7.5% ABV

Appearance: Light brown, with a very high head.
Aroma: Oaky, sour and cocoa
Taste: Leads with a sour oak front, then gives way to some cocoa flavors. Layered with a lasting sour impression. Includes some spices, cocoa and heavy orange flavors.
Mouthfeel: Light on the tongue; not too sour or sweet.

Jolly Pumpkin’s “Special Brown Ale” pours a light brown with a very high head that lingers. It leaves a lot of lacing around the glass. Its oak, sour and cocoa smells give way to the brew’s sour front, highlighted by spices, orange and cocoa flavors.

Light on the tongue, Maracaibo Especial holds little texture and is very easy to drink for a sour brew. It’s well balanced layers of flavors makes the brew both refreshing and satisfying to any sour beer lover.

DEXTER — For the second consecutive year, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is special releasing Lúpulo de Hielo, a spiced pumpkin brew.

Brewed by Jolly Pumpkin to help raise awareness about prostate cancer and generate funds for the Pints for Prostates campaign, it will be featured in The Rare Beer of the Month Club in October. Lúpulo de Hielo is brewed with pumpkin, cacao and spices, then aged in oak barrels.

Shelton Brothers, one of the leading craft beer distributors and importers, handles Jolly Pumpkin and is donating its services.

“Lúpulo de Hielo – ‘Ice Hop’ — is a hoppy sour beer that was aged for about a year in oak and blended with our sour white, Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca,” said Ron Jeffries, president of the Dexter-based brewery. “We are excited to once again be involved with the Pints for Prostates campaign in reaching men through the universal language of beer.”

The beer will feature the Pints for Prostates logo on its label, which includes the blue ribbon to remind people of the ongoing search for a cure to prostate cancer, a leading cause of death among American men. A donation will be made to the campaign for every 750 milliliter bottle of Lúpulo de Hielo sold.

“This is a rare beer that delivers an important message,” said Rick Lyke, a prostate cancer survivor who founded Pints for Prostates after successful prostate cancer surgery in April 2008. “We want men to take charge of their health and get screened for prostate cancer. We want to engage men in a conversation that might just save their lives.”

When this very limited batch of Jolly Pumpkin Lúpulo de Hielo is gone, it is gone. There are only three ways for beer lovers to try the unique farmhouse-style ale:

  • Join The Rare Beer Club online or call 800-625-8238 and be sure to start your membership by October 15 or earlier.
  • Attend the Denver Rare Beer Tasting III in Colorado on Sept. 30, where Jolly Pumpkin will be pouring samples of the brew alongside more than two dozen other great craft brewers offering extremely rare and exotic beers;
  • Visit a Jolly Pumpkin location in Ann Arbor or Traverse City, where a limited amount of Lúpulo de Hielo goes on sale Oct. 1.

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer will claim the lives of 33,700 men in the U.S. during 2011. Prostates cancer is 33 percent more common in men than breast cancer is in women, yet few men know they should start with regular prostate health screenings at age 40.

The Jolly Pumpkin Lúpulo de Hielo release is part of the Pints for Prostates Oktoberfest for a Cure observance that is taking place Aug. 26 to Oct. 22 at venues across the U.S.

TRAVERSE CITY — Local music, food and beer — a fine combination by any right, but in the setting of a beautiful evening in Northern Michigan they become something even better. The annual Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival is a celebration of the vibrant local culinary and music scene, with a sampling of some of best beer Michigan brewers have to offer.

Set within the grounds of the renovated state hospital (now known as the Village at Grand Traverse Commons), the increasingly popular festival is a playground for foodies and beer geeks alike.

The festival was a change of pace from the previous beer festivals I’ve attended, in that this one held a pretty equal emphasis on beer, food and music. That said, most of the breweries here left the barrel-aged and one-off experiments at home, something that I was initially not too excited about. Most everything that was present was something that I’ve either had before, or was readily available in bottles.

After a few samples of some old standbys, it got me thinking — having constantly been in the search for aforementioned barrel-aged monsters, I realized how spoiled I’ve become living in such an amazing beer state as Michigan. What has become the “norm” on the beer shelves in this state are some truly world class beers that are excellent, well balanced representatives of their respective styles.

I took this opportunity to stroll down hazy-memory lane with the old malty friends that got me started on craft beer in the first place. To twist a phrase from the side of Short’s Pandemonium Pale Ale, sometimes I forget to stop and behold the bitter hysteria.

