Posts tagged ‘Michigan’

Quick Hits II – Jaw Jacker, Punkel, & Sweet Yamma Jamma


We know, we know, it’s been more than a second since our last post. We have some good reasons though. To add to our lists of delays like marriages, moves, honeymoons, and the like, we can now add babies and hospitalizations. Everyone’s ok now, we assure you, but it’s a little difficult to accurately review beer when you haven’t slept in a week or are on massive pain killers. (Though the reviews might be more entertaining).

We’ve crossed some wires both literally and figuratively, but we won’t abandon you before Turkey day cometh. So without further ado, here are a few, albeit tasty, impostors of pumpkin. These suckers are 100% pumpkin free despite their trappings. We won’t say that’s bad, and they are mostly pretty honest about it, but we felt it was our civic duty to let you know the truth.


Name: Jaw Jacker

Place of Origin / Brewer: Battle Creek, MI / Arcadia Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Spiced Ale / 6.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Jaw Jacker is an ale with spices (specifically cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) added.

This was definitely one of our “duh” moments for the season. We all gathered to review this ale, quietly typing and scribbling away our notes (We don’t discuss the beers until after we have reviewed them individually). At the end, we all sat around the table and asked where the pumpkin was and, after digging on the internet a bit, found out it was “nowhere”. It’s still a little confusing to us why Arcadia decided to slap a giant fanged pumpkin ala “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” on the front of this one, but hey, we won’t complain about accidentally drinking an extra beer.

The glass greets you with a familiar burnished bronze and a nose of earthy spice and cherry cola fizz. In the mouth though, it’s a bit thin and quite bitter and earthy. This is one strange palate blower. While it’s not exceedingly clove, or cinnamon fire, the blend tends to come out as a soapy numbing pungency. Maybe they should put a little pumpkin in this after all to balance some things out.


Name: Punkel

Place of Origin / Brewer: Garland, TX / Lakewood Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Spiced Dunkel Lager / 5.0%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Punkel is a Munich Dunkel style lager based on the flavor of the dessert pumpkin pie. It is spiced with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and includes no pumpkin.

There is an unfortunate mentality that comes out of the mouths of many of pumpkin beer’s critics, chief among them being the idea that “Pumpkin imparts little to no flavor”. We here at the GPBR simply disagree with that mindset, but we won’t hold it against Lakewood, we just aren’t sure why you’d set out to make a beer based on pumpkin pie and skip the pumpkin. That said, there are some nice things going on in and on this bottle!

The first impression is a sleek design job on the label including a wooden barrel stave logo (that is close to our hearts and our blog format, a nice selection of pairing recommendations (Smoked Gruyére! Good call!), and yes, the name is quite clever.

This tasty brown ale has gorgeous ruby highlights, and a nose of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger over a hearty malt sea. In fact, this really does come quite close to achieving a pumpkin pie vibe, with a delicate pie crust body that’s malty and exceedingly well balanced. It’s smooth, silky, and makes a great session lager for those who can’t decide between Oktoberfest or Halloween.


Name: Sweet Yamma Jamma

Place of Origin / Brewer: Minneapolis, MN / Indeed Brewing Co.

Beer Style / ABV%: Sweet Potato Ale / 5.5%

Specialty Prep / Individuality: Sweet Yamma Jamma is brewed with 480 lbs of sweet potatoes in the mash along with European malts, and then canned yams and spices are added to secondary fermentation to infuse flavor.

We can always appreciate a cool can design, and you can be assured that any brewery that includes schematics of its brewing system on their website is into the details. The sweeping, epic font of the name elicits 70’s funk throwback, and the beer delivers on said funk. This is like the exploitation film of pumpkin ales.

On the red side of orange with a thin white head, the first thing that pos into your head is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Savory vegetal yam plays against a good bit of biscuity malt, a hint of ginger and pepper, and a punch of brown sugar to sweeten it up a notch. This doesn’t play at being a pumpkin ale so much as it passes you the wrong dish when you reach for one. And for that we applaud it. It’s clean, refreshing, and though it’s a bit one note, it’s a good note. Sweet Yamma Jamma, Indeed.

