For the second year in a row, sour beer purveyor Jolly Pumpkin was awarded the honor of hosting Zwanze Day by Brasserie Cantillion. The event was held at the Null Taphouse in Dexter, Mi where Jolly Pumpkin brews their signature funky ales.
Zwanze Day is a day when select breweries in the United States are given the opportunity to share a tapping of the Zwanze lambic with their local customers. Each year the base lambic is brewed with a different distillation. This year, the lambic was brewed with oolong tea. While I did not attend Zwanze day this year for a taste of the sought after Cantillion brew, I did visit the tap house after the event for the opportunity to sample a special series brewed by Jolly Pumpkin.
To celebrate the event, Jolly Pumpkin brewed 12 (13?) special beers and named them the David Bowie Series. All of the beers, except for one, were on draft and available at the tap house only. The last, Track 13, was released in bottles and sold on Zwanze Day. All of the beers were brewed using the same base, then separated and fermented with different recipes to give them each unique characteristics.
Once a very niche style, sours have come into their own in recent years. They were the first style of beer that I found to be genuinely enjoyable for their taste and they continue to be my favorite style to this day. Jolly Pumpkin has released a few different “series”…there’s a Bam series, a letter series, a baudelaire series. The series seem to be connected at the base, then diverge at the fermentation. Based only on my history drinking Jolly Pumpkin brews, this seems to be their biggest series in terms of variety and yet their smallest in terms of production size. I did not get to sample all of the tracks in the David Bowie Series, but I sampled enough of them to know that this is one of the funkier Jolly Pumpkin bases!
Track 2 was brewed with noni, acai, and mangosteen. This was sour beer meets multi-level marketing – but it worked! The noni was probably the most forward flavor…for anyone who is familiar with the taste of noni. But, the three together gave an almost soothing background to the base. This was the first of the tracks that I tried and it would soon become apparent just what the actual base was.
Track 4 was brewed with sinmar, blackberries and coffee. This was easily the smoothest of the tracks that I sampled. The coffee, of which I am normally not a fan, really tamed the beer and turned it into something I could sip slowly and savor. The funk of the base was still evident, but it was not as forward in this beer as it was in the others. I almost did not try this track but I’m glad that I did. It ended up probably being my favorite track of the flight.
Track 7 was brewed with elderberries and combined with another Jolly Pumpkin beer, Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender. If Track 2 was the most civilized, Track 7 was the most rambunctious of the blends! The funk was more forward than the others and turned this beer into a great showcase of the sour craft! Where Track 4 could be sipped slowly, even at room temperature, the crispness of Track 7 was best enjoyed very cold. Overall, this was a very refreshing beer!
Track 8 was brewed with ginger, apricot, lime and palm sugar. It was at about this point that I realized I was consuming 8.4% abv beers. The lime was the most forward in this one. I think. I remember liking it a lot. Track 8 had a lot of crisp flavors accompanying the lime and the funk showed up strong.
I finished the series with Track 11; brewed with black lava salt and dark candi sugar. This track had an almost gose-like quality. It was crisp and slightly bitter. This was probably my least favorite. That’s not to say it was bad – I probably still gave it something in the 4’s on Untapped – but if I’m going to declare a favorite, it’s only fair I declare a least favorite.
I don’t know if we will see any of this series again in the future (I hope we do). As I mentioned before, there was a bottled track – Track 13. Track 13 was brewed with starfruit, raspberries, and red lava salt. I did manage to buy a bottle, but the cool thing about sours that usually isn’t true for other brewing styles – they continue to funk in the bottle. So, while most beers age like bread, sours tend to age like wine. I’m in no hurry to open Track 13.