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jolly pumpkin

Zwanze Day is a fictitious holiday created by Jean Van Roy, owner and brewmaster of Brasserie Cantillon. His intention is to celebrate and honor the playful spirit of the people of the Flanders region in Belgium, where the word “zwanze” describes a good-natured type of humor.

Each year Van Roy blends a batch of a special lambic creation and bestows a keg of it upon locations deemed suitable. There may be no better place on earth for such an honor than Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, where whimsy is an ingredient in each brew.

This year, only 60 locations throughout the world were chosen to participate. Each one tapped their keg simultaneously, coinciding with Cantillon’s tapping in Brussels which equated to 3 p.m. in our Eastern Time Zone. A toast was made with Ron and Laurie Jeffries, the duo driving the success of the hosting business. It was the first time any place in Michigan had been given the opportunity to host the event. With some luck it won’t be the last, but not all event sites are chosen for repeats in subsequent years.

Perhaps the outstanding efforts of the staff of Jolly Pumpkin, and distributor Mike Turriff of M4 CIC, will be rewarded again. They curated a world-class festival unlike any other location fortunate enough to land a celebratory keg. The brewery grounds hosted a nearly full capacity crowd, in spite of some unexpected backlash over the price of admission. Aficionados who were willing and able to invest in attending had access to over 50 beers from more than 20 breweries rarely, if ever, found in Michigan.

Good weather held out in spite of the dark clouds on the skyline and occasional threatening rumbles of thunder. Smiles and good attitudes were found all around. “I think it’s probably one of the most well run beer fests I’ve been to, with a great low-key crowd,” said Courtney Satko. She decided to attend after weighing the financial cost of her ticket with the benefits, ultimately figuring the proceeds being given to the Feelgood Tap project was worth it as much as the beer selection was.jolly pumpkin

Executive Director of Feelgood Tap, Stephen Roginson, was happy to participate and generate awareness of what his charity does with the funds raised. It began in-house at Batch Brewing Company in March 2015 as a partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society to do work that was near and dear to Roginson, a founder of Batch, whose mother battles MS. Since receiving their 501(c)(3) status less than one year ago, the project has evolved to support a different cause each month and has attracted involvement from nearly 30 establishments that host a dedicated tap. “This is the first time that we’ve partnered on an event,” said Roginson. The charity’s recipient for the month of October, including Zwanze Day, will be the Michigan Humane Society.

According to Cantillon’s van Roy, this year’s Zwanze beer is a two-year-old Lambic aged on a mix of 82% raspberries, 18% blueberries, and .05% bourbon vanilla beans at a rate of 300 grams of fruit per liter. That’s approximately 10.5 ounces of fruit in 32 ounces of Lambic when converted to American standard measurements, a generous and expensive endeavor that resulted in a luscious deep pink beer that pleased the palates of guests.

Laurie Jeffries, Brewery Director at Jolly Pumpkin, said her husband Ron “mentioned to Shelton Brothers a few years ago that it’d be really cool to get a Zwanze Day, and he just put it out to the universe. We got notification earlier this year that there was a possibility; that we were on the list.” In August they were notified they were definitely a selected location, but it wasn’t clear there would be enough beer to send a keg until a few weeks before the big event. Luckily it was allocated to them and arrived along with four more of Cantillon’s coveted beers.

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Ron Jeffries, whose title at Jolly Pumpkin is Chief Squeegee Operator/Brewer, can’t recall when he had his first Cantillon, but remembers it was not at all what he was expecting. Eventually he met Jean Van Roy at a Shelton Brothers festival and “was so starstruck I couldn’t talk. I could barely smile, swallow, and nod. Seeing him blending last year (at the festival), I was literally blown away by his blending skills and palate. I blend beers almost every day and was just floored. He’s a master, without a doubt. For him to choose us as one of the 60 places in the world to serve this special Zwanze beer is a huge honor for me personally,” he said.

