Wednesday, August 8, 2012

[Beerie] Ron Jeffries on Sobrehumano Palena 'Ole

It may be one of the ugliest labels Jolly Pumpkin has ever produced (which is particularly unfortunate given that they are known for their artwork), but Sobrehumano Palena 'Ole -- a collaboration brew between Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Maui Brewing Company -- is 2012's Beer of the Year, and you might as well start believing me now because you're going to have to believe me later. (What, you think I saved this one solely for my blog? Come on.)

I recently had the chance to speak with Jolly Pumpkin's head brewer and founder Ron Jeffries, and after the obligatory background chat I then launched into the question I had been burning to ask: "ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE SOBREHUMANO AGAIN????"

But first some background.

Maui Brewing Company had been discussing their possible collaboration brews for 2012 and were tossing the names of some potential partner breweries around. Maui's lead brewer John Walsh is originally from Michigan and named Jolly Pumpkin as his number one pick. Ron (who likes to practice "Hawaiian time" himself) was into the idea, and together they decided to contribute the unique flavors of their respective home states to this collabobrew -- from Maui, lilik'oi (a native Hawaiian passion fruit); from Michigan, cherries.

"It was a really challenging beer to brew," Ron says, specifically because of the two fruits (the tartness of the lilik'oi and the sweetness of the cherries). "Every single barrel we did tasted different. I had to create 10 different blends that tasted the same; it was quite the challenge. The blends are all slightly different but really close. [Because the beer is non-pasteurized and non-filtered], with aging and depending on how it's stored you'll get different flavors still."

The result? A zippy-tart, lushly tropical, bright, effervescent summer fun time light-drinking treat for grown-ups. I would drink it on a plane. I would drink it watching Bane. I would drink it on a boat. I would drink it eating goat. I would drink it in a car (even though I wouldn't get far). I would drink it on a train. I would drink it in the rain. I would drink it on an ark. I would drink it in the dark. I would drink it on a mare. I would drink it here and there and everywhere.

So...will he make it again? "I'm not planning on doing it again, but I could be convinced."'re telling me THERE'S A CHANCE???

He offers that he could maybe do one batch and make it a pub special, but as of right now he just doesn't have the space to make any more. ****BUT**** once they're in their shiny new 70,000 square foot brewing facility there will be a LOT more room. And Ron has been convinced to re-brew something he had considered as a one-off before: the Baudelaire series' iO - a style Ron likes to think of as a "red saison" brewed with hibiscus, rose hips and rose petals - was meant to be a "one-shot" but then he was petitioned by fans to brew it again, and now distributes it still in limited release but much greater quantities.

So: there's a chance.

Whether Ron decides to do it again or not (could use a little help persuading him here, guys), it will still be about two years before we see it again. Because of the freak weather we had this spring (80+ degree temps which teased the fruit tree blooms out a bit too early, followed by a frost that decimated them) Michigan cherries are hard to come by this year. Plus the beer has to age in oak barrels for a year, so even if we're very convincing we still have a long wait ahead of us, which means it's time to stock up. I have a bottle of 2012 KBS and a bottle of 2012 Devil Dancer and I'm willing to make trades.

As for Jolly Pumpkin, it was the first 100% oak barrel-aged sour brewery in the country and still to this day is the ONLY 100% oak barrel-aged sour brewery in the country, though there are significantly more breweries experimenting with sours now compared to when Jolly Pumpkin first opened in 2004. "People will ask me, 'How big do you want the brewery to be?'" Ron says. "My answer has always been, 'I'll make as much sour beer as people want to drink.'" If my predictions prove true (sour beer: it's gonna be the next thing), Ron's about to get a whole lot busier.