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Friday, February 10, 2012

Jolly Pumpkin | La Roja

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, an "artisan amber ale brewed in the Flanders tradition," comes from Dexter, Michigan. Put simply, this is categorized by most as a wild ale, which means that it uses wild yeast strains in fermentation. Jolly Pumpkin, in particular, allows open air from outdoors to flow through the brewhouse, which inoculates their beers for secondary fermentation. Then a blend is created from multiple batches aged from 2-10 months in bourbon or red wine barrels. So, even though the initial brew is created to follow a Belgian Flanders Red Ale style (which is quite sour itself), Jolly Pumpkin puts their own twist on La Roja, making it more "wild."

Poured into a flute glass from a 750ml bottle (blend 11 - bottled July 7, 2011). La Roja has a slightly hazy deep burnt copper color with a creamy light tan head. Head retention sits somewhere around the 1cm mark and there is lots of frothy lacing sticking to the sides of my glass. The smell is pungent and tart. Strong aromas of red wine vinegar, sour cherries, with hints of oak, spice, and very funky yeast.

The flavor, much like the aroma hints at, is very tart and refreshingly mouthwatering. Bright fizzy carbonation injects flavors of red wine vinegar, citric and lactic acids, Maraschino cherries, pomegranate, woody oak, and musty barnyard funk. The initial blast of sourness fades to a sweeter flavor for a moment, creating a delicious tug-of-war between sweet and sour. La Roja finishes just slightly bitter, with lingering tannins. This beer has a lot going on!

These sour ales, with their wild yeast strains and extended barrel aging, create a cacophony of flavor and aroma that is sometimes hard to put into words. If you are new to the style, you will without a doubt question that this is even a beer. It's something that upon the first sip seems a little off putting, but by the time you get halfway through your glass, you won't be able get enough of the delicious mouthwatering sensation created by the sourness. Unfortunately sour ales are often hard to come by, as the style is only recently gaining popularity in the US, and most are created in small, hand blended batches. This means that only a handful of the sours made in our country make it to nationwide distribution. That being said, don't be scared off by the somewhat higher price of Jolly Pumpkin ales, as they are well worth every penny.

Getting back to the beer in the spotlight... I mean, pint glass. La Roja is a very well crafted beer, and it's one that I justify the $12.50 price to treat myself to every few months. It's easily passed by, but definitely one of the most complex and delicious beers in our store. Personal 10/10, for the style 9/10.

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