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Posted on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 7:37 p.m.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery opens on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor

By David Bardallis

Let there be microbrew on Main!

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery at 311 S. Main St. is officially open for business as of 11 a.m. today.

This reporter was able to obtain top-secret access to Tuesday night's “friends and family” soft opening, and needless to say, the place is cool. My fellow top-secret attendees included a special lady friend we’ll call Kimberly and Mike Bardallis* and Annette May, the world’s only husband-and-wife Certified Cicerone team.

(I’ll have a column soon about the secret ninja world of Cicerones, but for now all you need to know is that a Cicerone is a credentialed beer and food pairing expert.)

We started out with a nice draft of Bam Biere farmhouse style ale, arguably Jolly Pumpkin’s most widely known and critically acclaimed brew. Wine-preferring Kimberly and I also ordered a platter of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, all of which we were assured were both wine and beer friendly — and so they were.

Said May of the Bam Biere: “This is a beer that is always best drunk fresh. Softly malty, slight lingering hop finish, a little woody, and a hint of sourness. Great aperitif. And, a splendid beer to pair with many foods.”

Next up was a glass of Autumn Bam, a variant on the farmhouse ale. Mrs. Cicerone’s opinion? “A nice treat. A little richer with hints of banana, maybe from a weizen yeast? I do believe that the Autumn Bam also contains some wheat.”

I was simultaneously working on a delicious draft of Bam Noire, yet another variant of the Bam Biere but made with darker malts. The expert’s analysis: “A little woody and sour, and the black malts give it a kind of ‘grape candy’ sweetness. I like this beer.”

Turning away from the Jolly Pumpkin branded beers, we next tried the Vienna and the IPA that were on draft. The Vienna was probably Mr. Cicerone’s favorite of the night. Mrs. Cicerone again: “It strikes us as something like a ‘zwickelbier,’ that is, an unfiltered German-style lager. It’s delicious though, with a hoppier finish than one would expect from a classic Vienna lager.”

The Diabolical IPA from North Peak proved to be devilishly good as well. May: “A lovely ‘clean’ IPA with balanced flavors. A malt and hop-infused hard candy would taste just like this!”

With all of this good beer on tap, you’re probably wondering if the food lives up to the excellence of the beer. The good news is that it does, at least as far as what we tasted.

I enjoyed the “Carnivores” pizza, featuring pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, and bacon with charred tomato sauce and mozzarella on a thin sourdough crust. It sounds fairly typical, but it was really, really good. I washed it down with a draft of North Peak Siren Amber Ale, mild and refreshing after all that spicy pizza meat.

Mrs. Cicerone opted for a different pizza, the Truffle, with creamed shiitake mushrooms; goat, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses, truffle oil, and arugula in a red wine vinaigrette. I can’t paraphrase her description:

“O truffle and shiitake pizza! Where have you been all my life? Your earthy flavors thrill me and make we weep tears of joy! Your goat cheese provides a tart, rich contrast, and your garnish of arugula makes the perfect icing on the cake.” (Yes, she really said this.)

Mr. Cicerone had the Porchetta, a garlic and herb infused pork shoulder stacked high on a ciabatta roll with salsa verde, fennel sauerkraut, and organic spinach. He was too busy trying to fit this monster into his mouth to comment much, but he confirmed the Vienna paired with this sandwich is—and I quote—“spectacular.”

Special lady Kimberly paired the Peninsula Cellars 2005 Merlot (made, like all the wines served at the café, with grapes from the Old Mission Peninsula) with the Prime Steak Salad, which sported flat iron steak over romaine, tomatoes, potatoes, and crumbled blue cheese, all dressed with basil vinaigrette. I didn’t try it, but judging by the sated look on her face, I’d say she liked it.

For dessert, we ordered a bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga (other celebrated Jolly Pumpkin ales such as Oro de Calabaza and La Roja are also available in bottles). Mrs. Cicerone describes it thus: “It's been a while since we’ve had this, but the beer does not disappoint. It's a hoppy, light-bodied pale ale. Fantastic.”

Some quick notes on everything else. Although it was “practice night” for the staff, our service was great. The warm but whimsical decorations make the space immediately comfortable and inviting. The upstairs, while just as comfortable and inviting, won’t be open to the public for a while longer due to some bureaucratic wrangling with the city. (Beginning in October, I was told, the rooftop deck—including patio heaters!—will be open, too.) And eventually the distillery will come online and the café will offer its own light and dark rums, vodka, gin, and rye whiskey.

What else is there to say? You can go on over to Main Street and check it out for yourself (and browse the full menu below for ideas).



* No relation. I mean, look at his picture. Nowhere near as handsome as me.

David Bardallis is a freelance writer and editor, blogger, bon vivant, and man about town. Visit his Web site,, to engage his services or read his latest ramblings insights. Email your beer-related thoughts to


Tom Brandt

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 3:12 p.m.

I was there last night on their official opening day. Even at 10:30pm it was packed. I had a Bam Autumn and an IPA, both of which were excellent. The sandwiches are a little pricey, but they are HUGE. Rusty, they have a blackboard next to the bar which lists all the beers not printed in the menu. There was a good selection listed.

David Bardallis

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 9:27 a.m.

Rusty, there are currently three versions of the Bam on tap, and (someone can correct me if I'm wrong) the Vienna (not on the menu), "Tortuga Ale Co." and "Golden Manatee" are also brewed by Ron Jeffries, the mastermind of Jolly Pumpkin. Obviously the taps will rotate, but they will always be some mixture of JP, North Peak, and special brews. Most other JP beers are available in bottles (I know, not the same thing as draft.) Susan, there's a Jolly Pumpkin cafe up on Old Mission and one will open this fall from Dexter, but it's about as homegrown as you can get. Here's an earlier story I wrote about it that may answer some of your questions:

Angela Smith

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 7:56 a.m.

oooh, I am glad you posted the menu! Can't wait to get there


Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 7:30 a.m.

What's the back story on this place? Is it a chain or locally owned or another one of the many "form" restaurants owned corporately? You mentioned nothing about the people behind it.

Emily K

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 1:51 a.m.

As a HUGE Jolly Pumpkin fan - I'm so happy to see such a great addition to the main street scene. Finally, an Ann Arbor new restaurant that fits in perfectly. I can't wait to get back to the mitten and try out this menu.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : midnight

Looks like a nice date place. You know what would be very cool - if committed to providing recent menus for all the unique restaurants in Ann Arbor. A lot of work, but it could generate a lot of hits.


Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 10:40 p.m.

marciat, me too! I'm also excited about the emphasis on local food/bev. Looking forward to trying this.


Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 8:30 p.m.

Can't wait to try it! I'm quite pleased with the number of vegetarian options on the menu.

Joel Goldberg

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 10:42 a.m.

Although most folks will probably be dropping by for a beer, it's worth a mention that their entire wine list comes from Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula. It's good to see a new Ann Arbor restaurant make a commitment to the state's wineries.

Joel Goldberg

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

Although most folks will probably be dropping by for a beer, it's worth a mention that their entire wine list comes from Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula. It's good to see a new Ann Arbor restaurant make a commitment to the state's wineries.