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Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Dark Horse Brewing Co. release limited edition beers in Michigan

Last weekend I traveled to Ann Arbor for a concert at The Ark. It just happens that one of three Jolly Pumpkin pubs is right across the street from the Ark, so a pre-concert beer was convenient.


Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is known for their wild ale, which is aged in large oak casks and refermented in the bottle. One of my favorite seasonals was on tap during my visit: Bière de Mars (Bière de Garde, 7 percent ABV).

This beer is an excellent representation of what Jolly Pumpkin is all about. A tart, pleasantly sour fruit aroma hits the nose first and follows through in the flavor. The flavor is quite complex, but nicely balanced between tartness and oak characteristics from the barrel. With medium to high carbonation, this beer has a wonderful effervescent mouthfeel.

I always like to check out their to-go offerings as well, and was happy to find Oro de Calabaza Grand Reserve Leap Year Leap Bier, which was released on Leap Day. The Grand Reserve is a blend of five different batches of oak-barrel-aged Oro de Calabaza (white ale, 8 percent ABV, 30 IBUs). The batches ranged from the oldest, July 29, 2013, to the most recent, Feb. 4, 2014. After being blended and aged, the Grand Reserve was bottled in May 2015 to continue conditioning. The base Oro de Calabaza, which is brewed in the tradition of France and Belgium’s strong golden ales, is available year round.


It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since Dark Horse Brewing first released Scotty Karate Scotch Ale (9.75 percent ABV, 26 IBUs). This beer is a 2007 silver medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival and is named after a local one-man band, who play an amazing slurry of honky-tonk influenced, punk country songs. To celebrate this decade of Scotty Karate, Dark Horse aged some of this beer in bourbon barrels, which were released last Saturday. There were a total of 576 cases available, and I was lucky enough to get some.

The brewery’s regular version of Scotty Karate is a terrific beer that is available from September to March. It is brewed with malt smoked from cherry wood instead of traditional peat-smoked malt and is full bodied with a mild sweet malty flavor and has notes of coffee and caramel. The bourbon notes in the barrel edition are mild, but in my opinion that is not a bad thing. Bourbon flavor does not need to hit you in the face to make a great bourbon-barrel-aged beer. It was on tap and I enjoyed a snifter of it before continuing on my way. As with the regular version, there is plenty of big sweet maltiness, bready malt and mild sweet bourbon flavor.

Dark Horse is located in my home town of Marshall, Mich. Their barrel program continues to grow, with their most coveted being Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th Russian Imperial Stout (12 percent ABV). The Dark Horse compound continues to grow as well, with a larger beer garden and larger stage than the last time I was there. They have also added a sugar shack with a wood-fired evaporator for making maple syrup. Sunday, March 20, will be their pancake breakfast and bottled bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup release. If you’ve never been to the tap room, it’s worth it just to see the 6,000 or so mugs hanging from every possible place on the ceiling and walls.

I am proud that both of these breweries are from my home state of Michigan. You can find both Jolly Pumpkin and Dark Horse beers throughout Michiana.

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