The Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales brewery in Dexter, Mich. has turned heads in the exploding world of microbreweries. Owner Ron Jeffries plans on bringing a taste of his award-winning beer to downtown Ann Arbor in the form of a pub-style restaurant with a small brewery.
The Ann Arbor Jolly Pumpkin location is part of a $5.8 million project by Jeffries’ company, Northern United Brewing LLC, which will also include the addition of a café to the Dexter facility and a large new brewery in Peninsula Township with an adjacent restaurant.
The company received a $1.1 million tax credit from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to aid in the project, which is expected to create a total of 158 jobs within the next eight years between the three locations. Sixty of the jobs are to be created within the first year.
Although Jeffries is committed to bringing Jolly Pumpkin to Ann Arbor, he hasn’t secured a location. He hopes to be operating out of a Main Street location this summer.
A University graduate, Jeffries said the decision to open an Ann Arbor location was straightforward.
“I live there, and it’s a great place to start a business right now, ” he said. “Ann Arbor is kind of a bright spot in Michigan’s economy.”
The tropical-themed Dexter facility exclusively produces and sells oak-aged beer influenced by souring bacteria and wild yeast. Like with most other craft beers, they do bottle refermentation — a process by which the beer is fermented after it’s poured into the bottle.
“All the beer has a lot of complexity,” said Jeffries. “We’re championing and putting forward this whole notion of artisan foodstuffs, and really beer is a foodstuff.”
Ann Arbor’s Jolly Pumpkin pub will share the tropical theme, and will use “as much locally produced food as possible,” according to Jeffries. The beer brewed on site will be supplemented by beer from the Dexter facility.
Jolly Pumpkin has five year-round beers and a number of seasonal and limited edition brews. Luciernaga, which the Jolly Pumpkin website describes as a pale ale with “golden effervescence and gentle hop aroma,” was listed among Men’s Journal’s 25 Best Beers in America for 2008.
Once a rarity, craft beer is now abundantly available for consumers looking for a unique alternative to the standard beer selection. The Brewers Association reported that craft beer sales grew 11 percent during the first half of 2008. Beer in general saw a 1.4-percent increase during the same period, according to The Beer Institute.
Since its start in 2004, the Jolly Pumpkin brand has grown in step with the microbrewery trend, with distribution now reaching national and even some international destinations.
Jeffries opened Dexter’s Jolly Pumpkin after setting up other area breweries for a company called Mission Management Services Inc., including Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. on East Washington Street in Ann Arbor, for about a decade. The same company, which will oversee the Ann Arbor location, manages Café Habana and the Blue Tractor Cook Shop.
Jeffries has a simple philosophy about his beer. “We’re staying true to our vision of what the beer is and how we produce it — the traditional methods of our production.”