I feel like Jolly Pumpkin brewery is often misunderstood. I say that because I know quite a few people who have written them off because they thought all they did was pumpkin beers. This could not be further from the truth. The Michigan based brewery (why does Michigan have so many awesome breweries by the way?) is doing some really interesting stuff.
I’ve tried a few of their brews but had yet to get around to their Bière de Garde, called Bam Noire. First off, what is a Bière de Garde you ask? Well, I couldn’t define it in my own words very well, so I went to the trusty internet for this explanation.
Bière de Garde (“beer for keeping”) is a strong pale ale or keeping beer traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. These beers were originally brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring, to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast during the summertime. Farmhouse production is now supplemented by commercial production, although most Bière de Garde brewers are small businesses.
Typically, beers of this tradition are of a copper colour or golden colour, and as the name suggests the origins of this style lies in the tradition that it was matured/cellared for a period of time once bottled (and most sealed with a cork), to be consumed later in the year, akin to a Belgian Saison.
As you probably already know, my eyebrows rise a bit when I see the “matured/cellared” wording in that explanation, so naturally, I always keep an eye out for these. I grabbed a bottle with the intent of letting it mature for awhile, only to find the bottling date was already about sixteen months ago. And lets be honest, it’s more fun to drink the beer than it is to put it away and wait, right?
One thing I know and love about Jolly Pumpkin is that their beers are usually sour and funky. I know, that might not sound good, but it really is. I opened the bottle on a weekend day, late afternoon since the alcohol content (4.3%) would allow me to stay upright, even if I took down the entire 750ml bottle. It’s a dark brown and nearly black beer, and poured a really thick head that dissipated a few minutes later.
I gave it a sip and that sourness I know and love smacked me right in the palate, kinda tastes like cherries a bit as well. It’s not a traditional “sour” but still brings a bit of the funk, at least up front. But what was so nice about this one is that the initial kick fades nicely and a really clean finish is what you are left with. I don’t love cherries, so I’m pretty happy about that, I’d hate to be left with a thick syrupy cherry sour taste on my tongue and that is certainly NOT what happened here.
After the first glass I let it sit and open up a little bit. Once it was down to room temperature, it was an even cleaner, and dryer finish. It’s a challenge to create a really flavorful beer at 4.3%, but Jolly Pumpkin have done it with Bam Noire. I might grab another bottle and let it age a bit more and note any differences. It’s not my favorite from them, but something I will certainly buy again.