Jolly Pumpkin — La Roja
An wild American amber ale, this beer is a perfect example of the signature JP funk. Pours a deep ruby red body with a thin, fizzy white head. Nose is dry and tart, with the sour funk from the wild yeast predominating. Its body features the lightly roasted malts you would expect from an amber ale. Slightly more acetic and tart than the nose, with another hefty dose of the brett funk. Finishes with the funk and bit of grapefruit from the hops. Very well-rounded beer and a great starter for those who have yet to delve into sour ales.

Short’s Brewing Company — Pandemonium Pale Ale
A beautiful, light copper colored body with a loose, fluffy white head. Its smell is a perfect mix of earthy hops and toasted malts. Toasted, biscuit flavors from the malt present throughout the body, with a pleasant hoppy finish. There’s nothing overpowering about this beer — it’s very well balanced — a beer you could easily have a few of on a hot summer day.

Right Brain Brewery — Black (eye) PA
A rich, dark tan head sits atop a midnight black body. The head leaves a gorgeous thin lacing the entire way down the glass. Roasted malts, chocolate and citrus hop flavors dominate the nose, continuing into the body. Tastes the same as the nose — roasted malts fade into a pleasant hoppy finish. A fantastic take on a relatively new style, this brew is a must try for stout fans who are looking for something a little lighter on the body during the summer months.

YPSILANTI — As an avid enthusiast of unique and massive brews, the beer list at last weekend’s Michigan Summer Beer Festival had me absolutely giddy with anticipation.

Fortunately, through hours of running through the festival tents like a kid in a candy store, I was able to take notes and collect my thoughts and impressions of the festival and its beers. Having put the puzzle pieces of my notebook and memory back together Sunday, here are my thoughts of this year’s Summer Beer festival.

The Good

Hands down, the brewery with the best showing of the day was Dark Horse Brewing Company. It had six tables at the festival, and every single one of them had something worthwhile. From its sour “Lambeak wants” series, Smells Like Weed IPA (and yes, if you’re wondering, it really does), Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th and Super Juice (essentially a quad-IPA version of its Double Crooked Tree), Dark Horse really stepped up to the plate with the best it had to offer. Regardless of your tastes in beer, Dark Horse had something that would leave you wowed.

I was thoroughly impressed with the way Bell’s Brewery handled its tent. While many breweries opted to simply tap all of their one-off and extreme beers on whim, Bells had a separate kiosk with a set schedule of its unique offerings. This way, you were able to head off wherever you wanted to, knowing that if you wanted a taste of The Oracle or Bourbon Barrel Hell Hath No Fury (incredible beer, a must try if you find it) you knew when to get there.

Another brewery that I thought had a great showing was Jolly Pumpkin out of Dexter. I’m a big fan of its brews, and most of what Jolly Pumpkin brought were unique twists on its regular lineup. In particular, the Calabaza Blanca with Hibiscus, La Roja brewed with whole Michigan cherries and Biere de Mars Grand Reserve. These beers brought the signature JP funk and oak flavors, and added something unique to the mix. I left very happy with JP’s table.

Best of Show

If I had to pick one out of the hundreds of brews brought to this festival that I thought was the clear winner, it would be New Holland Brewing Company’s Rum Barrel-Aged Pilgrim’s Dole Wheatwine. I spent most of the day contemplating which one of the beers I sampled was the best, but my decision became much easier after I tried this beast.

As a lover of barley and wheatwines, I’m no stranger to New Holland’s Pilgrims Dole. I have not, however, ever seen it quite like this.

Aged in New Holland’s own Superior Rum barrels, Pilgrim’s Dole pours a deep copper hue with no head. A nose of massive sticky malts, caramel and rum continue through a coating body of heavy, sweet malts. Rum, vanilla and caramel dominate the flavor, ending in a lingering sweet finish and a light alcohol burn. This absolutely incredible brew blew me away — don’t pass up the chance to try this beer.

The Not So Great

It’s hard to find something to complain about at such an amazing event; nonetheless, there is always something that could have been better. As a resident of Grand Rapids, it’s tough for me to say, but I was disappointed with the showing Founders Brewing Company had this weekend.

Maybe I just expect more from Founders because it has such a massive portfolio and deep cellar, but the brewery didn’t really bring anything all that exciting. I say this with a disclaimer — I love Founders and all of its “run-of-the-mill” beers are some of the best in the country — but I would have liked to see a bit more from it. Aside from Blushing Monk and KBS, everything else there was part of its usual lineup.

I would have loved to see a Kaiser Curmudgeon, Death or Looking Glass — something along those lines. That said, if the “worst” part of my day was Founders bringing its “A” game instead of its “A+” game, that’s a pretty good day.

All in all, the beer fest was an absolutely fantastic day — I would definitely try to get to this event next year. You won’t be disappointed! Cheers!

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.

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