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Friday, February 17, 2012

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone - Special Holiday Ale

Some Special Holiday Ales
I've mentioned before that one of my favorite things to do when it comes to collaboration brews is to establish a base recipe among the participants, then have them each go their own direction on them.  When it comes to professional collaborations more often then not only one beer is produced which for the most part doesn't seem to capture the individuality of either brewery.  There are a few exceptions to this one of which is the Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone - Special Holiday Ale.

The story behind these beers started back in 08 with a chance meeting of Greg Koch from Stone and Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne-Ø (the name translates to Naked Island) in a bar in Tokyo.  They got to talking and decided to brew a collaborative beer.  To complete the Stone collaborative triangle of power (let's call it the Triforce of Awesomeness) they invited Ron Jefferies from Jolly Pumpkin to take part with Mitch Steele taking the brewing duties for Stone.

The three brew masters ended up creating their own beer from the ground up including indigenous ingredient from each regions; White Sage (Stone), Juniper Berries (Nøgne-Ø) and Michigan Chestnuts (Jolly Pumpkin).

Triforce of Awesomeness
The first go-around was so successful that they decided to do it again, this time with the twist I love and the three travel to each others brewery to do the beer there.  This lead to the creation of three different beers with some of the tweaks being more subtitle then others.  The Jolly Pumpkin batch ended up being fermented with Brettanomyces and barrels giving it a nice sourness.

It was with this beer, known as Collababeire, that my tale with this beer start.  I was in Ohio on business when I ran across a bottle of it during a Stone event at Lizardville.  The Stone rep recommended it so I grabbed a bottle.  Soon after I ran across the Nøgne-Ø and knew I must complete the set for a side-by-side tasting.  Tracking down the Stone version wasn't too hard despite being retired for a couple of years, Carleton (SpdKil)hooked me up with a couple of bottles in my best trade to date.

The other night my tasting group came over and I decided to bust out the set to share with them.  Below are some of my small notes on each.


Special Holiday Ale - Stone Version

Appearance - Pours a garnet/mahogany color with a thin off white head. The head settles quickly. Nice clarity. Good lacing.

Aroma - Pretty strong aroma. Smells like a spiced (think holiday spice not pepper spice) beer.  Despite being a rye beer I don't really get much in the way of rye spice.

Mouthfeel - Low/Medium level of carbonation. Wouldn't guess it's 9%.  It somewhat dries out my mouth.

Taste - Overly spiced.  Large aftertaste of the spice. Very rich and malty.  I get a little of the rye but it's overpowered by the spices used.  The juniper is very dominate.

Overall - Not my favorite winter ale/warmer but still better then a lot of the other ones I've had.  Out of the three versions I tasted this ranks third in all categories.

Special Holiday Ale - Nøgne Ø Version

Appearance - Pours a ruby/mahogany color with a thin tan head which settles quickly. Nice clarity. Good lacing. A fluffy head forms in the bottle as it waits for the next person to have a pour.

Aroma - Right of the bat I can detect a difference with this beer from the Stone version.  Where Stone's level of spice was what I would describe as hard this one is more smooth.  I wonder if it is an age issue. I like the more tame aroma.

Mouthfeel - Medium level of carbonation. Definitely more carbonated then the Stone version which really works for the beer.

Taste - No hops to balance out the high level of spices. Very malty. No Rye. The juniper is more tame then the Stone version.  Does a great job in covering up the 9% abv in the beer.

Overall - Much more enjoyable then the Stone version.  Out of the three versions this one ranks first for taste and second for aroma.  

Collababeire Special Holiday Ale - Jolly Pumpkin Version

Appearance - Pours a dark garnet.  Much darker then the other two. The off white head halos the glass nicely and produces a nice lace.

Aroma - Nice subtle level of sourness on the nose.  Very pleasant.  Absolutely the best aroma out of the bunch.  I've really gotten into sours and this is the aroma I love.  It plays really nicely with the spices in the beer which are still very much present. 

Mouthfeel - Nice level of tongue covering slickness.  More carbonation then the others.  I still don't feel like I'm drinking a 9% beer.

Taste - This is where for me the beer falls flat on it face only because the aroma set it up with some much promise for me.  I just don't think the sourness from the brett plays very well with the sage and juniper.  

Overall - The whole thing is somewhat messy.  It's still very drinkable but the aroma is a lie of what is to come.  Out of the three versions this one ranks first for aroma second for taste. 

Overall Tasting Assessment

I was quite pleased to be able to have been able to do this tasting.  From the standpoint of having three brewers come together, create new beer and then each put their own perspective on it, this series of beer is an absolute success.  Going in I'd had multiple beers from each of these breweries and it was clear who did what.  The Jolly Pumpkin version tasted like a Jolly Pumpkin beer, the Nøgne-Ø version tasted like a Nøgne-Ø beer and event he Stone version came off as a Stone beer. Very well done.

This is what I love to see in the world of brewing both at the homebrew scale and the professional level.  I wish this occurred in every professional collaboration.  

1 comment:

  1. Just think, if I wasn't already booked for the Cirque du Soleil Ovo show, I would have been at your tasting too. Sad but true. However, the Ovo show is one of Cirque's best - there's some consolation.


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