La Parcela No.1 Pumpkin Ale – Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, LLC

I apologize that this one is a little behind schedule (it was supposed to be Friday’s post). Last September Brittney and I were getting married. This one, we’re moving. When will we get our priorities straight about drinking beer?

Alas, though the house is packed up in boxes and becoming ever emptier, we still had a jolly good time taking down a draught of the old squash rot. Here’s how it turned out:


Name:  La Parcela No.1 Pumpkin Ale.

Place of Origin / Brewer: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales LLC / Michigan, USA

Beer style / ABV%:  Pumpkin Sour Ale / 5.9%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  The joke is Jolly Pumpkin doesn’t brew a pumpkin beer, but the jokes on you, as now they totally do. La Parcela is a sour ale brewed and flavored with pumpkin, Cacao, and spices, then aged in Oak. The result is definitely individualistic. We ripped into Batch 865/866 which was bottled 8/17/2011, giving it a nice year of age.



Everyone familiar with this brand knows their labels are works of art, but this is almost the perfect pumpkin beer label. Deep blue hues of fire lit twilight and jack o lanterns grinning in the darkness.  It captures all of the joy of trick or treating as a kid, without trying overly hard to be creepy or cartoonish, and it works so well. – Mike

Glowing jack-o-lanterns set against a setting skyline of hazy blues and greens, silhouettes of gnarled trees and scarecrows framing a perfect pumpkin patch on All Hallows Eve.  Jolly Pumpkin just flat-out wins as the best bottle illustration I’ve seen.  I want to frame it, buy a case of it to decorate my house, and walk inside of it and live there forever.  – Tim

The coloring on this label is awesome, the scene of the pumpkins, scarecrow and trees are creepy, haunting and beautiful. I also always enjoy a little quip from the brewers or brewery so the remarks concerning Jolly Pumpkins first and only pumpkin ale were enjoyable. – Brittney


Color:  8

This brew has a very cool appearance. It’s dense and opaque with a slight ethereal glow to it. The coloration is a burnt umber yielding a yellow hue where the light hits it, with soft caramel notes in the center. Great head with big airy bubbles and decent lacing. Particulate is found effervescing after the pour  quickly settles to the bottom – it’s kind of fun to watch. – Rick

Golden-orange in color, this reminds me of a freshly juiced glass of apple cider. A solid ivory-tan head with a good amount of sediment throughout and the tiniest bubbles of carbonation you have ever seen. – Brittney

I think this is what Pumpkin juice must look like.  Hazy, yellow/orange with tons of sediment.  Like a spooky version of apple cider with a thick and velvety cream head that displays massive retention qualities and leaves the most amazing–and seriously longest-lacing trail I think we’ve yet encountered on a non-porter product. – Tim

M- 7 / T- 9 / B- 7 / R- 8.5


Aroma: 6

Sour and vegetal notes are in great prevalence, with the slightest note of bitter dark chocolate. There’s a play of spice, but it’s extremely difficult to narrow against the sour ale. Perhaps mace and clove? – Mike

Musky and earthy, not overwhelming with pumpkin or spice, and just a hint of limey citrus. – Brittney

In case anyone missed the note (like I did) this is a sour ale.  I love a sour ale, when I’m in the mood, and frankly, this smells just like what you’d expect (had I been expecting it).  After being a bit jarred, the usual, tangy scents of sour and spice finally started to break apart with just a hint of apple and cinnamon desperately clawing to overcome the tartness that assaults my senses. But where is the pumpkin?  – Tim

M- 6 / T- 5 / B- 8 / R- 4.5


Mouth feel:  6

Very airy and frothy with a good bit of a tingle on the tongue. It’s quite crisp and clean on the palette despite the full bodied appearance. It does have a bit of tartness though, which could be a little overwhelming to any novice of sour ales. – Rick

