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Luciernaga - The Firefly. Make any season a celebration...


As we draw into the latter stages of 2013 and my impending month splurge on festive based beers draws nearer, I’ve been looking to drink the bottles I have in that I want to have as fresh as possible. Obviously we are talking predominantly hoppy beers here, which are hardly seasonal, but I’m not going to deny it has been a fun exercise. Tonight I drank one of the beers I'd intended to drink fresh and found that a little ageing is not always a bad thing.

For various reasons, price being the predominant one, I’ve yet to have any Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, although I do have their Noel de Cabalaza lined up for Advent. When I saw their Luciernaga (6.5%) on Beers of Europe recently, I loved the label design and translated name – “The Firefly.” The description of a “Artisan Pale Ale brewed in the Grand Cru Tradition” intrigued and confused me and made it all the more alluring. A look on the brewery’s website showed that this was a June seasonal release, so I thought it best to try it as fresh as I’ve been able to get it.

When my bottle arrived, however, I found that this was bottled for the June release … in 2012. I can’t deny I was a tad disappointed at this point, fearing that this may have succumbed to age like some other hoppy American imports I have had.

But then, this beer is Barrel Aged already, brewed with spices and in this “Grand Cru” tradition they refer to, which would remind most beer drinkers immediately of Rodenbach. “Make any season a celebration” the bottle states. Well, it is my birthday next week…

I (luckily) read a couple of blog posts that already exist about this beer, something I normally try to avoid so I form my own opinions. It was lucky in this instance as they each warned of this beers liveliness and I opened this very slowly. The pouring, though gentle, still made the beer explode in my glass. Even the brewery website advises to treat this beer like champagne.

Luciernaga is a wonderfully complex beer. It’s very pale but intriguingly murky in areas. The head settles from it’s bubble bath entrance to leave a muscle soak layer. It smells unquestionably tart, like a wild orchard cider mixed with a gueuze. There’s plenty of apples, nutmeg, lemon rind and, obviously, Brett.

The flavours are initially repeats of the scent, but there’s a definite hop zing in there that’s fresh, lemony but very light. It isn’t paunchy or intruding and this gives a delightful smoothness in the finish. I can’t help but be reminded of champagne, though this might be clouded by the brewery’s earlier reference to it. Whilst this beer’s funky, it’s a crisp, awakening tartness rather than an eye-watering, gurning hit. It’s a style reminiscent to us Brits these days in Wild Beer’s core range, though there’s plenty of the Ninkasi about this beer. I may have grown tired of sour beers recently but this is how they should be done. It’s brilliant and too drinkable. The huge 750ml bottle is gone too quickly.

A huge triumph for Jolly Pumpkin in my first offering from them. They feature in next month’s Advent calendar twice so now I’m even more excited. This has made me think that a slight, intended, sourness to hoppy imports we have to wait too long for may well enhance the flavour. It’s a shame these are such a high price by the time they hit shelves in this country, otherwise I’d buy so much more. Oh, and this is now one of my favourite beer labels ever. One for this labologist to geek out on.

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