Similar to Ron Jeffries’ respect for Jean Van Roy, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company founder Jonathan Buford expressed his admiration for Jeffries. “Ron’s cool and Ron likes us, and you run with that when Ron likes you! You just do. It’s like the cheerleader in high school you don’t know why she likes you but you’re gonna like her back. If she invites you to a party you go with her,” he quipped when explaining their long trek from Gilbert, half an hour southeast of Phoenix. The two also met at a Shelton Brothers festival, but it wasn’t until a second encounter at Anchorage Brewing Company‘s Culmination event that they bonded. Patrick Ware, partner and brewer, said it happened when Buford blurted out “I hope I never see you again” to Jeffries as they parted and instead of being offended he turned around and told him it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. Buford admits he doesn’t know where the idea to say that came from but he’s glad it happened. “He appreciates people who don’t take this too seriously, like him,” he speculated.

Revelry Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina is setting their sights on eventually producing enough beer to distribute in Michigan. For Jay Daratony, Revelry’s “janitor”, participating in Zwanze Day at Jolly Pumpkin was a homecoming of sorts. He’s originally from Dexter and still has family in the area.

Head brewer Ryan Coker spoke about their new barrel cellar coming online soon with up to 300 barrels and 12 foeders that will hopefully increase production to a point where they can share it here.

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“We want to do it (distribute) in the right pockets I guess so to speak, put it in the right hands,” he said, implying Michigan beer lovers are capable of appreciating it.

The Revelry crew enjoyed their visit for Zwanze Day. Coker joked “What’s cool about Dexter is I had a checklist and it was to catch a fish, ride a horse, shoot a gun, and drive a four-wheeler, and I checked all the boxes today and still made it to the beer fest on time!” Sean Fleming, a Revelry partner, added “This is fun, it’s a total honor for us.”

That’s a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to be present for the first of what many hope will become an annual tradition in Dexter.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

peak

Grizzly Peak is one of the pioneer brewpubs in Ann Arbor, MI. Along with Arbor Brewing Company, it anchors Washington Street in downtown in a way that beer drinkers might be tempted to take for granted. But make no mistake—even after 21 years in the business, this landmark brewpub continues offering outstanding beer and food.

In Ann Arbor’s early days, the Peak’s part of town belonged to the Germans. They settled this town and brought with them their brewing recipes. Names like Metzger, Staebler, and Wagner dominated this area with their shops, hotels, and breweries. The names have changed, but this corner still offers great beer.

A warm and friendly atmosphere greets you the moment you walk through the door. You can see the chefs cooking the meals, fire from the grill sometimes flaming up in a spectacular show. There is lots of wood and exposed brick, reminiscent of beer halls in old Bavaria. The tin pressed ceiling reminds you that this is a historic building in a historic part of town. In the room to your right is the shiny bar lined with alcohol, pint glasses, and growlers—all waiting for you! Next to that room is a quieter dining area. Step back outside and peek into the window to see the brewing equipment, gleaming in the sunlight.

If your timing is right, you might see long-time head brewer Duncan Williams at work with that equipment. Williams studied at the Siebel Institution (the oldest brewing school in the United States), and began his career at CJ’s Brewing Company. Beginning in 2001, he served as assistant brewer to Ron Jeffries (now owner of the Jolly Pumpkin empire) before becoming the head brewer. Under his tutelage, the brewery turns out some of the most consistently tasty beers in the area.

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Williams had a lot to be proud of, but says he is particularly pleased with the success of the Sheerwater IPA. “I was going to do an American IPA,” Williams says. “But at some point I started looking into the original IPAs—the English ones. I came up with the recipe, and it has been on hand pull for close to ten years now.”

Of the other house beers, Williams notes that the Victor’s Gold is also a favorite. “I changed it into more of a hoppy Kolsch style beer. It’s considered a gateway beer, but I put in additional hops at the end of the brew to give it more bitterness. It has European spicy hops, lending to a more estery pilsner.” This is especially good for those new to craft beer because “they might be turned off by the bitterness. So I backed off on that, and increased the hop profile.”

