Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Bam Bière

Jolly Pumpkin
Dexter, MI

Style: Saison
ABV: 4.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

A couple of years ago, Nigel whipped up a review for Dexter, MI-based Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, reviewing the tasty Flemish sour ale La Roja. I enjoyed my Jolly Pumpkin experience and hoped to try them again real soon.

Nearly two years later, my only other Jolly Pumpkin experiences have come in the form of a couple of small samples at beer festivals. I tried Calabaza Blanca around the same time I had La Roja, so basically I’ve completely overlooked Jolly Pumpkin since then. Part of this is due to their still-limited distribution, and part of that has to do with the fact that most of their offerings only come in giant (25.4 oz.) single bottles, often with a hefty price tag to match. I finally picked up a bottle of Bam Bière last week at my local craft beer retailer, hoping to give Jolly Pumpkin a much deserved second review, though it did suck about 10 bucks out of a gift certificate Danish Princess gave me for my birthday. Only a beer dork can receive a $50 gift certificate to a craft beer retailer and still need to pay cash in addition to cover the bill. Long live the beer dorks.

Anyway, I re-read my La Roja review prior to beginning this one, and I’m thinking I may need to give it another shot. You see, Jolly Pumpkin does in fact make “artisan” ales, extremely complex and unique brews not typically brewed by American brewers. Bière de gardes, Flemish sours, saisons, wits, you name it … they’re tasty and painstakingly made. Over the years, Nigel’s palate has continued to refine, so I’m thinking I might have a far greater appreciation of La Roja than I did two years ago. I remember La Roja being good, but I didn’t quite know what to make of it. A few years later I feel more confident in my interpretation of specialty ales, and I’m hoping that Bam Bière tests me as a complex farmhouse ale/saison.

Bam Biere pours with a monstrous pillowy white head that dissipates fairly quickly, leaving a good creamy lace at the top and stickiness on the sides of the glass throughout. An extremely light golden brown, the only way you can tell this isn’t champagne is by the murky sedimentation that persists throughout due to the bottle conditioning and the fact that the head is more creamy than bubbly. Initial aromas are both sweet and zesty, dominated by the wonderful spice that comes with any traditional French and/or Belgian ale. Clove, coriander, and black pepper singe the nostrils, with hints of lemon, orange peel, and grassiness. The malt aroma is light, the yeast is heavy, and there is actually a nice hint of hops. If physical presence of this is any indication, we may have a winner here.

The taste is unique and surprisingly complex given the fact that it’s a lighter beer with a low ABV. A refreshing onslaught of light citrus hits the tongue first, mainly in the form of grapefruit, orange, and lemon, as well as good amounts of banana. The spice quickly follows suit in the form of clove, coriander, and crushed black pepper, making this an effervescent brew with a major bite. That having been said, the spice is a bit more tempered than you find in authentic Belgian ales, so this won’t overwhelm as those can sometimes do. While there is virtually no malt profile as you would expect, surprisingly there is a nice hint of grassy hops in Bam Bière, adding another tasty ingredient to an already loaded brew. In terms of saisons, this has everything you’d want and more without becoming too much, a delicate balance that is often the death knell of any brewer attempting the style. Jolly Pumpkin has succeeded and in the process created a rare treat. Light in body but a bit rough on the palate with the extreme carbonation and spice, Bam Bière goes down well with a strong aftertaste. While the ABV is low (4.5 percent), indicating a potential session brew, the price tag and complexity of this makes it a one-time treat.

While I’m not ready to jump on Jolly Pumpkin and make them a regular part of my rotation (again, largely due to price and distribution, not a statement against the brewer), I’m impressed enough to try them on a semi-regular basis to enjoy unique, exotic brews made right here in the Midwest. Should you stumble upon Jolly Pumpkin at a local retailer, be sure to pick some up and see why they are in fact “artisan” ales.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on December 2, 2008.
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