12/26/16: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales' Noel de Calabaza

6:43 AM

Ah, Christmas. And, true to form, I'm running late. This post was supposed to get put up yesterday but the internet was out and I couldn't get it done. But I tried, dammit.

In the grand scheme of things, that doesn't really matter much. Sure, it may be sunny and in the 50s this morning and it may no longer feel particularly Christmasy, but it's still Christmastime. And this post is still timely. So, whether your stuck at work or at your family's, throw on your favorite Christmas music, settle into the comfiest chair you can find (bonus points if you lay a blanket over your lap!), and dig into this post.

What's the post about? Why, Jolly Pumpkin's Noel de Calabaza, of course! This beer only comes in a bomber and boy howdy am I ready to drink it all. Is it Christmasy? Look at the little Santa hat the Jack-o'-lantern and you tell me. The real question is: Is it any good?

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is a fun name. It's half carefree attitude and half devotion to craft beer excellence. The brewery's been up and running for twelve years and focuses on crafting simple-yet-complex beers on a small scale. Based out of Dexter, Michigan, more information on Jolly Pumpkin can be found on their website.

If you look at the "Beer "page over at the brewery's website, you'll see a short writeup about Noel de Calabaza that divulges the follow intel: The 9% ABV special ale features a large array of flavors like mahogany, sugar plums, figs, hops, and truffles. Needless to say, I'm excited to see how all of these flavors come together. If Jolly Pumpkin pulls this off, I have no doubt that this will be the most decadent beer I've ever had.

And, as if on cue, I arrive at an extremely decadent bouquet. It's deep and fruity (figs and raisins), malty and mahogany-y, and bold. You can tell this is a boozy brew although its not very boozy smelling. Instead, I'm getting warm, enticing aromas wafting from the opening of my bottle. Purrl enjoyed the ale's aroma, as well, giving it a nice and respectable five whiffs.

While there's a lot to unpack in Noel de Calabaza's flavor, I'll say this up front: it's not deep and dark and overly rich (as I had expected). Instead it's bright and fruity, with a bit of a sour kick that you typically find in barrel-aged beers. I'm finding a heaping of sugar plum in the finish with an aftertaste of truffles playing around in my mouth after each swig. I am not, however, getting much hoppiness from the bottle beside me. Overall, it's a big, bold flavor that, while not expressly Christmasy, is festive in and of itself.

The ale's mouthfeel is pretty much perfect. Creamy at first, with bubbles that nip at the tip of your tongue, Noel de Calabaza finishes in a flurry of carbonation.

This reminds me of fall Saturdays after high school cross country meets. I'd come home and, before I'd even hop in the shower to wash the post-race stench from me, I'd nuke a mug of apple cider and sit outside to drink it. I'd hold the hot mug in my hands, breathe in the mixture of warm cider aroma and crisp autumn air, watch the wind blow through the trees as red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves fell, and hum Christmas carols to myself--I've always had a thing for Christmas music.

Jolly Pumpkin's Noel de Calabaza may not be the definitive Christmas beer, but it is a beer perfectly suited for a cool day. It's great and, given the price of the brew, I'm not shocked. It's getting a rock-steady 9/10 from yours truly. If you see it and are able to buy, treat yourself--you deserve it.

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