Jolly Pumpkin La Roja: 7.2% abv
Jolly Pumpkin is something else. A brewery around several areas in Michigan including Traverse City and Ann Arbor, JP specializes in sour beers. The last time we did a sour beer, the result wasn’t the best in our minds. Despite this, we aren’t going to be deterred and wanted to try another one. Remember, KCM uses three main criteria for scoring their reviews: uniqueness, complexity, and quality. A second tier of qualifiers includes drinkability, price, and personal preference if the panel isn’t decisive enough. I say that because I need to preface this review. The idea of a sour beer is that while the mash is being created, the beer is allowed to be infected by bacteria (science can be gross, folks) and this bacteria produces a sour biproduct. This is the core concept behind a sour mash, for you Jim Beam/Jack Daniels fans.
La Roja is an amber ale which uses this ideology and barrel aging to give it a distinct flavor. Spoiler alert, we don’t think it worked. The nose is the first encouraging part. The nose contains a decent number of fruity flavors like strawberry daquiri, grape, sweet red wine, pear, floral notes, acidity, lemon, light pine, tangerine, nutmeg and even some subtle raison. We were content with this, and it foreshadowed to a good complex beer. Here ends the encouraging part.
The arrival contained very concentrated fruit flavors of red grape juice, cranberry, grapefruit, slight oak, and some acidity. We are getting more hardcore with the cran/grape juice as we push into the flavor, with no sign of bitterness, but rather citrus notes like tart lemon and grapefruit. There is a SLIGHT hint of grain here, but you probably won’t notice it unless you’re looking for it. The finish....is the same. There is an addition of slight yeast is all. Okay. So this beer doesn’t taste like beer, and doesn’t taste like there is alcohol in it. If you handed this to a five year old, they probably wouldn’t know you replaced their Juicy Juice. This would be okay if we felt there was a greater complexity to it, but it wasn’t found in this bottle. Jolly Pumpkin may have some great beers, and we have experienced them, but KCM doesn’t recommend this one.