La Roja | Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

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La RojaLa Roja

Brewed by:
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Michigan, United States

Style: American Wild Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
An artisan amber ale brewed in the Flanders tradition. Deep amber with earthy caramel, spice, and sour fruit notes developed through natural barrel aging. Unfiltered, unpasteurized and blended from barrels ranging in age from two to ten months.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-14-2004

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Reviews: 789 | Ratings: 1,982
Photo of IceAce
4.42/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle w/o code dating

Pours a body of medium brown with no distinct traces of mahogany or red. The thick merangue-like light tan foam leaves spotty lace trails inside a beer-ready tulip glass. The nose is rich with rum-soaked cherries that Michigan is so famous well as deep oak, malt, and a fiesty Belgian yeast.

Entry is exciting with the tongue bathed in just-right carbonation and displays a mouthfeel which thickens as this brew warms. Midtaste is where this brew really begins to shine as textured caramel malt gives way to Grandma's spice drawer.

The finish is complex and shows a wonderful tartness which must be a reflection of oak aging and bottle-conditioning. The fade is dry and full of bountiful yeasties.

While many have seemed disapointed with this offering, I am impressed with the wonderful complexity and grace shown by this bottle. I'd love to pair this with a friend and about 8 ounces of aged Maytag Bleu.

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Photo of AltBock
4.11/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this beer, besides for my own pleasure, for an odd reason: A cat's birthday. And it isn't even mine! It's actually fellow BA and Beerfly guide for Mexico, Pepeton's cat. His name is Erik the Red and he's turning 2 years old today, which would be somewhere in the vicinity of 14 in cat years. I thought this beer would be fitting to celebrate Erik's birthday because this a 750, a cartoon picture of Erik is on the label (only if Erik walked up right, wore pirate clothes, and was a captain of a pirate ship) and a variation of his name is the name of the beer. La Roja means "The Red" in Spanish, but only in feminine. If you wanted to get technical Erik would actually be El Rojo and not La Roja. There is a back black label (without Erik) that describes the brewery, their brewing process, and a small description of the beer itself. The bottle wasn't corked, but was capped with a bright cap bottle cap. The label is funny and great and something you need to see for yourself in real life.

Appearance: When poured into a Snifter, the beer was a beautiful dark ruby red color with a nice 1 to 1.5 inch head of white foam. The head of foam had great retention leaving behind plenty of white foamy rings and white sticky lace in it's tracks. Another way I can describe the color is that, look at Erik on the label. Just a tad bit higher shade of red and that is the color of the beer.

Smell: It was a good aroma, but there was not much going on in the aroma department. The aroma was sour, but not a bad sour. The type of sour aroma that you might get from a red beer aged in oak barrels. Other than the sour aroma of cherries and apples, there was just a slight oak aroma in the background. That was it.

Taste: It wasn't too tart, but still tart and sweet with many different types of fruits in the beginning. I had hard time trying to figure out what tart fruits were in this. Other than the tart fruits, there was also different varieties of spices and just a slight and I mean slight taste of caramel at the end. For me, not every sip of this beer ended with that slight taste of caramel. Every once in a while the caramel would pop up and say "here I am." A very unique and acquired taste.

Mouthfeel: Nicely carbonated with a slight aftertaste of those different varieties of sweet tart fruits. Like a red cat ready to pounce, the alcohol content will sneak up on you, only if you drink the entire 750 like I did.

Drinkability: Like I said before this beer had a very unique and acquired taste. If you don't like sour tart beers then you probably wouldn't like this beer. I like sour tart beer and that's why I really enjoyed this beer and polished off the entire 750 by myself. A nice way to celebrate the birthday of a cat with a beer that shares a variation of his name! Happy birthday Pepeton's cat Erik!!! If your bored, drop a beermail to Pepeton and congratulate the birthday of his cat!!! He'll appreciate that. :-)

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Photo of shbobdb
3.04/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

So this is the controversial Jolly Pumpkin. I've gotta say -- what's the big deal?

It tastes like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale to me. Sure, there is a sourness at the end, but I wouldn't call it overpowering. I only really notice it when I lick my lips. Otherwise, it, well, pretty much tastes like any other BSDA on the market.

Not being a huge fan of the style, perhaps both its uniqueness and controversiality is lost on me, but I don't get it.

