Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

La Roja

Other reviews for this beer:
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Jolly Pumpkin
Dexter, MI

Style: Bière de Garde
ABV: 7.2%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

I will begin this review with an admission. I, Nigel Aloysious Tanner, had no idea there was such a thing as Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales until very recently. Most of you may recall a few weeks back when a certain Eddie Glick authored an article ranking the top 10 Midwest craft brewers. This article was received with much debate in the craft beer community, with many a loyal Beer Dork offering his or her opinion about why Eddie was an idiot and how he could improve on his list. Nigel, being the ever observant site contributor that he is, took note of these suggestions and noticed two breweries that kept popping up but were unfamiliar to him: Dark Horse and Jolly Pumpkin. I researched both of these breweries and found that unfortunately, both have very limited distribution--Dark Horse does not distribute in Nigeland, and Jolly Pumpkin is only available in a few select locations. Always eager to sample a new brew, Nigel selected one of these select locations, took a wee side trip, and purchased a nice 750 ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja Artisan Amber Ale (for a mere $9...marked down from $12...ouch!). I then came home to peruse the many informative and entertaining pages on, only to discover that Eddie had stolen some of my thunder by reviewing a Jolly Pumpkin brew (fortunately for me, not the same one). Never one to be slowed by life's little speedbumps, I soldiered on and now provide for you, the loyal Nigelheads, my review of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja.

I usually begin my reviews by insulting various nationalities for no particular reason, other than the fact that I'm a conceited Englishman. Not this time, my friends. For those of you unfamiliar with the Biere de Garde style, it is a specialty brew native to the Flanders region in northern Europe. To put it plainly--it's French. That's right, it's a French-style beer with a French name (I believe that in French, "La Roja" means "The Roja"). As we all know by now, Nigel likes a challenge, and, well...ripping on the French is not exactly a challenge. Therefore, I will take the higher ground by continuing directly to the review, thus sparing the pungent, snooty, cheese-eating surrender monkeys across the channel total humiliation (as if being French isn't humiliating enough).

As was previously stated, La Roja comes in a 750 ml, champagne-style bottle, traditional for a Biere de Garde. One of the many unique characteristics of this beer style is that it is bottle conditioned. Thus, the crack of the bottlecap is met with a nice firm "pop", with a bit of head slowly oozing out the top. This also means there is a fair amount of residue in the bottle that gets into the glass, but hey--that's what you get for a $12 brew. The pour is less foamy than I anticipated. There is a good amount of head during the pour, but it is by no means overwhelming. The head is more fizzy than foamy, more like a soda rather than a typical beer. It has good color--a nice dark amber with heavy carbonation, making a nice light lace that tingles the side of the glass. The smell is interesting--very pungent (Nigel bites his tongue here, refraining from another smelly Frenchmen joke), with potent aromas both fruity and spicy coming through, though I had a hard time pinpointing the exact flavors I was inhaling. The taste is definitely different. It's not an easy drink, to be perfectly honest with you. Like the aroma, the flavor is both very fruity and very spicy. First and foremost, the beer is really quite sour. Very tart fruit flavors, again somewhat hard to distinguish, but definitely some hints of cherry as well as sour citrus. When combined with the dark roasted malt, this makes for a very unique, spicy beer, with loads of flavor that can be a bit overwhelming. The beer tingles the tongue throughout, and the aftertaste is somewhat heavy, but not ridiculous. This is a rare trip into the world of Biere de Gardes for Nigel, and I have to say there is a reason for that. It's a good, challenging beer, but certainly one that I can only tolerate on rare occassions in small doses. Kind of like the French. Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 21, 2007.
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