I’m an unabashed lover of Michigan beers. When I visit the state, my first stop is to the local beer store to stock up. When I drive back to Cincinnati, I won’t hesitate to go 30 minutes out of my way to stock up on Short’s or Dark Horse or Acadia before crossing back into Ohio.
So yesterday, when Men’s Journal released their Best Beers In The World list, I opened the link with some suspicion. I assumed Pliny the Elder would be first and that the other beers would be fairly predictable. If a Michigan beer were on the list, it’d be Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (an incredible IPA, and one named in honor of Hemingway, to boot) or Founder’s Dirty Bastard, the two most well-regarded Michigan beers. But I was wrong. Pliny the Elder was not first (it was second), and Founder’s and Bell’s were nowhere on the list. And there at the number four position was a beer from my (current) favorite Michigan brewer: Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza (a Belgian golden ale).
I got turned on to Jolly Pumpkin shortly after college by a friend named JonnyD, a slightly crazed-looking Dutchman who travels by cross-country skis in the winter. Jonny likes his beers to be a bit on the extreme side, and indeed Jolly Pumpkin fits the bill. They do not sell six packs—only 750mL bottles. Their beers are decidedly sour, due to the wild yeast they use in the brewing process. But once I started approaching them like a good wine, I couldn’t stop buying them and stocking them in my basement. (Thankfully, the Party Source has a good supply.) And it’s not just the Oro de Calabaza worth drinking. Jolly Pumpkin’s pumpkin beer is the best of that variety that I’ve ever tried. Their Bam Biere farmhouse ale is my go-to, fancy dinner beer because of the way the spicy and sour notes bring out the best in food. Their Calabaza Blanca (a Belgian white) is the perfect drink for the back porch at the end of a long day.
None of the beers are tame enough to drink for more than a couple glasses (though if you plan on trying, I’d happily join), but for that first glass, it’s hard to find anything better.