Big beer, lots of yeast funk, a touch of flavour from rich dark malts, all those I see as normal. The mouthfeel is much rounder and fuller than I've come to expect from beers loaded with sugar, so that's a bonus. Killer head retention. Touch of sourness, a bit of a brett bite at the end.

I think its a wonderful example of how hardcore bugbeers can be made to taste, well, like non-bug beers.

In that respect, mission accomplished.

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Photo of tavernjef
3.96/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Heavy amber, ruby browned color with a moderate capping of dulled white, creamy foam. Stays atop for a good while before slipping to its always present skim. Minimal lacing in inky strings and a few spots.

Aroma is fair, clean, and light with a fruity, sweetly, oaken tart essense of apple, cherry, and wine-like grapeness.

Taste is mellow and even with a firm fruity grip of oaky tart flavors, kinda wine-like in composition. Tangy, mild, yet grabbing with a solid tone of tart fruityness. Cherry, berries, apple, and white grape make a nice display within a oaky tart warmth. Slow finish with a low and easy gradual dryness adding a bit of deeper earthyness to its tartness as it fades off the back end leaving the skins and pits of the fruits once tasted.

Feel is semi tarting, sharp, oaky, and rounded in a medium/fullish body with plenty of carbonation grab and prickly hold. Full fruity warmth late with some peppery phenols and earthy spice dancing around late. Quite a nice ride on the palate. Eagar, somehow mellow, but not, firm, holding, oaky, spicy, earthy, and oh, did I mention tart and grapey? Well its all that and more.

A nice brew. Exquisitely complex with lots of body. A slow sipper thats sure to raise some eyebrows for those who like beers that tend to be like wine. Which I tend to think this is. Cuz I swear I had a glass of white wine(Chardonnay) that taste just like this the other night. Weirdly interesting stuff.

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Photo of Phatz
4.15/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

(I LOVE BRETT) Thanks to Woody Chandler for sharing this fantastic brew. I had a sample of La Roja and boy did it leave an impression on me. I now need to learn more about Brettanomyces Lambicus yeast strain, and beer that use it wow! I really enjoyed this one.

Appearance: Pours with a amber - ruby color bordering sienna with highlights when help to the light. It had a 2 finger frothy beige head that leaves a nice cap.

Smell: It had a unique tart Lambicus aroma (like berries) that I was told is the Brett. Nice I like it.

Taste: One stand out attribute was the numbing tartness that ever so gently pushed your tongue into a tingle. The flavor is big but nimble and active and keeps your mind racing to catch up. Overall it was sweet malty and gently sour. I got some oak and cherries, before my beer got up and walked away ;-) It is a complex and tasty beer that I will need to have again to fully wrap my mind around it.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation combines with the tart active flavors to give a certain prickly nature to it.

Drinkability: A Belgian Strong Dark Ale with Lambic Flanders, attributes. How drinkable could it be? If you don't mind the tartness it is very drinkable.

Hope this is helpful.

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.78/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 750ml brown glass flat bottomed flask bottle sealed with a small red crown cap. Colorful cartoon like label has a “Puss in Boots” type character leaning against a large Ships Wheel. Listed as an ‘Artisanal Amber Ale’, Barrel Aged and Bottle-Conditioned with a strength of 7.2%.

Back of the label states:
“La Roja, an artisan amber ale produced in the Biere de Garde tradition. Rich and warming with undertones of caramel, fruit and spice, truly an ale of grace and distinction. Enjoy!”

Appearance: Muddied red-brown start clears to a fiery dark copper body; the clarity soon showcases a feisty Champagne-like streamer laden body which seems to scream life. Lovely creamy head, beige in color but composed of fine intensely small bubbles which carpet the upper surface and form a meniscus at the edges of the glass. Smooth Belgian style lacing on the walls seems to last.

Nose: Saturated with sour aromas, oak and a hint of lambic base sit in the background. Cherries and acidic berries mix into the base to add a sour fruit dimension that is rather appealing. Low strength tartness retains some sweetness in its presentation.

Taste: Sharp wood soaked entrance with a berry laden tartness which is medium strength. Dry feel in the middle, lactic tartness, nutty fruits seem to benefit from a hop input in the finish. Astringent at times, never quite the balanced brew, but it has some appealing qualities which intrigue me. The finish has a little vanilla oak in the lingering tart death.

