A Sour Paradise on Chicago's South Side
Sour beers are very trendy right now, with a ton of breweries trying their hand at them. To really understand the sour craze, you have to go back to one of the OGs…Jolly Pumpkin. Lucky for me, Chicago has its very own Jolly Pumpkin location!
A little backstory on my history with Jolly Pumpkin (I’ll keep it brief I promise!) I actually had my first ever sour beer at the Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor. It was the perfect introductory to sours, not overly sour but definitely different than the beers I had tried before! When I found out that one had opened in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, I was ecstatic! It’s basically a little piece of my home state that followed me to Chicago! Jolly Pumpkin actually has 7 locations with their newest being the Hyde Park location that opened in 2017. Since their opening they have made some changes to better accommodate the people of Chicago.
As you all know, Chicago is a pretty great place for beer…but its also a pretty great place for food! One thing I really loved about Jolly Pumpkin is that their menu is elevated above your typical bar/brewery food. They really have some creative options on their menu that you should take advantage of! My favorite menu item is their pizza! Honestly you can’t go wrong with any of them! I had the Brussels Pizza and the South Pacific (ingredients below if you’re interested!) Have you ever seen brussel sprouts on a pizza?! I haven’t so I obviously had to try it. Both options were absolutely delicious! One thing to note is that JP is really trying to be inclusive of their vegetarian and vegan customers. So much so that they have added many new menu and even beer options! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the vegan beer but it is a super interesting concept! Another big change they have made recently is going full-service. Instead of ordering at the counter, you now have a server that will bring you everything you need! This makes the whole process seamless and much more relaxing.
Brussels: olive oil, shaved brussel sprouts, goat cheese, sautéed onion, mozzarella, toasted almonds, and chili infused honey.
South Pacific: bacon, candied pineapple, jalapeno, shaved red onion, mozzarella, chipotle tomato sauce, black sesame seeds, and scallions.
Let’s get to your favorite part….the beer! First off, Jolly Pumpkin is the first all sour brewery in the US. They began in 2004 and age only in oak barrels. What I find really impressive is the range of styles and flavors they are able to produce with the restrictions of being only sour and only oak aged. Somehow, they find a way to keep things interesting while keeping them funky. One thing I want to note is that none of their beers are overly sour, they are all very well-balanced and flavor focused beers. That being said, if beer isn’t your thing (or your friends thing) they have a few brews that really resemble other alcoholic beverages. For example, La Roja feels very much like a red wine; and if wine isn’t your thing, they even have a Mai Tai inspired beer that they created with Stillwater Artisanal.
Let’s talk about a few of my favorite brews!
La Roja- Sour Flanders Red 7.2% ABV
I’ll be honest, I don’t usually enjoy red ales. There isn’t a specific reason why, I just have never enjoyed them. This beer was the first red that I enjoyed! For me it almost tasted more like a red wine than a red ale, which is maybe why. It has really nice fruit flavors, that vary based on the variant you get. I heard they also have a boysenberry version which sounds delightful!
Parcellatte- Pumpkin Ale 5.5% ABV
I’ve had a lot of pumpkin beers, especially in the fall. One thing that I don’t see very often is pumpkin latte beers! JP took a fall classic and changed it up with the addition of coffee and lactose! I loved that no single flavor stole the show, instead they came together and made a well-balanced interesting brew.
Bam Biere- Farmhouse 4.5% ABV
This one is a JP classic, I had heard of this beer even before I visited the Ann Arbor location all those years ago. Bam Biere has everything you want in this style, amazing funky flavors and a low ABV. The yeast profile is really nice and adds a touch of spice. If you like farmhouses, you definitely need to try this beer!
Habitante Espiritu- White IPA 7.9% ABV
I hadn’t really heard of blending IPAs before but man does this beer work well! They blended Grizzly Peak’s Dweller (IPA) with their own Oro de Calabaza (Belgian strong) and aged it in oak. The product is a nice balance of citrus, tart and a slightly bitter finish. Definitely a great white IPA!