Given the boggy density of yeast and sediment, it’s actually a good bit on the light end of medium bodied, with a fizzy zip that really punctuates the tartness. – Mike

M- 6.5 / T- 6 / B- 7 / R- 5


Tasting notes:  5.5

If this wasn’t brewed in Michigan, I’d swear it must be the eastern European approach to pumpkin ale. Sour like a lemon with the intensive bitterness of raw cocoa nibs it’s massive and complex, but almost to a confusing point. It reminds me a lot of the head expanding beers made by Brasserie BFM, but it’s going to be a total mindf@%* for the uninitiated. If the joke was that Jolly Pumpkin didn’t make a pumpkin beer, then the joke is on us, because though caustic and interesting, this is not going to be identifiable as a pumpkin ale to the average soul. That said, I do really enjoy it, particularly as it warms, even if I do have to pretend it’s Halloween in Switzerland. – Mike

I will preface this bit by admitting, I’m not a huge fan of the sour style so my palette may not be accustomed to it’s intricacies. With that said, this brew is way sour making it hard to discern any pumpkin flavor. The spicing may be subtle, but it’s hard to notice over the heavy citrus influence that accentuates it’s tartness. – Rick

So, it is a seriously sour – sour. (It is Jolly Pumpkin after all)  I get a lot of pumpkin, some spice, a touch of chocolate smoothness and a lot of sour granny smith apple. – Brittney

Astringent notes of citric acid, sour cherries, apricots and apples, dried fruit and just about everything else–even hints of metallic rust–but nary a pumpkin (vegetal or roasted) to be found. Cinnamon and nutmeg are the most prevalent spices but I’m sadly disappointed in the overall flavor strictly as a pumpkin sour.  As a sour it’s perfectly fine, but if it weren’t for the incredible artwork on the bottle and maybe a touch of that spice, I wouldn’t pick this for a fall brew if it were standing in a line-up wearing a suit of maple leaves, holding a turkey in one hand and a pumpkin pie in the other.  – Tim

M- 7.5 / T- 5 / B- 6 / R- 3


Finish:  6

A wash of foam, and there it is. The huge bread yeast notes, the lingering dryness of wine — it makes me crave cheese.  The cacao notes also show here with the spice, leaving a creamy hazelnut in the back of my throat with a slight astringency that I would never notice in the powerful mix while it was still in my mouth. – Mike

After the initial pucker, this beer finishes clean, if not a bit bitter,with an apple cider vinegar snap. – Brittney

M- 8 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 4.5


Flavor balance:  4.5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance: 4

It’s a sour with some pie spice notes, together those two things work in pretty pointed unity, but it’s missing the key element of the equation–the pumpkin.  I’m sure it’s in there (for truth in advertising purposes) but it might as well not be for taste purposes. – Tim

It’s almost impossible to classify this one, as it defies the categorization. The spice in here is categorically buried in the multitude of directions this brew is going, and likewise, the sour nature of the ale has transformed the pumpkin into an entirely different, though intriguing, beast. – Mike

I’ve given low marks here because I’m not too sure that there is any spice in this ale. If so, it’s tough to pick out since the sour is so dominant. – Rick

M- 5 / T- 3 / B- 6 / R- 1

–         Sweet / Dry balance: 5


I don’t expect, nor do I want sweetness–at least not pronounced sweetness–with a sour ale.  That said, I ‘d like a touch less bone-dryness at the close on this one to push my score a bit higher on the (broad) curve I’m grading this ale on. – Tim

M- 4.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 4

–         Multiple Drinkability?  5

Not being a huge fan of sours to begin with, it’s hard to see myself drink more of these. I’m not thinking pumpkin beer when drinking this, and that is the biggest turn off for me. – Rick

This beer was fun to taste and a glass would be enjoyable but that would probably be enough sour for me. – Brittney