The brewery has expanded over the years, most notably to include the Den, which is located in the space formerly occupied by the Del Rio. Williams recalls that the last night at the “Del” was New Year’s Eve of 2003. “The next year, we knocked holes in the walls and put in the new bar.” More recently, the owners opened the Old German, which also features the Peak’s brews. (Long time Ann Arborites will remember the bar with the same name that operated from 1928 until 1995).

But it’s not all about the past at Grizzly Peak. Williams is excited about his summer beers that are coming up, including the El Hefe. This beer screams summer, delivering a big hit of honey, banana, and pear.

Williams will again brew a series of table beers—light, easy drinking beers that weigh in at about 3.5% ABV but retain the outstanding taste of a heavier beer. “These types of beers go back to the days when municipalities were not treating their water,” Williams explains. “So you made beer, cider, or wine to keep it safe. The lower alcohol let you drink more of the beer, without getting the effects that come with higher ABVs.”

This year, he is brewing Ms. Havisham’s Table Ale. It would be safe to say that we should have Great Expectations for this beer, as it will be a bitter with East Kent Golding hops and measure about 3% ABV.

All of the beers at Grizzly Peak can easily be paired with their tasty food. Try the Bear Paw Porter with a chocolate dessert or Urban War Bear IPA with a cheesy, wood-fired pizza. And save room for the polenta fries and cheddar ale soup.

Grizzly Peak remains a solid, reliable brewpub in an increasingly crowded scene. Olympic champion Greg Louganis once said that, in sports, people reach their peak very early. Happily, that is not true in brewing, and we have much to look forward to from Grizzly Peak!

 

Photography: Erik Smith

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Detroit, Michigan–The craft beer world’s most infamous feud has sparked a collaboration brew that no one ever anticipated.

In 2014, Ron Jeffries, owner and master brewer of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, hosted Mikkel Borg Bjergso of Mikkeller at his Dexter, Michigan brewery to work on a few collaborative brews.  Later that year, Mikkel’s identical twin, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso of Evil Twin Brewing, stopped in to work on a few new creations.

Then the unthinkable happened; Jeffries blended the Bjergso brothers’ beers, despite the twins’ complicated relationship.

The resulting brew is called Hamajang—Hawaiian slang for “that’s messed up, bro.”

jolly pumpkinAll three collaboration brews are available now at Jolly Pumpkin’s Detroit, Michigan tap room:


Sea Buckthorn Fandango
(5.7% abv.) Sour Ale with Sea Buckthorn Juice

This collaboration with Mikkel Bjorg Bergso of Mikkeller Brewing was brewed in August 2014 and spent 1 year 4 months in oak barrels.

Innovatorman (6.8% abv.)  Sour Ale with Strawberries

This collaboration with Jeppe Jarnit-Bergso of Evil Twin Brewing and Charles Psenka from Leelanau Brewing Company was brewed in September 2014 and spent 1 year 3 months in oak barrels.

Hamajang This blend of Sea Buckthorn and Innovatorman combines the work of the Bjergso twins (perhaps without their knowledge) for the first time.

DEXTER – Sour Beer aficionados will want to be at Null Taphouse this Saturday. Sour Beer Day, celebrated on the second Saturday of September each year, will be observed at the production home of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.

The term “sour” refers to brews that have been affected positively by bacteria that change the character of a base beer into a tart, acidic flavor. This is commonly accomplished by introducing Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, or the yeast strain Brettanomyces, often through the wood of a barrel. The intentional infection is taken into the brew by surface contact.

Jolly Pumpkin gets its unique results from naturally occurring local wild yeast introduced via air through open spontaneous fermentation. The quickest a sour is produced in their facility is two months, with some taking as long as two years to fully develop.

Master Brewer Ron Jeffries takes the individual batches of beer and blends them.

“It’s all about tasting and flavor. I keep track of the amounts so I can tell the cellar folks when they’re racking. We have electromagnetic flow meters so they can very accurately tell the amount of beer they’re racking from each tank,” said Jeffries. “As we get bigger and bigger, it’s more and more important to keep the ratios consistent with the smaller blends I create,” Jeffries said.