Mouthfeel: Supporting carbonation adds a prickly feel to the texture on the tongue. Always exudes an internal confident tartness, but it never seems to upset the front stroke and manages to handle the square balls quite easily.

Drinkability: The tart character never seems to stick its head above the parapet, it’s a fine border line affair that displays a weak Flanders Red nature or a funky Farmyard Amber dimension, depending on your point of view, I’m all for the former - but it doesn’t step up to the plate in sufficient numbers to be counted, but I could handle a few bottles of this one no worries.

Overall: I’m no style junkie but exactly as to how this is an Amber Bière de Garde somehow confuses me slightly, I’m not sure that I am that familiar with that many examples of a barrel-aged Amber BdG. Moreover, it seems to exhibit far more of a Flanders Red character, which I’m not complaining about, in fact I think it falls more comfortably into this category. That said it’s far from perfect, bolster the body, clean up the finish and magnify the tartness a tad and this could be quite the brew. Right now it seems to be “A Half a Dozen of One and Six of the Other”, neither here nor there, a little confused in its identity.

All said, an enjoyable brew that I seemed to like more than most, oh well, I’ve never been mainstream or popular, so what the heck?! Despite its shortcomings, I like it. Cheers Joe!!!

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Photo of Westsidethreat
4.15/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Appears as a cloudy tucson red. The head is offwhtie and very respectable. Currently a good 1/4 inch and holding strong.

S: Sweet, sour and brett. Hints of cherries, bubblegum, raspberries, tea and honeydew melon.

T: Lots of sweetness. Gentle stawberry, apricot, ethanol and subtle carmely vanilla with a nice aftertaste of bubblegum.

M: Quality mouthfeel, good bouyancy, nice carbonation

D: More good work by JP. Very enjoyable and drinkable.

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Photo of beermanbrian
3.62/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle

Redish brown color with a tan head. Heavy streams of carbonation. Smell is initially sour cherries which is followed by oak aged whisky flavor. Also get a hint of yeastyness. Taste also starts our sour but then the caramel malt flavors take over. Also a hint of peppery spicyness comes out. Somewhat fizzy mouthfeel due to the high carbonation level. This is my first Jolly Pumpkin and while it didnt' blow me away it left me wanting to try others. It borders on being something special but falls just short. I anticipate that one of their brews is going to hit the mark with me.

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Photo of edchicma
4.05/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A good, solid brew. It pours a dark ruby with a great head and very bice carbonation. Smell is very interesting...malty, sour cherries, oak, whiskey? Tasete follows the same line as the smell, with a very nice tart quality. Mouthfeel is nice, with a very nice dry finish. Not too bad on the drinkability scale, either..great dry finsih makes me want for more.

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Photo of TastyTaste
2.55/5  rDev -36.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

750 ml capped bottle with a cool Puss-in-Boots label.

Appearance: Striking kool-aid red body, huge off-white head which leads a lot of lace as it fades. Streams of carbonation make their way to the surface.

Smell: Sour fruit smell, I wasn't expecting something like a Flemish sour. Not bad vs. that style, but not much like a BSDA should be.

Taste: Sour and citric, malty and earthy, a little carmel. The flavor has a slight metallic twang to it as well. Very tart, this beer starts to get on your nerves as the level in the bottle drops, kind of makes you wish for a traditional BSDA.

Drinkability: Well, this beer is just eccentric enough to not be A) Good or B) worth the money for the bottle.

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Photo of patrick16o
3.56/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle. Pours an earthy red tone with a thick, pillowly light tan crown. A tad bit hazy with good head retention. The aroma has hints of plum, citrus, and spice. I find the flavor quite difficult to discribe. It is tart, sour, and citrusy, with maybe a hint of caramel and malt. Very unique, unexpected taste. Mouthfeel and drinkability are good.

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Photo of ggaughan
3.97/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served from a 750 ml bottle at a cousins wedding over the weekend. The beer poured a redish/orange color, a bit hazy, with a bubbly body and a bit of a white head. The aroma is a bit tart and citrusy. The taste is bready and zesty with citrus notes but not as much as the aroma. The body is medium and quite drinkable.

