Ron Jeffries loves beer so much that he once tried to design his own master’s degree at the U-M–in beer brewing. But after one term, “I got pretty depressed at the state of the world,” he says. “So I decided to devote my life to humanitarian efforts–which I think making good beer qualifies as.” He quit school to become one of the first brewers at Grizzly Peak.

In 2004, he left that job to start Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, a microbrewery in Dexter. This September, he opened the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewpub in the old Pepperz restaurant space on South Main.

Jeffries will be brewing his award-winning signature sour beers on site. The opening lineup includes Bam Biere (voted by Men’s Journal as one of the Top 25 Beers in America), Bam Noire, North Peak Diabolical IPA, and Golden Manatee Belipago. (The Bams are named after Jeffries’ Jack Russell terrier, the brewery’s unofficial mascot.)

Jolly Pumpkin is the only microbrewery in the country that ages all its beer in oak barrels, which adds flavor. And though more and more places are brewing sour beer, Jolly Pumpkin is the only one making nothing but that kind.

Unlike at other local brewpubs, customers can’t see the Jolly Pumpkin’s brewers in action. Only three small tanks are on the main floor–the rest of the brewing equipment is in the basement. Taps feed bars on the main and second floors.

The beer lineup and the menu will rotate seasonally, Jeffries says. He and head chef Maggie Long worked together for several years at Grizzly Peak. “I connected with him because of his amazing talent and his philosophy,” Long says. “When this restaurant needed [a chef], I jumped.” She calls the menu “very comfortable and very approachable. It’s pizza, sandwiches, salads, and five or six specials that rotate weekly.” Sample pizza: Fire and Smoke–smoked free-range chicken, charred sweet peppers, scallions, chipotle tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, and fresh basil. Sample sandwich: the JP Burger–ground grass-fed beef with melted Cambozola cheese, cremini mushrooms, and thick-cut Berkshire bacon on a toasted challah roll. Sample salad: the vegan Asian Layered–rice noodles, shredded cabbage, carrot and daikon pickles, cucumbers, cilantro, mint, scallions, tofu, and cashews with ginger lime dressing. Like Brandon Johns at the Grange, Long buys as many ingredients as she can from local growers.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, 311 S. Main. 913-2730. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sun. noon-11 p.m. Upstairs: Mon.-Sat. 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 4 p.m.-midnight.

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