Pumpkin beers are like hazy IPAs: they’re wildly popular even though most aren’t that great. When you find a good one, though, it redeems all the others you waded through to get there. A good pumpkin beer is the unicorn that keeps you reaching for another similarly styled offering on your next trip to the store.
One of the rare pumpkin beers that lifts the style out of mediocrity is Rahr & Sons Rumpy. Rumpy is a rum barrel-aged pumpkin ale that pours from a delightfully creepy can. If a spine-chilling scarecrow can look happy, this one does. The beer itself isn’t anything especially interesting to look at, but it’s the rum barrel aging that sets Rumpy apart.
That process comes through heavily on the aroma, with plenty of sweet rum, alcohol heat, and woodiness. There’s a good amount of pumpkin pie scent from the spice blend that Rahr & Sons uses as well, with cinnamon leading the way. Rumpy smells like a pumpkin pie but if someone snuck a lot of rum into the batter.
In so many pumpkin ales the spices are masked by cloying sweetness, and the combination of high-ABV and barrel-aging rarely does anything but amp up the sweetness as well. With Rumpy though, that rum edge gives the beer a punch of booziness that compliments the style much better than the heavy flavors typically brought on through aging in bourbon barrels. I don’t typically describe boozy heat as a positive, but Rumpy really benefits from the added alcohol. The fruity qualities of the rum make me feel like I’m tasting the flesh of the pumpkin—that uniquely sour and gourdy taste that has nothing to do with pie spices.
Pumpkin beers usually suck, or may be described as “meh” at best, but Rahr & Sons breaks the mold with Rumpy.