If you’ve ever been with me at a nice beer bar, I usually start the evening by asking if they have anything funky. Usually I am disappointed, as those are hard to get and yet remain a rare treat for me when I can come across them. So, it was pleasantly surprising for me to learn that Jolly Pumpkin brews (notoriously complex, funky or sour) were available in Maine. This one was released in June, but says that it can be used to make any season a celebration. So I’m taking that as a cue that it would fit well in the post-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas limbo that we are in right now.
This one is named Luciernaga which means Firefly – and it is a Grand Cru style ale brewed with spices. The label appears to be a masthead of a beautiful woman holding a glowing beacon to guide a ship into port. The labels on all Jolly Pumpkin brews are beautiful, but I almost wish I had this in poster-size to frame (it reminds me of the old Absynthe ads).
I like Grand Cru-style brews because they bring just a little tart bite to the party, but still retain some of the hoppiness and great character of a less-sour beer.
This one pours a hazy caramel orange, with an unrelenting head that makes you stop pouring it several times to serve. I know this wasn’t my fault, however, because this weekend at Novare Res I saw them having to do the same thing with another Jolly Pumpkin that they had on tap. After the fizzy foam calmed down a little, I finally went over to have a big whiff. I got a nice aroma of yeast, an almost apple-like smell with a little bit of tartness or sourness too. Very difficult to describe, but not the “barnyard” type smell that some really funky brews carry. This was lighter, and spicier (maybe it is the coriander) by smell and very enticing, despite its slight sourness.
I admit to having a hard time describing the taste of this one. I really like it, but it’s hard to put a finger on (or pick words that fit) what it is about the taste that just works. It is a little hoppy but has a very dry feeling on the tongue. Very complex, lots of swirling flavors – like the high notes of an IPA mixed with a little funk. It finishes cleanly, but leave it in your mouth a little longer and there’s that little sour sting. The coriander is nice and I can almost taste the lemon-ish grains of paradise, too, though I’m not sure if I’d have been able to isolate that without knowing that it was in the beer.
Overall, I really dig this beer – and hope that I can get my mitts on some more Jolly Pumpkin soon. It’s a rare treat to have something so complex and flavorful come my way. And at only 6% ABV it doesn’t knock me out after a glass, either. Cheers!