I don’t really session sours, and this is no exception.  And, as sours go, I’d drink it again, but this is The Great Pumpkin Beer Review and if I want to be honest – as things go -about its appeal as a pumpkin beer, I think Jolly Pumpkin should retire this one back to patch and stick to making the staple sour ales that have long proved their prowess. – Tim

I love the sour explosion that keeps driving me back sip after sip. It’s parching and wet all at once, and I do love a good sour. So if my pocket permits, I’ll be back. – Mike

M- 8 / T- 3.5 / B- 5.5 / R- 3


Overall:  6.00

M- 6.83 / T- 5.50 / B- 6.75 / R- 4.75

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale – New Holland Brewing Co.

I have to admit, I’m excited to try this one. It’s been staring at me from the back of the fridge for a few weeks now, and anyone that knows my family closely, knows that we’re kind of obsessed with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (isn’t Tim’s picture up there rad by the way?). Suffice to say, from my dad reading it to us every Halloween as a kid, to the amazing animated Disney version, and yes, even the questionable Johnny Depp movie ( My brother particularly likes it for the sheer decapitation factor, and of course, the Walken), suffice to say, it’s a big deal that has imprinted on me, and always pops into my head (and quickens my pace) when crossing old wooden bridges.


Name: Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Place of Origin / Brewer:  Michigan, USA / New Holland Brewing Co.

Beer style / ABV%: Pumpkin Ale / 5.2%

Specialty Prep / Individuality:  Combining malted barley, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, this brew is designed to compliment pairings of roasted poultry, root vegetables, peanut sauce, and caraway.



Washington Irving’s tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow is one of my favorite American short stories–on that point alone I’m predispositioned to dig on this packaging with its representation of the pumpkin-headed specter astride his spooky steed. – Tim

Creepy and classic like most things should be this time of year.  The images on the label stay true to its name with only a slight mention of pumpkin ale.  The tiny statement on the front of “Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices with spices added” makes me think this might be a little heavy on the spice end. – Brittney

If Washington Irving’s classic tale was an animated series designed to creep the hell out of Saturday mornings in the 90’s, this label would surely be the perfect nightmare inducing adversary, complete with haunting glow and a red eyed steed. It also seems to imply we might be drinking a beer made out of his head, which explains why that pumpkin looks pissed. – Mike

A nice spooky illustration of the infamous headless horseman brandishing a menacingly evil looking jack-o-lantern in one hand, as he guides his ghostly steed with the other.  You can tell right away that this pumpkin ale is just a little bit different from the others. – Rick


Color:  7.5

 Beautiful antiqued lace foam draping down the sides of the glass ever so slowly, to compliment the burnt sienna (yeah, I went there) sea glass coloration. This definitely isn’t headless. – Mike

Dull amber-brown and slightly cloudy, it doesn’t have the usually orange glow of some of the spiced ales that we have visited thus far. – Brittney

M- 8.5 / T- 7 / B- 6.5 / R- 7.5


Aroma: 6

Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Clove all come on the nose almost immediately with the cinnamon leading the charge. Further back in the pack, an air of fresh pumpkin is met with a noticeable zing of sharpness portending an impression of the hops-forward drink to come.  – Tim

This pumpkin ale pours a great deep amber, almost brown in a molasses like quality.  Great lacing is left behind by the frothy head that quickly settled after the pour.  Very appealing in collaboration with the aroma. – Rick

This sucker smells like it’s soaking in nutmeg, and has a rather pungent hop aspect to it. I do get a hint of the barley malt as well, but more as a sense of fleeting charred sweetness. – Mike

Getting most of our usual three, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin dominate the very slight nose on this one.  The only unusual quality of the aroma is the pumpkin smells baked, if not slightly burned. – Brittney

M- 4 / T- 6 / B- 6.5 / R- 7


Mouth feel: 6

There’s a great presence on the pallet from this one right off the bat.  It delicately dances between medium and light bodied while settling across the tongue with a nice tingle. – Rick

