Jolly Pumpkin Release: Bambic and Collababeire

Jolly Pumpkin Bambic and Collababeire

Jolly Pumpkin Bambic and Collababeire

Living in a great craft beer city often provides the opportunity to take part in cool events, and recently just such an event took place at Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor. A couple weeks ago, the taphouse had a release for two creations from their Dexter brewery, Collababeire and Bambic.

The release itself was hectic, with patrons lined up to purchase bottles of each beer (some of them trying to game the system to get more than the maximum – which, uncool, dude). In no hurry, I grabbed a seat at the bar, and although it took a while to be served, it certainly beat out waiting in line to not even drink the brews immediately.

Jolly Pumpkin Collababeire

Jolly Pumpkin (WSGs Stone and Nogne Ø) Collababeire

Collababeire, as the name implies, is a collaboration between Jolly Pumpkin and a couple other breweries. Stone in California and Nogne Ø from Norway were involved in the creation of this farmhouse-style ale. The three have collaborated twice before, and this was the third leg of that relationship. Each brewery created their own beer from the same recipe, and they were blended in Dexter and aged in oak. This is a “holiday ale,” although, as you may note, it was released well after the holidays.

Jolly Pumpkin Bambic

Jolly Pumpkin Bambic

Bambic is Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Biere blended with their Lambicus Dexterius (yeah, I didn’t even notice until writing this post that the title referred to “lambic.” I’m slow). The label says “Winking Lizard” all over it, so one must assume this beer was created primarily for Winking Lizard Tavern, a chain across the state of Ohio (further research shows it’s to celebrate WL’s 25th anniversary).

I won’t talk too much about how they tasted here, but there will be full reviews coming soon. I picked up a 330mL bottle of the Bambic and a 750mL bottle of the Collababeire, so I’ll let Paul take place in the tasting before putting official thoughts to paper.

If At First You Don’t Enjoy…

Most beer lovers have a couple craft brewers that they love, and a couple more that they aren’t so fond of. Those living in good beer cities (like my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan), probably have the full complement in their very own backyard. I encourage you to continue trying those you haven’t been fond of in the past, because there’s a good chance you’l miss out on something you like.

A recent visit from Ann Arbor ex-pat Paul stemmed the standard night for the two of us last weekend: the impromptu microbrewery crawl. Starting with The Blue Tractor, we moved on to Arbor Brewing Company, then Grizzly Peak, and finally Jolly Pumpkin.

Impromptu Bar Crawl

The route for our impromptu bar crawl

Despite popular opinions on these fine establishments, I’ve never been a huge fan of Arbor or Jolly Pumpkin. Believe me, I’ve tried to find something that I enjoy at each of them, but have found nothing that tickles my fancy. The more knowledgeable folk have raved about them, the more out of the loop I’ve felt–until now.

Blue Tractor has never been one of my favorites either, though I’ve only had drinks there, never food. With my newfound desire to become a barbecue aficionado, that may change soon. Regardless, the offerings on Saturday night did nothing to change my opinion. The atmosphere is just OK, as is the beer. We both had a couple brews that were nothing memorable–aside from the soapy taste of the glassware (yuck!).

Moving on to Arbor, on the other hand, changed my paradigm. I’ve found their beers to be merely OK (sometimes trending towards bad), and when combined with a typically rude service staff, I’ve always been turned off from the place. We found a seat at the bar, however, and I ordered the Fat Abbot Belgian Tripel with Paul selecting the Milestone Cask Porter. To my pleasant surprise, both were not only acceptable, but excellent. The service was iffy as usual, but with a delicious brew in front of you, it’s not nearly as offensive.

We moved on to Grizzly Peak, typically one of our favorites – we’re both mug club members there. An annoying experience with a doorman who thought he was much more important than he truly was colored our experience, setting it up to be something less enjoyable than our standard. The seasonal taps didn’t suit our fancy, so we simply ordered menu beers–another strike. As we moved on to the next stop, we felt unsatisfied with a totally mediocre experience.

We wrapped up at Jolly Pumpkin’s taphouse just down the street. Jolly Pumpkin has an excellent reputation among the beer geeks I’ve encountered, and although I’m a pretty big fan of Belgian-style beers, I had never been able to find one of their offerings that I was a fan of in my several experiences at the taphouse. Paul and I each ordered beers that were excellent, and not wanting to end the night too intoxicated, split one of their higher-gravity beers before departing. All were enjoyable.

If you had told me going into the night that I would have a bad experience at Grizzly Peak, and have multiple excellent beers at Arbor Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin, I would have though you were crazy. Alas, that’s the way the night turned out, so I encourage you: If at first you don’t enjoy, try try again.

Wine Enthusiast: Destination Ann Arbor

Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently discussed some dining options in Ann Arbor, including a few that are of interest to beer aficionados in A2. The places that fall within that category that I’ve also been to (as a drinking establishment, not just for dinner):

The wine scene is just as vibrant. Fatherdaughter team John and Kristin Jonna (who formerly worked for Benziger Winery) opened Vinology Wine Bar and Restaurant (110 S. Main Street; vinowinebars.com), in downtown Ann Arbor during 2006. Pair seasonally inspired small plates with an impressive wine list that includes 38 wines by the glass. Don’t miss the “bubble room” downstairs—an intimate space with 400 hand-blown glass balls suspended from the ceiling; it’s next to a retail wine shop.

The wine list at vinology is insane, but they do also have a beer menu, including craft brews from Bells, New Holland, Flying Dog, and others. The rest come in a trifecta:

And what would a university town be without microbreweries? In 1995 Rene and Matt Grieff opened Arbor Brewing Company Pub & Eatery (114 E. Washington Street; arborbrewing.com). Always evolving, their latest mantra is to buy from local, sustainable producers to build items like stone-grilled pizzas and corned beef sandwiches. Drop in for a pint of light (Brasserie Blonde) or dark beer (Espresso Love Breakfast Stout). Much of the food at Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery (311 S. Main Street; jollypumpkin.com), comes from local farmers markets. Pair the brewery’s artisan ales with tempura-battered vegetables, a beerfriendly cheese board and market salads.In suburban Milan, Original Gravity Brewing Company (440 County Street;ogbrewing.com), has about 15 beers on tap, ranging from an eclectic 440 Pepper Smoker (German smoked malt and jalapeños) to a Pale Ale.

I think the blog’s general vibe on Arbor is consistent (meh beer, very poor customer service). Jolly Pumpkin is rather Belgian-focused, but even as a huge fan of the style, I haven’t found a beer there that I’m particularly enamored with. Original Gravity is new to us as of this summer, click the link for Paul’s thoughts on our first trip there.

What’s missing? I guess some of these might not be relevant to the wine drinker, so their exclusion makes sense (though Zingerman’s Deli doesn’t serve wine either… hm), but Grizzly Peak, Ashleys, and Blue Tractor are at least notable for a first time visitor to our fair city.

(HT: Ann Arbor Chronicle for pointing out the original article)

Drink Beer, Support Wolverines

A hearty tip ‘o the cap to user James Burrill Angell of the day job for bringing this to my attention.

Next Saturday the Jolly Pumpkin taphouse in downtown Ann Arbor will be hosting an event to support the Pat Maloy Cancer Scholarship and the UM Club of Greater Detroit’s Scholarship fund. Blue Tractor, Jolly Pumpkin, and Grizzly Peak are participating in the event, each pairing food dishes with beers from their breweries.

Guests have the opportunity to vote for their favorite pairings, and the winning restaurant will be awarded the Maize and Blue Cup. Proceeds go to a good cause, so check it out. More details on the official .pdf.