Being from Northern Michigan, I’ve gotten to know a few of the breweries quite well. There’s Short’s, Right Brain, North Peak, among others. But one that I never really explored, until recently, was Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery.
While Traverse City isn’t Jolly Pumpkin’s primary brewery (Dexter is home with another operation in Ann Arbor), the location still offers a variety of brews to soothe your taste buds.
Located right on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Jolly Pumpkin is what you’d expect from a microbrewery. The setting is a relaxed, dark environment with multiple tables for conversation. Its bar area is small, but comfortable.
The main dining room has two giant chandeliers in the center — including one made out of a beer barrel. All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy some drinks with friends, and is a modern, yet comfortable outlook on a brewpub.
There are two regulars on tap for Jolly Pumpkin — Bam Noire and Bam Biere.
The Bam Noire (4.3 percent ABV) features a rich, nice finish, but still with enough hops to keep you awake. It’s certainly the furthest from being overpowering, but it’s a perfect companion to a hearty meal (or Jolly Pumpkin’s amazing potato chips).
Its amber color embodies a slight scent of fruit, but otherwise is a standard, dark ale. Being a dark beer drinker, I immediately thought very highly of this. It was smooth, but not syrupy smooth. It was hoppy, but not IPA hoppy. All in all, this brew has excellent balance.
Surprisingly, what I was really excited about was the Bam Biere (4.5 percent ABV). Named one of Men’s Health’s Top 25 Beers in the country, the light gold-colored ale is certainly a light beer, but features all the flavor and greatness I expect.
It featured a bit more of a hoppy finish than its darker cousin, but it ended on a much more smooth note than I initially expected. It had a hint of oaky-ness to it, and was paired wonderfully with my steak sandwich. I definitely sensed some cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, as well as some earthiness with a hint of fruit flavor. The Bam Biere is the perfect summer drink, reminding me instantly of the great outdoors, and definitely trumps the Bam Noire in my book.
In addition to its two beers on tap, Jolly Pumpkin also offers a wide array of bottled beers, as well as a semi-changing tap of cider and North Peak Brewing Company beers.
While it’s a bit off the beaten path, Jolly Pumpkin might not be the immediate brewery you’d think of when visiting Traverse City. But for anyone looking for a unique spin on a few brews, this is a great place to start.
Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, Distillery is located at 13512 Peninsula Drive in Traverse City.