Just on the cusp of medium bodied with a hint of wateriness and medium carbonation.  To be honest, I expected more zip from this brew.  I was expecting a bang but all I got was a whimper. – Tim

The experience of the mouth feel on this one is quick and to the point.  The carbonation really expands in your mouth.  It’s very smooth, has excellent crispness and ends slightly dry.  – Brittney

M- 4 / T- 4.5 / B- 7 / R- 6


Tasting notes: 5.5

As predicted, Ichabod is hoppy and bitter but not flowery like an IPA, this is a surprisingly citric and vegetal ale with notes of grapefruit along with cinnamon and nutmeg and bready malts. The pumpkin is more subdued but the undercurrent of flavor is there.  The spice level is more restrained than I’d imagined it’d be based on the bouquet.  However, it all rubs me the wrong way.  It’s not a traditional fall ale, with none of the expected sweetness and, yet despite the outburst of hops it’s not floral enough for me to appreciate it as an IPA. – Tim

Well this is an interesting approach. Dry and vegetal, but with a definitive spice presence, I really don’t get even a touch of sweet out of this brew, but more a glimmer of vanilla cream sans sugar and white tea. It’s certainly intriguing as a curio, but I have to be honest and say, while it’s certainly innoxious, it’s unfortunately because it comes off rather benign. – Mike

It looks full bodied but tends to taste more like a medium bodied brew with a nice addition of bitter hops.  I don’t expect to get this good of a beer with a fairly low ABV, but I was pleasantly surprised. – Rick

I was hoping for a little more complexity with this.  I especially would have liked to taste a little more of the slightly burned aroma that I picked up on the nose, I feel like it would have given Ichabod a little more character. – Brittney

M- 3.5 / T- 4.5 / B- 6 / R- 8


Finish:  6

Cinnamon whisps away with an unexpectedly clean and at once foggy feeling, leaving just a slight bitter facet to the end of a swig. – Mike

This one starts with the sweet aroma, and ends with the nice bite from the hops.  I also notice just a slim hint of actual pumpkin at the very end just to cap off this ales experience. – Rick

Long, bitter, bone dry finish with a lingering tartness that I find intriguing but not overly satisfying. – Tim

M- 5 / T- 5 / B- 7 / R- 7.5


Flavor balance:5

–         Pumpkin to Spice balance:

Unfortunately the unsweetened approach of the pumpkin here seems to get lost in the fold, leaving only a heavy hand of nutmeg against the beers foundation. – Mike

The hops overpower everything pushing the pumpkin and spice levels down so that they might balance against each other, but you’d never know it. – Tim

M- 3 / T- 4 / B- 7 / R- 6

–         Sweet / Dry balance:

This one is surprisingly on the dry side.  You would think with all of the spices that it might be sweet but it’s like the difference between cinnamon sugar and the cinnamon challenge. – Brittney

I keep wanting to think I’m catching a hint of some kind of brown sugar or something here. But the more I think about it, the more it just seems like the char off the bottom of a pot caramel was cooked in. – Mike

It’s a tad cloying, especially at the end of the bottle, but there’s a nice dryness from the hops that I find really help balance this minor drawback. – Rick

M- 3 / T- 4 / B- 6 / R- 7.5

–         Multiple Drinkability?

I’d like to by bottles of this to have at parties just because it label screams “This is Halloween” to me over and over again, but I’m afraid someone might actually drink it.  It’s not a terrible beer.  Far from it.  But, it’s just too perplexing to try and decipher the intention of the brewer here. – Tim

I’d be curious to try this directly with the food pairings suggested or a sweet dessert, as that might certainly provide some depth to the intention of this brew. I end up for now though, underwhelmed and wishing for something a bit more exciting. – Mike

M- 4.5 / T- 4 / B- 7.5 / R- 8


Flavor balance: 6.00

M- 4.75 / T- 5.17 / B- 6.67 / R- 7.41