The latest blended creation, Ursae Majoris, had its official release last weekend, but if you’re lucky you’ll still be able to get some. It’s made of “three ages of Oud Bruin that Ron did, blended with Roja, Maracaibo, Bier de Mars, and Noel. It’s big, it’s deep, while being super balanced,” said Dan VanDuinen, General Manager.

Visitors will enjoy 25 percent off the price of all Jolly Pumpkin brews on tap by the glass, in to-go growlers, as well as bottled selections only at this location.

Jeffries said, “Every day is sour beer day, it’s what we do,” but the sale is valid only during this celebration.

Jolly Pumpkin beers, brewed entirely in the Dexter facility, can be found in more than 35 states and many countries. According to Jeffries, the 11-year-old boutique brewery produced 3500 barrels last year and will continue increasing production to meet demand.

Collaborations are in the works with several breweries and so-called gypsy brewers including another with previous collaborators Anchorage Brewing. It’s a yuzu lime Gose with Alaskan sea salt harvested locally by the brewer’s father.

DETROIT – Planning on dining out tomorrow? Why not pair your meal with beer, puppies, and a deal? In celebration of National Dog Day, Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery will be hosting a pet food drive to benefit the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) on Wednesday, Aug. 26. all day from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those who choose to donate and dine at the Detroit location will receive 10 percent off of their entire bill.

Jolly Pumpkin’s mascot, a 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Bam, has appeared on many of the brewery’s bottles and is part of the inspiration for the event. Bam’s likeness graces the labels of Bam Noire, Bam Bière, and Wiezen Bam, all of which can be enjoyed tomorrow. Pet-friendly seating is available on the patio, so Fido can come too.

On the way to dinner, attendees can stop by the Midtown Dog Park—just down the block from Jolly Pumpkin—and spend some time at the Make Your Dog A Hero @ Shinola pet adoption event hosted by MHS from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jolly Pumpkin will be providing Bam-inspired gift bags to be given away at the event, and attendees can speak with MHS trainers, participate in an informal training session, or even adopt a pet of their own.

   

DEXTER — Jolly Pumpkin has announced it will bring two new sour beers to market — Rojzilla and La Roja du Kriek — as a part of its “April Showers Bring Jolly Pumpkin Sours” campaign.

Rojzilla (7.4% ABV) is a sour brew that is aged for a year and a half in a 100-bbl oak foudre before being blended with a few “normal” size barrels of varying ages. The result creates a complex combination of flavors and sophistication.

La Roja du Kriek (7.5% ABV) takes 3,100 gallons of the brewery’s quintessential beer, La Roja (2013), and marries it with 50 gallons of Michigan tart cherry juice. The brew is then aged in oak barrels and bottled conditioned.

A draft and bottle release for both beers is scheduled for the weekend of June 6-7 at the Null taproom in Dexter, as well as Jolly Pumpkin locations in Ann Arbor, Midtown (Detroit) and Traverse City.

Special tastings and release parties will also be held across the country.

There’s this phenomenon occurring right now on Canfield in Detroit. On one corner representing an older, distinguished Detroit, there’s Traffic Jam and Snug, the first brew-pub in Michigan. On the other corner, there’s the new HopCat Detroit, bringing over one hundred taps from around the world. And now sandwiched in the middle is Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery.

It’s the perfect evening for an opening — it’s the end of a long work week, and the spring sun is actually shining, making the Michigan weather seem much warmer than it is for a moment. One can envision the casual, outdoor seating buzzing during the upcoming summer season. Inside it’s cozy and welcoming — I’ve barely said hello when multiple servers hand me food and drink to sample.

“Shaved Brussel sprout salad?” Yes please.

“Margherita pizza?” Yes please!

“May I bring you another beer? Yes. Always. Please!

It’s classic hospitality at its best, fusing together excellent service with the artisan concept that has always defined Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Everyone is smiling and having a great time — and brewmaster Ron Jeffries, the Captain Ron, just keeps saying “super excited.”

