Pumpkins and Pumpkins, But No Pumpkins: Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière
No pumpkin beer here.
Nicholas L. Hall
I'll just forewarn you right now: The next several installments of Brew Blog will feature beer you can't have. Or, more specifically, beer you can't get in Texas. Or even more specifically, beer not currently carried by any of the licensed distributors in our area. Don't like that? Open The Taps is trying to fix the situation.
Jolly Pumpkin, a Michigan-based brewery, didn't make a pumpkin beer until the 2008 release of La Parcela, a good four years after the brewery started. Call that irony, I guess. I haven't had it, and so can't speak to its quality. Based on my experience with Bam Bière, though, I'd pick it up in a heartbeat. If I could find it, of course.
Bam Bière pours a bright, light gold. It's slightly hazy (bottle conditioning'll do that to you), with slight apparent carbonation. A two-inch head starts out creamy, but turns rocky and quickly deflates.
The aromas are immediately arresting: really bright, with a nice bready undercurrent. Apple, pear and lemon zest are almost shocking in their immediacy, with a slightly peppery edge that carries with it just a whiff of Brett funk. It's tart- and zippy-smelling, with the funk acting as an attention-grabbing curl at the very end. In a way, it smells like somebody made a sort of Saison/Flanders Red Shandy. Which should totally be a thing.
The first sip leads tart, expected yet still surprising, with a decent funk to keep it somewhat in check. The pepper note is ramped up, adding further counterbalance. Underneath the tart burst is a slightly nutty wheat flavor which, mixing with the mouthwatering intro, makes for a sort of rounded, almost savory quality.
The fruity esters repeat from the aroma, with pears beating out apples. There's a subtly salty quality which, along with the tart and funky qualities, makes for something a bit like Lucas, the salty-tangy-spicy Mexican powdered candy, but without the chile. That salty edge leads into a loooooong finish, closed out by a gentle bitterness, more pronounced apple, and the ghost of an entire spice drawer.
As it warms, the funk and spices take a more active role, with the tartness as the constant, holding everything in place. Somehow, even as the profile shifts toward spice and funk, a whiff of papaya and vanilla make their way into the mix. Not pronounced, just enough to catch your attention, before disappearing again.
Over the past few years, I've really become a fan of Saison. I love the intensity of flavor and intriguing expressions of fruit and spice, edged on by funky, tart elements that twist and turn under the surface. I have, though, had a lot of Saisons that failed to impress. Their demeanor too mild, their character too homogenized, lacking in the strident and insistent flavors that, at least in my mind, characterize the style. Not so here. If anything, this beer aligns nearly perfectly with my mental-taste-image of what Saison should be. Easily in my top five for the style, right up there with stalwarts like Saison Dupont, Hennepin and Le Merle. If you happen to find it while traveling outside of Texas, do yourself a favor and bring this one home. Grab one for me, while you're at it.
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