Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales has garnered yet another award, this time from the Best of Craft Beer Awards.
La Roja, a sour artisan amber ale described as a “deep amber with earthy caramel, spice, and sour fruit notes developed through natural barrel aging” by beeradvocate.com took the gold medal in the Flanders red or brown category against similar brews from competitors Breakside Brewery and Equinox Brewing Co.
Jolly Pumpkin founder Ron Jeffries is not unaccustomed to receiving accolades for the good quality work of his craft beer creating crack team.
“We were fortunate in the beginning when Oro De Calabaza won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival,” Jeffries said. “It’s sort of like the Olympics of beer. Taking that right out of the gate surprised a lot of people and proved that we were on the right track in doing something completely different.”
For 10 years prior to the founding of Jolly Pumpkin, Jeffries worked in relative obscurity at a number of extremely local breweries that had sub-regional profiles, if that.
La Roja, like all of Jolly Pumpkin’s brews, is aged in oak barrels with naturally occurring wild yeast and souring bacteria. With La Roja the barrels are blended by mixing and matching different ages similarly to how winemakers do it on the vineyard.
“You select barrels and you combine them to make a beer that is better than the sum of its parts, Jeffries said of La Roja, which has a 90 or “outstanding” rating on Beer Advocate.
Like most of Jolly Pumpkin’s other beers, it took awhile for La Roja to catch on and build a following and, more importantly for a commercial brewery, a market of people large enough to buy the Flanders style offering in significant quantities.
“Gradually as more and more people around the country experimented with these styles of beer, they created a market for us and we were able to sell more and more,” Jeffries said. “It’s good to know that people are appreciating what we’re making and that what we were making was living up to what I envisioned, which was liquid works of art.”
When asked what accolade Dexter’s premier brewery could win next, Jeffries said that he isn’t sure due to the nature of beer competitions and also the nature of his own product.
“Contest standards and categories continue to change with the product,” he said. “There are constantly new categories and criteria add. A lot of times when we go to competitions, we’re not sure what our beer should be judged as. It’s a common comment to get that it’s an ‘excellent beer, but entered in the wrong category.'”
Jeffries says he worries more about making inspiring beer than winning contests, and therein more than likely lies the secret to the Jolly Pumpkin’s success.