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Anchorage Brewing & Jolly Pumpkin | Calabaza Boreal

Tart grapefruit forreals.

Anchorage Brewing & Jolly Pumpkin | Calabaza Boreal

ABV: 7.0%

In honor of our collaboration roundtable this week, I figured I’d showcase a recent collaboration from a pair of breweries that I love to death. Calabaza Boreal is a team-brew by Anchorage Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin, and I’ll spoil the article early to reveal that this beer is delicious. If you like sours, you were probably excited when you read the title.

The current bottles of Calabaza Boreal (pictured above) come from the Jolly Pumpkin brewery in Michigan; we’ll also see Anchorage-branded bottles shortly, comprising the stock brewed in Alaska. Boreal isn’t cheap for a 750ml, but I imagine it won’t last long, either – so the price balances out, to me. In short, go buy it! But read the article first.

Calabaza Boreal pours a golden, glowy straw color – pretty, but not unusual for the style. The real looker here is the bottle itself, which features some crazy satyr stealing a fevered moment with a pumpkin. I found the beer’s aroma to be muted, and I couldn’t find any good analogues: it has a clean, dry brettanomyces funk, paired with citrus. Honestly, I didn’t linger long on what I might or mightn’t detect in the nose. I had to taste it.

So I drank. Boreal is tart, but not intensely sour or puckery: it has more of a bitter rind quality, with a strong sourdough component. Past that, Boreal’s core flavor is exceptionally-realized grapefruit. I should qualify: “grapefruit” is rampant in the beer world as a flavor and a descriptor, but it is unusual to taste it outside of the context of IPAs. Boreal’s grapefruit has a fibrous, physical quality to it. It is refreshingly semi-sweet, juicy, and almost pulpy. It is delicious.

Calabaza Boreal is also a tannin showcase: the astringency permeates the brew, and it imparts a snappy veneer to the flavor. Boreal’s tannin accentuates its spritzy, fresh, and clean persona, and this complements the fruitier side of the beer. The combination imparts huge flavor. I think this is Boreal’s main appeal: it has a wide body for a wild ale. Sours sometimes lack in the “middle” department, thanks to their fermentation: the bacteria eats all the sugar, so the final product tastes thin, despite its aggressive acidity. But Calabaza Boreal is robust and rounded in ways that I didn’t expect.

The hops in the brew are Galaxy and Mosaic – which I did not know, until I looked it up to write this paragraph. But that doesn’t surprise me, because Galaxy hops are the bomb. On another note, I didn’t especially detect the peppercorn – but then, I found it difficult to qualify any of the more unusual flavors and aromas of Boreal. I think the components disappear because they complement each other so well: the brew doesn’t showcase any single ingredient; rather, it adeptly presents the weird composite.

Calabaza Boreal is a unique wild ale with a particularly robust fruit character and body. If you like either brewery in this collaboration, I think you’ll love their brew-baby. Hell, you might love it anyway (but I take no responsibility for teaching you to love sours). Drink up!

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