Noel De Calabaza is brewed by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan. This beer is released once a year around the Holidays. Unlike other “Christmas” beers, this ale features no spices or adjuncts. Like all Jolly Pumpkin brews, this beer is open-fermented and aged in oak barrels. Batch 903, bottled 10-3-11. 9% Alcohol by volume. Enjoyed on 11-23-11
The beer pours a murky brownish-red, with a little bit of green (yes, green!) in certain lighting. It had a huge khaki head that had tiny bubbles, which is expected from a bottle-conditioned brew. There was a very loud pop when it was opened, a sure sign of heavy carbonation. Overall, the beer is pretty typical of a bottle conditioned Belgian-style Dark Ale.
Bring on the funk! Sweaty hay comes out on the first few sniffs. There’s a slight lactic acid that follows – ah, this is definitely a Jolly Pumpkin beer. There’s a big cheese/barnyard aroma, as well as some earthy dirt notes. Slight spicy notes reminiscent of Belgian yeast phenols come out. There is a big Greek yogurt smell – slightly sour and cheese-like. Definitely lots of funk in this one. Reading these descriptions may sound gross, but there’s nothing “off” about the smell of this beer. The aromas are different if you are not used to funky beers. There is nothing unpleasant about this beer’s aroma.
More funk – sourness comes through at first. It’s not puckering but more of a slight tartness. It’s a nice acidic/citrus sourness, sort of like lemon juice or plain yogurt. Beyond the sour flavors, there’s a nice Belgian yeast character. It’s got the dry and spicy black pepper taste of a beer brewed with Belgian yeast. There’s some lovely dark fruit notes in there. The yogurt flavor comes through on the tongue. Alcohol? There appears to be none in this brew.
This starts off with some nice sweetness, then finishes a very dry, crisp, and refreshing brew. It drinks very easily considering the sour/funky flavors. There’s a lot of carbonation, which is appropriate for a dry beer like this. There is some slight warmth from the alcohol, which makes this a contradictory beer that is refreshing yet warming. This beer satisfies a lot.
This beer is awesome! It’s got no spices or other Holiday goodies, yet it still feels like a special treat. It’s really refreshing for a 9% beer but also lets one sit back and sip it. Jolly Pumpkin has got all kinds of funky seasonal brews, and this is one that I would highly recommend during the cold winter months. Heck, I would recommend this beer any time!
SCORE: ★★★★ 4/5