Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales - Who Needs an Occasion? (RBC Exclusive)
- ABV: 8.5%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- 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 Who Needs an Occasion? This release will be available exclusively through the club and the brewery’s tasting room.
This wild stout was made with an array of specialty malts and sugars to impart deep complexity as it aged in oak barrels for nine months. It was further aged on blackberries and cherries that add a slightly jammy fruitiness to the beer. Fuggle and Perle hops give the beer an inviting 37 IBUs of bitterness. The ABV reaches 8.5%, from incorporating Pilsner malt, Pale Malt, Roasted Barley, Crystal 75, Munich 10, Wheat Malt, and Black Malt, with turbinado sugar and molasses. The outcome is a complex beer with the aromas and flavors of a stout and characteristics of an Oud Bruin.
Who Needs an Occasion? pours an opaque, deep, dark, chocolatey brown, with dark red hues towards the rim, 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 coffee, followed by tart cherries and blackberries. As it settles, savory wild yeast aromas abound with dried herbs, toasted nuts, funky oak, and a slight balsamic concentration. Dark earth, mushroom, and leather appear in the background with hints of brown butter, and a slight jammyness from the cherries and blackberries.
Sipping this beer, one finds a mouthwatering tartness with savory, lightly sour flavors, tangy and defined dark fruit, and underlying bitterness. The liquid is somewhat concentrated and silky, with a finely bubbled mousse, and round, full bodied mouthfeel. Dark cacao bitterness with light acidity showcases the specialty malts and yeast cultures that make this beer unique. Sour cherries and tart blackberries are enveloped in warm toasty caramel, nutty brown butter, deeply roasted grain, and crushed herbs. The oak barrels used have an intrinsic ability to micro-oxygenate the beer as it ages, which adds a distinct woody tannin to the solution and deepens its maturity. The lingering finish highlights the complexity of the fermentation and barrel maturation, and delightfully increases in complexity as it warms. The 8.5% ABV does not overpower the beer and there is no off-putting booziness that lesser beers would be plagued by. A remarkable release from Jolly Pumpkin, this one left us craving our next sip. As they say at Jolly Pumpkin, “Who Needs an Occasion? Can’t we just enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it? Life is complicated enough. Have a beer!”
Who Needs an Occasion? can be drunk now and has great potential for further aging. The flavors in this beer should continue to develop and intensify as it matures and would be fine to visit from time to time over the next few years. For food pairings, we’re inclined to try this with roasted dry-aged meats, cured charcuterie, and salty blue veined cheeses.
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, and Flor de los Muertos in 2021—all exceptional releases that captured our favorite aspects of this brewery. The latest exclusive is sure to intrigue—a mildly sour wild stout that spent nine months in oak barrels then further aged on blackberries and cherries.
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 or Chicago, head over to their website at brewery.jollypumpkin.com for more info.
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