Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales - Making the Turn (Rare Beer Club Exclusive)
Serving Temperature:45–50° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Chalice, Goblet, or Teku Glass
One of our two featured beers this month is a Rare Beer Club exclusive from our friends at Jolly Pumpkin: the delicious and unique Making the Turn. This release will be available exclusively through the Rare Beer Club and the brewery’s tasting room.
This wild stout was brewed with an array of specialty malts to impart deep complexity and juniper berries to give a distinct gin-like fruitiness. It spent twelve months in oak barrels before the addition of unsweetened chocolate which added character and depth to the flavor. Fuggle hops give the beer an easy 20 IBUs of bitterness. The ABV touches 6.5%, from incorporating 2 Row, Rye Malt, Roasted Barley, C-120, and Black Malt, bringing forth a complex beer with the aromas and flavors of a fruited and spiced chocolate stout and characteristics of a Bière Noire des Flandres.
Making the Turn pours an opaque, deep, dark, chocolatey brown to black, capped by a tan head. Pronounced deeply toasted and roasted aromas rise from the glass as it’s poured, with cocoa, caramel, and hints of chocolate and pronounced juniper notes. As it settles, savory wild yeast aromas abound with notes of rye, citrus, and berries. Dark, rich, and earthy aromas arise as it warms slightly, giving way to notes of black peppercorns and roasted barley.
Sipping this beer, one finds a mouthwatering tartness with savory, unsweetened chocolate, fine underlying bitterness, and opulent juniper berry. The beer is somewhat concentrated and silky, with a finely bubbled mousse, and round, full bodied mouthfeel. Dark unsweetened chocolate bitterness with light acidity showcases the rye malt and roasted barley backbone of this unique beer. The juniper berries are enveloped in roasty malt flavors, dark coffee notes, and sprucy and piney flavors. The twelve-month maturation in oak barrels allows this beer to integrate wood expressions and tannins over time, essentially being used as “seasoning” and not the driving force behind the flavors. The long lingering finish highlights the use of juniper and brought to mind traditional Finnish farmhouse ales known as Sahti, which include juniper berries, and often branches, into the brew, while using similar grains such as barley and rye. The similarities end there, however, as Jolly Pumpkin goes further by adding unsweetened chocolate and using black malt for a deeper, darker color.
Making the Turn is another outstanding release from Jolly Pumpkin and we here at the Rare Beer Club are very happy to present it to our members. We’re also honored to continue our relationship with Jolly Pumpkin which began in 2009 and we hope for many more years to come.
Making the Turn has great potential for further aging but can be enjoyed now. The juniper flavors in this beer should continue to develop as it matures as should the chocolate flavors. For food pairings, we’re inclined to try this with dishes that are traditionally flavored with juniper such as choucroute garnie, sauerbraten, and some northern Italian cuisine like Coniglio Bianco (braised rabbit).
For this month we’re proud to bring you a very special beer brewed exclusively for members of The Rare Beer Club by one of our favorite breweries, Jolly Pumpkin, and its founder and brewer, our friend Ron Jeffries. This is the latest in a number of Jolly Pumpkin exclusives that we’ve had the pleasure of featuring in recent years; others include Los Vivos y Los Muertos in 2014, Rosie del Barrio in 2016, L'épouvantail Noir in 2017, The Regifted in 2018, El Pastor in 2020, Flor de los Muertos in 2021, and Who Needs an Occasion in 2022—all exceptional releases that captured our favorite aspects of this brewery. The latest exclusive is sure to intrigue—a mildly sour wild stout brewed with juniper berries and unsweetened chocolate that spent 12 months in oak barrels.
Approaching the nondescript structure that houses the Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales brewery, you might think the place looks more like a defunct paper products warehouse than a world-class brewery. But step inside and not only will you find shiny brewing equipment, you’ll also encounter row upon row of wooden barrels in which beer of various ages, blends and funk-levels is maturing. The brewery performs barrel aging on all of the Jolly Pumpkin beers. The time, labor and expense required to age every ounce of beer they make in traditional wooden barrels, is, some would say, madness. But it’s what breeds their awesome array of truly distinctive beers. Well, that and open fermentation, meaning that the yeast are left to work their magic in a container that’s left wide open—instead of being inside a closed stainless steel tank. This means that any wild yeast floating about in the air can get into the beer and apply a bit of their own natural funk to the flavor of the beer. Talk about personalization—the combination of open fermentation and barrel aging is not only artisanal brewing, it’s an additional element of the art of brewing that has largely disappeared from the craft. Sure, barrel aging has become increasingly popular among craft brewers and beer geeks, but as a proportion of the overall amount of beer produced in the U.S., few people are doing it, and fewer do it as well as Jolly Pumpkin. JP takes it a step further by even fermenting its beers in wood before aging them further—a risky process when it comes to consistency and quality control, but founder and brewer Ron Jeffries somehow manages to pull it off beautifully.
Ron has steered Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales since 2004, and the brewery currently operates under the Northern United Brewing Company. Visitors to Jolly Pumpkin’s main brewery in Dexter, Michigan can tour the 50-barrel brewhouse that houses both Jolly Pumpkin and the non-wild-fermented beers of North Peak Brewing Co., which are also made on site (though kept well separated from Jolly Pumpkin’s funky operations). For the latest info on setting up a tour, or for visiting one of the Jolly Pumpkin brewpubs in Michigan, head over to their website at www.jollypumpkin.com for more info.
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