|L to R: Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak, Jolly Pumpkin|
Yesterday I had a chance to try all three versions of FoolBrew Spiced Belgian Witbier, created as a collaboration amongst brewers at Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor, and Jolly Pumpkin. I picked up my commemorative glass at Jolly Pumpkin, but it should be noted for the collector types among us that there are also three different versions of the glass as well, though each brewery will refill any of them for $3.
But you're probably wondering what it tastes like. Read on for some notes from my unsophisticated palate.
The beer was served rather cold compared to my other two stops. As a result, my initial impression of the nose was a whiff of green tea and coriander, but as the beer warmed I detected hints of the pink peppercorn. The appearance was classic witbier, cloudy and light whitish-gold in color. The head was moderately foamy and stuck around for quite a while. The body was medium-heavy, the mouthfeel mildly creamy. And finally, again perhaps due to the cold temperature, the taste was primarily a bit citrusy, yeasty, and green tea-ish to my tongue. Initially I could not detect peppercorn at all, but it became more apparent as the beer warmed. Also detected a little "heat" from the 7%+ ABV. Final impression: seemed a bit "muddled" and maybe too young? Not bad by any means, but did not wow me.
It's hard to compare the Grizzly version, served at a cold temperature inside, to the Jolly Pumpkin version, served outside in 70-degree, sunny weather. But with weather like that, I just couldn't sit inside. At any rate, the first thing I noticed was the head was significantly smaller than Grizzly's and what little there was dissipated quickly; otherwise, it had the same appearance. The peppercorn aroma in the nose was much more apparent to my nose, again likely due to the beer being warmer. The flavor impression was much the same, though the green tea element receded with the subtle sweet spiciness of the peppercorn being more readily apparent. I had heard Jolly Pumpkin had aged their version of FoolBrew in oak barrels, but if they did, I couldn't really tell. Final impression: Not radically different, but the lower carbonation, warmer temperature, and the more pronounced pepper finish gave it a more "delicate" taste and mouthfeel.
Appearance again the same, though also with less foam and head retention than Grizzly's. The nose imparted more of a citrusy, "lemon Pledge" aroma, mixed with coriander and pepper. Flavorwise, it seemed to be the "pepperiest" of the bunch, though in saying this I should point out this flavor is not dominant. The "green tea" flavor, which was obvious to me in the Grizzly Peak version and less so in the Jolly Pumpkin version, wasn't really apparent to me at all, despite the dry-hop addition of said tea. but like I said, my palate is unsophisticated. At 7.4% ABV, a slight warming alcohol presence was also detectable. Final impression: Being a fan of peppercorn in beer, thanks to my Cicerone®™ homebrewing brother's Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale, this may have been my favorite of the three versions because for whatever reason, I got the most pepper taste out of it, though again it was overall fairly subtle compared to the benchmark set by my bro's beer!
All three versions are worth trying, of course, especially since proceeds from sales help support the upcoming FoolMoon and FestiFools events, which to my mind are classic Ann Arbor-type doings we should all continue to encourage. Especially if all you have to do to provide said encouragement is to drink good local beer! (Also the keepsake glasses are cool, and $3 pints work for me!)