About Jolly Pumpkin
What’s in a name anyway?
My favorite comment made upon hearing our moniker, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales was:
“You really ought to think about hiring one of those marketing companies. They can come up with names for you and everything. Is it too late to change?”
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Seems people either love it or don’t understand it.
People always ask about the name, asking “where did it come from?” I usually just put a finger to my temple, smile, and sanguinely state “I have a very strange brain.”
And then I tell this story:
The name bubbled forth years ago on a warm spring afternoon. It was one of those rare sunny March Michigan days, the kind that seems much warmer than March really has any right to be. Small piles of snow still dotted the yard as my wife and I sat on the patio in our shirtsleeves. Sipping beers and enjoying the sun on our faces after the long dark, cold Michigan winter. After firming up our business plan for months, the dream had finally evolved enough to need a name. So we sat, pen and paper in hand, brainstorming, smiling and laughing.
Many great names came forth that afternoon, but as the weeks passed, and spring finally sprung, the name that always made us smile was Jolly Pumpkin. It encompassed everything we wanted to express about our brewery. Fun and quirky, all that needed adding were the last two words; “Artisan Ales”, the description of the brewery’s products and mission; The creation of fantastic beers of truly outstanding artisan quality. Maintaining traditional small scale production, keeping beer a beverage of both outstanding complexity and simplicity, this would be our laudable goal. Complexity of flavor, simplicity of ingredient and process. This duality was perfectly balanced in the name. Simple and complex. Complex yet simple.
To our delight with our wonderful new found name we were able to combine some very fun and exciting images:
Everyone’s favorite holiday; Halloween (Who doesn’t enjoy the grinning Jack O’ Lantern?)
Everyone’s favorite Halloween costume; the pirate!
Some of my favorite locations; the tropics!
And my two nicknames: Brewmaster Spooky, and Captain Ron
And hence was born the strange name by the brewer with the dedication to rustic country beers!
With much aloha from my family to yours,
Captain Spooky Ron J
The most important thing to realize about our beer is that it is an all natural agricultural product. Everything in all our beers comes from the earth. Barley, wheat, hops, yeast, water. All natural ingredients given life and vitality through the natural process of fermentation. No additives and no chemicals.
Let’s explore each of the main ingredients in a little more detail:
Barley: Barley is a cereal grain; it grows in fields all around the world. Special varieties of barley are bred specifically for brewing.
Malting is the process by which raw barley is made ready for brewing. The raw barley is steeped in water until it germinates. Enzymes naturally present in the barley start to break down proteins and starches into simpler more accessible compounds. Once this process is complete the barley is dried and kilned. Variations in kilning time and temperature can create malts ranging from very light in color and flavor to dark, roasted, and intense. By using varying amounts of these different malts we can create a complex palette of natural colors, flavors and aromas in our beer.
Wheat: Many of our beers also contain a percentage of wheat, either raw, malted or both. Wheat helps smooth and lighten the barley flavors, and can help with head retention in the finished beer.
Water: Water makes up the majority of any beer, and its properties are very important to the finished product. All water must be pure and delicious. Clean smelling and tasting, and contain the proper mix of minerals.
Hops: The cone of the hop plant is added mainly during the boiling process, but they can also be added during aging and maturation. The hop cone, or flower as it is sometimes called, is very bitter and works to balance the sweetness of the malted barley. Hops also smell wonderful and can add refreshing aromas to the finished beer.
Yeast: The magical microorganism responsible for turning sweet wort (see below) into beer. Yeast use the sugars created during the mashing process (again, see below) to fuel their metabolisms. It is through the yeast’s metabolic processes that beer is created. There are many different strains of brewing yeast, each with their own distinct metabolism, each creating very distinct tasting beers. We use a variety of French and Belgian strains carefully selected to bring out the maximum complexity in our beers.
Mashing: Crushed malted barley is mixed with hot water as it pours gently into the mash vessel. This oatmeal looking porridge is called the mash. The mash is allowed to rest, while naturally present enzymes convert starches in the barley into soluble sugars. The sugars leach away from the grain into the water, and can be drawn off into the kettle. This liquid mix of soluble sugars is called wort.
Boiling: The dense sugary wort is drawn off the bottom of the mash vessel, and pumped into the kettle. In the kettle it is brought to a vigorous boil. The boil fixes the sugar profile of the wort, sterilizes it, and causes all sorts of caramelizing reactions to occur. Hops are added throughout the boil, adding bitterness, flavor and aroma. Spices are also added to some of our beers, usually towards the end of the boil.
The boiled wort is then pumped through a heat exchanger, which rapidly cools it to fermentation temperatures. (Most of our yeasts ferment between 65 F and 75 F.)
Fermentation: After the cooled wort is transferred into the fermentation vessel, yeast is added. We employ open fermentation vessels, a very traditional type of vessel that allows for the fullest flavor development of our ales. Special brewing yeast work their wonders, creating alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a whole host of complex flavors in the process. At the end of fermentation the yeast is harvested off the top of the fermentation vessel and stored for re-pitching into subsequent beers.
Maturation: At Jolly Pumpkin we use very traditional methods to mature our beers. These methods may take longer, and be more labor intensive, but we feel they are well worth the effort. While most other breweries mature their beer for relatively short periods in giant stainless steel tanks, we mature our beer in oak casks. We feel this contact with the wood gives our beers unmatched depth of character, and subtleness of flavor.
Bottle conditioning: After oak maturation our beers are bottled, re-yeasted and allowed an additional time to develop natural carbonation in the bottle. This bottle conditioning, often called bottle refermentation, leaves a fine sediment of yeast in the bottle and results in further complex flavor refinement in the finished beer.
Every step of the process at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is carefully considered to bring about the most complex and refined beers imaginable. As a result of our dedication, most of our beers will continue to mature and mellow for quite some time when cellared at home. Enjoyment for today, and for tomorrow!