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Photo of Bighuge
2.56/5  rDev -35.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Dim scarlet red. Small beaded streams of carbonation rise very rapidly. The light tan head is fluffy and airy. Good retention is noted. Lacing is quite nice. Aroma is funky, sour, vinegar like and a little vegetal. Flavor is sour, vegetal, funky, tart, acidic, tannic and really not that appealing to me overall. Mouthfeel is quite carbonated. Fizzy feel to it. Airy and a bit gaseous. Light body. I'll pass.

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Photo of DrJay
4.27/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Slightly hazed, deep orange/red colour with clumpy, off-white head. Good retention. Light caramel and toffee aromas play well against some wood and vanilla, giving it a definite whiskey character. Flavour is on the sweet side with plenty going on - caramel, vanilla, oak, apples, sour cherries, tobacco. A light, balanced tartness is evident throughout and pulls all these flavours together. Medium body and carbonation, sligthly creamy. Quite interesting - this one really worked for me.

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Photo of Viggo
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a slightly hazy red/orange, medium white head, goes pretty fast, but leaves lots of spider web lacing, settles to a ring. Smell is bourbon, vanilla and oak, caramel, some sour acidity and citrus in the finish. Taste is tart and acidic, caramel, oak and vanilla, bourbon, some more citrus. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with high carbonation. Really different and really nice, not what I was expecting from it, but Jolly Pumpkin can do no wrong in my mind. Thanks DrJay!

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Photo of ADR
3.78/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Murky ginger brown appearance, nice thick head with lots of substance to it. laces thickly, like steamed milk. Tart aroma, fruits but with some warmth alongside, somewhat like lots of perspiration in woolen socks. Light body, carbonation is plenty active. Quick sense of yeasty funkiness and astringency, cherry flavors, but with an ever-present backing of unsweetened chocolate, enough to catch in the back of the throat. Some decided senses of toasted Wheat Chex. What strikes me most about this beer is an early complexity with aroma enhancement, but a relatively simple and diminished close to the profile. Certainly not a run-of-the-mill brew, I'll leave the sense of "charm" to the cheerleaders. Good drinkability, nothing is offensive, despite thinking more was coming.

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Photo of MaltyGoodness
3.23/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750ml bottle

Pours a hazy dark brown with some ruby highlights. Has a thick tan head that maintains. Lots of bubbles are visible from the abundant carbonation. Thick lacing on the glass.

Aroma is malty and bready with a dark fruitiness and a hint of sourness.

Taste is lightly malty and bready upfront with less fruitiness than in the aroma. It finishes dry with a mildly sour bite at the end.

Body is rich and creamy with plenty of carbonation.

Well, this is my least favorite of the Jolly Pumpkin offerings that I have tried. It's not a bad beer, but just a bit off for the style. The sourness is more what I would expect from a lambic.

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Photo of VoodooBrew
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

La Roja pours semi-murky brown with a good dose of head. On the nose is raisin, complex malt aromas, and big-time alcohol. These elements find their way onto the palate as well, with raisin and alcohol -- you know, the usual. A generous dallop of malt is chased by more of that boozy goodness. La Roja drinks quite smoothly. No reason to turn this one down.

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Photo of PatYoda
3.99/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a turbid reddish brown with a decent head that lasts for awhile and leaves some lacing. The smell is very interesting. A medicinal yeasty character comes out, but a grapefruity sourness and a peppery aroma are also there.

The taste is complex and unique. At first, when the beer was cooler, the thick bready and caramelly malt came out more, but now as it warms, the malt is still there, but I do get some sourness as well. Some apricot makes an appearance, and there's also a spiced rum flavor. In the finish, a pure hoppy bitterness takes over and combines with the medicinal flavor to create a somewhat unpleasant biting sensation. This would have definitely been a 4.5 besides that.

I'm definitely also enjoying the mouthfeel. Medium bodied with just the right amount of carbonation. Drinkability is good.

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Photo of Gavage
3.99/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a cloudy amber color with thin 1/2" head that immediately drops to a surface foam. No lacing develops.

Smell: caramels and ripe fruits.

Taste: caramel, ripe plums, hints of vanilla, mild bitterness, yeast, and a light sourness all wrapped in an earthy tone. Very differnent and interesting.

Mouthfeel: crisp at the start and finish. The aftertaste is short with the the caramel and fruits. Medium in body.

Drinkability: nicely drinkable, even though it is a bit on the funky side. Definitely worth a look.

