Based in Dexter, Michigan, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is one of those breweries that, in my mind, deserves a little more of a write-up than one or two lines. This is one of the more experimental breweries in America – its beers are brewed with many non-standard oddball ingredients. Also, while wild yeasts of the genus Brettanomyces are the bane of wineries everywhere, and plenty of breweries as well, due to their proclivity to dig in, multiply and infect all the beer or wine you produce, Jolly Pumpkin welcomes these critters into its brewery with open arms. Jolly Pumpkin wouldn’t BE Jolly Pumpkin without Brettanomyces – its funky, leathery, barnyard-like presence informs every single JP beer I’ve ever tasted. These crazy brewers, led by a mad brewing visionary by the name of Ron Jeffries, far from controlling their fermentation process in air-locked brewing vessels, instead opt for “open fermentation,” allowing the entrenched house Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and who knows what else to ferment their beer. And then, they often mature their beer in oak casks, which imparts even more interesting flavors.
They are crazy. And I love them for this – these beers are never boring, always an adventure in every bottle. I submit today’s beer for review, “Biere de Goord.” This was actually the “Pints for Prostates” benefit beer, bottled on July 22, 2010. Appropriately enough, this is a Saison brewed with some pretty odd ingredients, but odd ingredients that happen to be beneficial to prostate health. Yes – this beer is brewed with (get ready for it) kale, pumpkin, and pumpkin seeds. Beyond that, it’s flavored with green tea, peppercorns, and more pumpkin. Disclaimer – I’d already had a bottle many months ago, and I know that I already love this beer. However, I have another bottle in front of me right now – my last one, sadly.
As soon as I pop the cap, I get a little whiff of sweaty funk. It looks very much as I’d expect a saison to look – nice white cap with excellent lacing, quite hazy golden body. Yup, definitely an unfiltered beer here.
I definitely get the signature Jolly Pumpkin funk in the nose – notes of horse piss and barn-corner. Also pungent soured fruits and squashy bread; minor notes of green anise as well. Musty and weedy, this has the “saison/farmhouse” thing nailed.
There was a lot of stuff added to this beer. Can I pick it all out? Peppercorn….oh yeah, at the back end. Tea, yes, it has a slightly bitter oolong tea flavor that may not be for everyone. Strange but not unpleasant meringue-like egg-creaminess in the aftertaste. Up front, of course, tart apple and lemon/lime. This is quite tart, but not so much “sour.” With some sips, I get an awesome pumpkin-seed taste. There’s a subtle basil-like flavor near the back; I’m guessing that that may be the kale. There’s a lot going on. Unfocused, but gloriously so. Feel-wise, sometimes Jolly Pumpkins get a bit jolly with the bubbles, but this has a soft carbonation that is very agreeable.
This is just an interesting beer with a lot of subtleties to chew on. It also happens to be an excellent example of a farmhouse ale. I’m not sure what I would pair this with – maybe a goat cheese, if my hand was forced. I think I’d prefer to just drink and contemplate this one.
Overall Impression 4.5
Weighted Average 4.6
Beer Advocate 4.08