“Super excited” seems to define the evening. Tonight the conversation is all about the celebration of present successes and future possibilities, for both the region and the brewing company. Michigan has always been enthusiastic about expanding the craft industry, and the Jolly Pumpkin Detroit opening definitely signifies the local support and teamwork that goes into the continued development.

This venture combined the determined powers of Northern United Brewing Company, Midtown Detroit Incorporated as well as numerous other Detroit institutions.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales has always been a proud Michigan brand, with locations in Dexter, Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Adding Midtown Detroit to this list was ideal.

“We’re always looking for new places, and we’ve been looking at Detroit for awhile,” says Jeffries. “We thought this would be a great addition to the neighborhood.”

I have to admit as a huge craft fan that this stretch of city-block gets me “super excited.” Within walking distance there are so many Michigan craft possibilities offering a slew of varying atmospheres and experiences.

One attendee commented, “Can you imagine being a Wayne State student right now? With all of this around? There would be no studying!”

Indeed, with 32 taps and a mouth-watering menu, there’s plenty of delicious distractions. And locals will be happy to recognize familiar products from Avalon International Breads, McClure’s pickles, The Brinery, Guernsey Dairy and plenty of others.

“It’s about being Michigan-based. Our chefs, our owners, everyone recognizes how important it is to use local product to fit the region,” says Jeffries.

“We’re just super excited,” he continues. “It’s a great spot. Our staff is excited. And so far a lot of people have come in and enjoyed our food and our beer.”

COMSTOCK PARK — The end of winter in Michigan means only one thing — Winter Beer Fest. Despite the coldest February on record (we checked), the additional organization required to shape the first ever two-day version of the event and brief issues with frozen tap lines, the 10th annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival was one to remember.

Over 100 breweries from around Michigan descended on Fifth Third Ballpark on Friday and Saturday.  Easily navigable rows of breweries were flanked by merchandise and tokens, food and an ample amount of porta johns (very important).

The flow of this year’s fest was wonderful, and even though it was packed with a sell-out crowd on Saturday, it never seemed like the lines were too long or any one tent too crowded. The Michigan Brewers Guild festival teams did an excellent job making sure everything moved smoothly in all aspects.

Navigating and visiting with all of our favorite breweries was almost impossible, but we did get the opportunity to talk to the good folks from many wonderful places across the state.

Brewery Vivant: Kate Avery, designated Abbess of Beer was on hand. She poured the brewery’s newly tapped ‘Sous Chef’ — a Red Wine Barrel Aged Belgian Inspired Strong Ale — essentially their popular ‘Escoffier’ base, but not aged on a brett yeast.

“This beer is super complex, and even despite the cold temperatures, you’re able to taste the bold flavors,” shared Avery.

Another popular favorite was the Wizard Burial Ground, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Quad that comes in at 10.4% ABV. Notes of vanilla and oak from the long cellaring are pleasantly present, and, lucky us, it’s now available in cans.

BarFly Ventures — Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) and HopCat: Grand Rapids staples, both HopCat and GRBC brought some award winners for the crowd. Distinguished Eagle from GRBC, which won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup, is a totally organic imperial stout, aged in Woodford Reserve barrels. Strong notes of vanilla, and cherry are readily assessable, and it was a tasty treat and a nice warm up on a cold (very cold) day.

Another award winner was HopCat’s Red Nymph, a Flanders Red with a nice slightly sour, tart cherry note.

Jake Brenner, Head Brewer for BarFly, said the pubs made sure to select tasty, high gravity beers to help keep everyone warm. The cold did present some problems though. “It’s been really laid back and a lot of fun, but one of the jockey boxes froze up Friday. So far, today everything is looking gorgeous.”

Northern United Brewing — Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak: Jolly Pumpkin always brings something unique to the table, and this year was no exception. Sour beers are its game, and some include its variety of Sasions — Sasion X, brewed with candied ginger, orange and lemon peel, and a blend of peppercorns was a standout — a nice citrusy, ginger flavor with that wild yeast, Jolly Pumpkin signature ‘funk’, we know and love.