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Photo of akorsak
3.38/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am drinking a 750mL capped bottle poured into a Westvleteren goblet. The ale is slightly below room temperature.

Appearance: The ale is a deep auburn color, with ruby red hints when held to the light.

Smell: The ale has a bitter, tart aroma. Think cantillon, but toned down a bit. That gives the ale a bit of a cherry-esque aroma, similar to Liefmans Goudenband. Not to shabby.

Taste: The tart aroma continues into the taste. The biggest contract between this and a sour flemish red is that the ale actually tastes good. The aged, naturally fermented flavor is slightly sweet while making you pucker up a bit. I think that the ale gets dinged a bit (both in smell and taste) because the components of this ale are that of a Flemish red or oud bruin, not a BSDA. If the ale were classified as a Flanders red, I'd give it 4's on smell and taste.

Mouthfeel: The sour cherry flavor makes one pucker up, and then instinctively reach for another sip.

Drinkability: The ale is drinkable, although the sour notes can be a bit much after a while.

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Photo of phishgator
3.42/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This poured into a oint glass with a deep orange/copper hue. Unfiltered with a slight chill haze. The aroma is that of a wet blanket, musky. The taste is unmistakenly tart, just like any other spontaenously fermented brew that I've had! It's a little bolder with it's malt content, but the tart dominiants. The mouthfeel is slick like yogurt coating your entire mouth. All that being said I think one shared (750 ML) is enough for a sitting. An interesting brew to try.

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Photo of Crosling
3.67/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark Red. Aroma is very medicinal, and shows caramel, pit fruit, malt and subtle hopping. This has a distinctive house character that I also noticed with Oro De Calabaza. It’s unique, or weird, either one. Notes of wine stained oak, caramel, medicines, cherries, toasted malts and noble hop (algae, herbs). Just like others, I see a lot of potential with Jolly Pumpkin but nothing I have had so far has been exceptional.

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Photo of RedHaze
4.5/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy reddish/brown with a one inch off-white head that settles slowly to thick cap and ring that never fades away, and leaves behind a thick sheet of lace.

Smell; wow, I can really smell oak and tannins in this, along with some vanilla, caramel and some pepper. There's some dark fruits in the background, and I think I'm getting some hints of coconut. This smells great.

Taste; the oak barrel flavors really stand out on the first few sips, but the other flavors come out as this warms. Vanilla and coconut, as well as plums and caramel all show up along with a bit of that Belgian yeasty funkiness. The wood from the barrels mingles with a nice peppery spiciness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and creamy, and it's a bit on the dry side.

This is a very good beer from Jolly Pumpkin, and I will definitely be seeking out more of this on my next visit to Michigan.

Edit 03 Sep 06. I have to say that every time I revisit this beer there's always somethig different about the flavor than the previous bottle. The oe I'm drinking now is more sour/tart than any of the previous bottles that I've had, and I like just as much as I have in the past, even with the differences. Ron's beers always seem to be an adventure.

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Photo of Ego
4.32/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

now available @ oak tree buy rite (edison nj)

this beer has an audible crackle when poured, so much so I had to sit there and hold my ear to the glass to enjoy it.. the head fades quickly however to nothing. deep dark and red , like an angry irish bitch... nothing too special too look at but better than average

sour bubble gum, peppery like a shiraz, really this smells like a peppered rodenbach. there is a touch of belgian funk in there as well. a really interesting nose.

taste etc...
very much like rodenbach but different in the finish.. wetter if you will. It also has a very funk component compared to rodenbach. The barrel aging smooths this out and makes it very drinkable, the acrid nature of it sneaks up and really activates your saliva glands. This was totally not what I was expecting from this beer! The carbonation is perfect here, where as I find some belgian dark ales a bit lacking carbonation wise this is nicely done, more active than most. The complexity is brilliant, each sip reveals different characters in this play of flavors. A little bit of salt from some chips brings out the sour nature, on it's own it leans more towards the funky belgian tradition with a little spicy bite. This is absolutely delicious. The ABV is a mere afterthought here, I am sure when I try to get up I will feel it but this beer is an island of sirens seducing me into submission.

hell. yes.
I will be going out tommorow in the AM to pick up more of this fine brew. What she lacks in looks she delivers where it counts. outstanding.

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La Roja from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
3.99 out of 5 based on 1,982 ratings.
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