Friday, January 22, 2010

Past due #4: Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery (Dec 29, 2009)

Made a quick stop at the Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery in Ann Arbor with Alyce.

Somehow in our super busy holiday visit in MI, we found time to wander into a new spot on Main St. in Ann Arbor: The Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery. Ron Jeffries and the Jolly Pumpkin folks have been brewing some unique beer for a while now out of their shop in neighboring Dexter, MI, and the new Main St. location represents a clear step forward for them. And it apparently isn't the only step they've taken, as they now also have a restaurant/brewery/distillery in Traverse City, MI and plan to replace their Dexter shop with a pub. Excellent!

After finding our way upstairs to the bar area, I mulled over the menu for a bit before deciding to ask about their cask special. Glad I did. As far as I can tell, I had a Jolly Pumpkin Bog Beast Porter, described as a blend of porters with a hint of cranberry (although I don't recall the name ever being mentioned by the server). It sounded delicious, and didn't disappoint (as detailed below). I love porter in cold weather, and this ended up being a precursor to the nice evening that lay ahead. While I was enjoying my porter, Alyce opted for a (n/a) berry mojito and we split their grilled flatbread with a trio of dips. I managed to grab a few sips of the mojito and can say it was pretty damn tasty. Tangy and flavorful; rich in lime juice, blackberries and a touch of basil. The flatbread and dips were also impressive. A large serving of walnut-red pepper, edamame and hummus dips accompanied a decent serving of warm flatbread. The edamame was true to the flavor, but nothing special; the hummus was nice and lemony, without much garlic; and the walnut-red pepper tasted quite peppery at first, but was cinnamon-y by the end. Combined with a fairly relaxed pub atmosphere, we came away impressed and very pleased with both our food and drinks. Certainly will be stopping in again next time we're in the area.

Our flatbread with dip trio, the (n/a) berry mojito, and my tasty porter. Note that I overexposed the picture in iPhoto to make the drinks visible.

As far as the beer is concerned, I would say that I generally enjoy and appreciate Jolly Pumpkin beers, but they're not usually my style. Most of what I've tried shows clear Belgian influence, with nice blends of fruit and spice. Sometimes just a bit too much fruit and spice for my taste. Their beers actually remind me a bit of my favorite French beer from the Brasserie Sainte-Colombe, just south of Rennes. If you can put two and two together, you've probably deduced that I had a hard time finding good beer in France. Yup, wine country. Anyway, I'll leave you with a brief description of the porter I tried, in case it's still around.
  • Bog Beast Porter (cask) - Smooth and creamy, but not too heavy. Nice coffee and chocolate finish. Didn't really get much cranberry flavor, but it was quite good otherwise. (8/10)

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