North Peak brought a lot of signatures, and Maylem — a Midwest heavy/old ale from its Grizzly Peak Imperial Series. North Peak’s taproom will host this particular beer, aged in run barrels, soon, so that’s something to look forward to.

Folks in Detroit should also be on the look-out for a Jolly Pumpkin build-out sometime in April.

Newer breweries were showcasing its wears as well, and MittenBrew had the chance to visit three of the WBF newbies.

Railtown Brewing: This might be the newest of the new; this brewery in Caledonia opened its doors in December of 2014. Jim Lee, Co-Founder, let us explore the selection and gave us some insight in to what Railtown is all about.

“We brought a lot of our mainstays to show off what we do on a normal basis, along with some fun one-offs,” says Lee. “Our Citra Warrior (an imperial IPA) is very popular in our tap room right now. We are stylistic brewers, and don’t do a lot of heavy adjuncts — clean flavored, medium-style beers, nothing over the edge. We are definitely a small town brewery with a loyal local clientele, and that’s what we want to be.”

Pigeon Hill: Who doesn’t want to drink something called Wild Rumpus? A barrel aged Flanders Red, this beer has a wonderful complexity, fruit notes and sour notes have a great balance.

Chad Doane, co-owner and head brewer, let us in on Pigeon Hill’s philosophy.

“We want to make delicious beer. We keep it simple, but use that classic base and do something funky with it. Pigeon Hill is about community, and our pub has a coffee shop feel. The space is for adults and their families. We want it to be a place the community (of Muskegon) can come and hang out in.”

Other interesting riffs on classics include the Walter Goes to Bang Coq Blonde Ale, brewed with Thai chilies and lemongrass — a little heat, peppery bite and gingered spice.

Territorial Brewing: This very new, Battle Creek-centric German influenced brewery brought a lot of their staples to showcase at their first WBF. Nick Yuill, Brewer at Territorial, shared its Spedunkel, a traditional style Munich Dunkel and their Red Headed Rauchstar, a ginger Rauchbier — a little twist on the classic.

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The consensus by attendees? Great beer, all around, with IPAs and Imperial Stouts ruling the day.

Some standouts mentioned frequently included White Flame’s Black Flame, an Imperial Stout and perennial favorites by Kuhnhenn and Griffin Claw, so we had to visit a few of those booths too.

Griffin Claw Brewing Company: Its booth was hopping, so apparently word got around. Project Clementine seemed to be a favorite of the weekend — a double IPA with clementines added during the mash.

The Birmingham brewery plans to double in production in the next year, and also distribute state-wide.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company: “It’s amazing,” says Eric Kuhnhenn, co-owner. “For being so cold out and this many people attending. There’s over a thousand different beers here, the camaraderie — it’s great.”

Kuhnhenn likes to do a lot of aged beers, and brings at least one every year to WBF. This time, it was a Russian Imperial Stout.

“It’s a big robust stout aged on bourbon barrels for almost a year,” explains Eric.

The Crème Brule Java Stout was also well received by many people we talked to. Kuhnhenn tends towards the higher ABV, and Eric shares why. “We found out we could get more complexity, more flavors, this way.”

Kuhnhenn wants to put in the time, the effort, to take the old stylistic types of beer and take it one step further. Recall its ever-popular Raspberry Eisbock?

If you weren’t able to attend this year, we leave you with the words of Brad and Kevin — home brewers and frequent festival attendees.

“This is the first year that we came in with an Enthusiast membership pass. We were always jealously looking at the people who got in early. Everyone should do that, you have time to get in and don’t feel rushed.”

Other, timely advice: “Get your ticket as early as you can. Dress warm. You can never have enough clothes on, and, of course, wear shoes that don’t get wet! If you are coming from out of town, book your hotel in advanced and stay safe — arrange for transportation to get you here.”

Despite the cold and ever pervasive Michigan wild winters, the WBF continues to be one of the most well attended. Perhaps Vivant’s Kate Avery best sums up the popularity of the event: “The Michigan Beer Scene conquers all.”

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