Breakout Brewer: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

By HEATHER VANDENENGEL

“For years, Jolly Pumpkin never brewed a pumpkin beer, and it was kind of part of the joke."

When Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales first brewed a pumpkin beer, Founder and Brewmaster Ron Jeffries thought about it with a characteristic distinctiveness. “I approached it like, okay, what can we do that’s not going to be normal?”

That Jolly Pumpkin, based out of Dexter, Michigan, did not brew a pumpkin beer for several years after starting out had become a bit of a joke, says Jeffries. It wasn’t until they brewed a small batch for the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival at Elysian Brewing that the brewery, which specializes in oak-aged beers, released La Parcela, a 5.9 percent ABV sour pumpkin ale brewed with pumpkin puree and cacao. I talked to Jeffries about the joke, how he brews with pumpkin, and their latest pumpkin beer.

On name confusion: “For years, Jolly Pumpkin never brewed a pumpkin beer, and it was kind of part of the joke. My wife and I thought of the name, and we didn’t put two and two together and think that people would come to the conclusion that all we did was pumpkin beers. We just thought it was a funny name, and we came up with the skull and crossbones, the play on the Jolly Roger. We had the pumpkin with barley and hops crossed underneath and we just thought it was funny.

Then at the first fall beer festival, people started asking for pumpkin beer, and we were like, ‘Well, we don’t have any pumpkin beer.’ Then it became a bit of a joke with people who knew the brewery and people who didn’t because at subsequent festivals, people in line would ask for the pumpkin beer and people behind them would be, like, ‘They don’t make a pumpkin beer!’”

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