clean” glass).
The meniscus is medium to slow rising, there is a gentle haze to it, and there was quite a bit of yeast to be collected at the bottom of the bottle- so of course, we poured that later! The rim color variation is slightly lighter than the body of the beer.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
When we opened the bottle up and poured the beer into the glass for the first time to take the picture, the oak wood and sour cherry / cherry stone aromas were strong (we could smell the beer from 2 feet away from the glass!) Nice funk, it has that classic Flanders Red sour ale bouquet to it. Since this is our first Jolly Pumpkin beer, we can’t say what the “house” yeast characteristic is, if at all. Many breweries have beers that share a similar yeast character, we’ll have to find out if this is the case with Ron’s beers. Of course to find that out, we need to try some other Jolly Pumpkin beers- ha, ha! There is almost a “sour” cherries jubilee aroma.
We were prepared for our palates to be fully assaulted (in a good way) with the very first taste of this beer! Wow- perfect balance of malt, oak wood, funk, and sourness. Even thought this is not a “Lambic” in the traditional Belgian style, La Roja du Kriek is as good as some of the classic Krieks from Belgium. We would love to do a blind tasting with La Roja du Kriek versus the Belgians… that would be very interesting.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Medium bodied, the effervescence definitely tickles the tip of the tongue, and fills the sides and the back of the mouth with it’s tartness. This is a sour pucker for sure! This is a very easy drinking beer at 7.5% ABV. The finish is tart, and certainly invites the drinker to that next sip, in order to experience something a bit different as it paints your taste buds with each successive drink.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
APPETIZERS: Light salads with balsamic vinaigrette, a great charcuterie platter with sausages and pâtés, chesses to pair with La Roja du Kriek: Blue, Camembert, Cheddar, (we enjoyed it with a nice Kerry Gold aged White Cheddar) Fontina, Livarot, Mimolette.
ENTRÈES: Grilled beef, in a La Roja du Kriek reduction sauce, Moule en Frite, for sure! Pork Tendeloin, Duck Confit, Rabbit with Sour Cherries.
DESSERTS: Anything with cherries, of course! We paired this with a small slab of dark Belgian chocolate… was soooo good! Truffle cake, Liège waffles with a bit of Sirop de Liège would also pair very well.
Our hats off to Ron Jeffries for brewing such an excellent beer! We are looking forward to trying the other beers from Jolly Pumpkin available here in our local Redding, California market, for sure!
Our thanks go out again to Darren Cartledge of THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka, California for suggesting that we try this beer!
DECEMBER 5, 2016: THE LOCAL BEER BAR ANNOUNCES ITS FINAL FAREWELL
Darren & Michelle Cartledge announced today that they will be closing THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka to concentrate on their other booming businesses, THE LOCAL CIDER BAR, and HUMBOLDT CIDER COMPANY. However, beer fans, don’t despair! They are going to incorporate a 2nd taproom to serve all the world class beers that the patrons of The Local Beer Bar have come to enjoy at the Humboldt Cider Company location!
Click here to read the official announcement, and to attend their FINAL FAREWELL PARTY on December 31, 2016…
For being a beer at 7.5% ABV, it is very sessionable due to its refreshing character. Although the base beer (La Roja) is available year round, the La Roja du Kriek is a limited release beer. Our suggestion- buy several bottles so you can enjoy a bottle at different times of the year, and cellar some for sure! We estimate that the aging potential to be outstanding, up to 5-10 years!
If the Jolly Pumpkin beers are available in Belgium, I would challenge the natives to do a blind tasting with La Roja du Kriek against their local Kriek Lambic beers. They will be pleasantly surprised! We cannot recommend this beer highly enough. We are going to persuade our local beer shops here in Redding to carry La Roja du Kriek… for all you sour beer fans out there, it is a must try- seek it out for sure!