La Roja (Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales)

Style: American Flanders-Style Red Ale/American Wild Red

7.2% ABV

Blend 11

Bottled on: 04-26-2013

Brewer’s Note: “An artisan amber ale brewed in the Flanders tradition.  Deep amber with earthy caramel, spice, and sour fruit notes developed through natural barrel aging.  Unfiltered, unpasteurized and blended from barrels ranging in age from two to ten months. ”

DSCN4655The beer’s label gets a different review from me every time I look at it.  I love the Jolly Pumpkin style, and their brewery logo is unique and gorgeous, but the overall execution of their style on a label doesn’t quite work out for me, I think.  I love the dark red and black coloring, and the graphic is cool and interesting, if a bit sketchy in cartooning style.  Some of the fonts are also nice, while others are simple and boring, and take away from the really cool fonts.  On top of that, the size of the beer’s title font is way too similar to that of every other bit of text on the bottle, and that takes the eye away from it and makes it inconsequential, which is too bad for such a pretty name.  The label is also rather cluttered, with different text touching the very edges of the space it’s confined within, which gives the label a sloppy look.  This label has so much potential for quirkiness, fanciness, and uniqueness, but it fails at the execution of it, which is too bad.  It’s worth scrapbooking, but doesn’t make the shelving cut.

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As I crack the cork, this beer is a gusher.  Like Old Faithful, this liquid is out of the bottle, and I see some of my well bought booze ooze onto the table.  The geyser was quickly stopped after the first pour, but I would like to warn others to its gushing potential.  The beer pours a deep, caramelized, burgundy color with very light orange hints.  It pours with a fair head of medium sized, lightly yellowing bubbles that fizzle down to about a quarter of a finger’s width.  In the light the beer is like a ruby red grapefruit color, with a dark, opaque body that seems a bit murky, and shows some nice, lazy bubbles running to the head.  The head leaves a light lacing of spatter marks on the sides of the glass. It’s a pretty beer. On the nose, the beer smells of a tart, earthy must. As the scent lingers in the nostrils I get more distinct notes of cherry and leather, much akin to a Flanders red, but subtler. Even subtler than the funk is soft vanilla and oak. A creamy, scentless sense seems to dominate the nose, which is a little bewildering to me. As the beer breathes, distinct lactic scents travel up from the glass to give the feel of a subtle Flanders red.  This smell is good but I want more of it!

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On the tongue, the beer tastes a bit like a muddled mess.  Almost middling tart acidity moves through bad funk notes with an odd, light bitterness that moves into smooth tannic bitterness, while a light, earthy salinity touches over the tongue.  The sweet, caramelly malt in the background is nice but a bit watery, leaving the beer without the balance of the great Flanders reds.  In flavor, the beer begins as tart, green apple with a bit of basement must.  The must grows to an unpleasant funk with plastic and medicinal notes to it.  Within the must there are intriguing hints of grass, hay, and loamy dirt, but these get caught up and jumbled into an odd sweetness, falling into a less desirable flavors.  The finish is of a rotting forest floor with musty leaves intertwining with decay and soft caramel notes, and the aftertaste is nice tannic oak with vanilla and very faint, light roast coffee.  This beer has a lot of potential, but just does not seem to pull its parts together.  In the mouth the beer feels on the light side of medium in body with a thin, lightly-watery mouthfeel that doesn’t fit the style well.  Carbonation is soft and smooth, and actually quite nice, though surprising given my bottles gushing opening.  The mouth is left fairly clean accept for light acid-canceling saliva.  Overall, this beer is a bit of a letdown.  It has subtlety and grace in the nose, but it muddles everything in the taste and never quite weaves them together.  I wonder if a bit more time in the bottle might have aided the beer along.  The beer definitely got better I drank it, developing more in tune to what the beer initially smelled like, and losing the weird plastic funk. It does have some interesting points for a seasoned sour/wild/etc… drinker, but is definitely not a beginner’s wild.  The more I drink of it the more I note a definite oaky tannin to the taste, which I actually deeply appreciate but it doesn’t seem to work with the rest of the beer.  I’m happy I tried it, and I hope it gets better in future batches, or perhaps with age, but for the time being I would say it is not good enough for its price point.

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3.5, B- in Style

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