Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review - Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale 4.5% abv

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is one of an increasing number of breweries in America focusing on old world styles and old world methods with an American twist. Similar to US breweries such as Russian River, Upright, and Ommegang, Jolly Pumpkin uses brewing techniques that were almost unheard of on this side of the Atlantic not so long ago. Among these methods are open fermentation, allowing for the potential for wild yeasts to alter the character of the beer, long maturation in oak casks as opposed to stainless steel tanks to create complexity of flavour, and natural carbonation in the bottle.

Founded by Ron Jeffries (aka Captain Ron) in 2004, Jolly Pumpkin is dedicated to making "rustic country style beers", with the goal to balance the simple and the complex; the simplicity of ingredients and process, the complexity of flavour. It is this balance that for me sits at the heart of brewing as a whole. The contrast of the sweet malt and the bitter hop. The intrigue of flavour and satisfaction of mouthfeel compared with the refreshment of pure drinkability. The balance of science and art that is the essence of the brewing process itself. To my mind the beer that most embodies this balance is the farmhouse ale, or saison, which should balance all these factors into a harmonius whole.

Open Fermentation

Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale pours a brilliant and bright gold colour (despite the label that proclaims it "naturally cloudy") that is incredibly attractive, with an intense level of carbonation born from its secondary bottle fermentation (bubbles made in the bottle).  Its aroma is spicy with a hint of fruit, and is subtle yet inviting. It has a light body, and a nice tartness that never becomes too intense. Balancing this is a mild hoppiness with a light floral character that carries into a long but delicate fruity aftertaste. It is a dry beer, but not as dry as some farmhouse beers, and this interacts well with its tart character, making it very enjoyable, but also easy to drink. This beer does exactly what I feel a farmhouse ale should, refreshing and satisfying, intriguing the tastebuds but never becoming hard to drink. Although I usually prefer this type of beer to be a bit more substantial, I can hardly fault it for its light body, especially considering its paltry 4.5% abv, which is almost impossible to believe considering its complexity. Bam Biere is a fantastic table beer and certainly deserves the bronze medal it won at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, as well as its ranking as the 21st best beer in America by Men's Journal, and I would be at fault to give it anything but my top rating.
Rating: Excellent

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