From the time pumpkin flavors hit the market until the crumbs of the last pumpkin pie are licked clean from the pie tin around Thanksgiving, my wife fully embraces the gourd. Our house smells of pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin flavored coffee sits simmering when I make my way down the steps each morning, and an afternoon or night having a drink means a sugar-rimmed pumpkin beer.
As far as my own consumption habits of that mostly-decorative and heavily-seeded orange fruit, I’m more ambivalent than advocate. I am actually a huge scented candle guy, wait nope. I don’t mind the candles at least, or the coffee, but I don’t like pumpkin pie.
As far as beer goes, I’m good for one or two pumpkin beers a year, mainly just to not be a party pooper. There aren’t many places you can go in New England in the fall without someone offering you one. Some, like Cambridge Brewing Co.’s Great Pumpkin Ale, are excellent; Others just seem to be an artificial, canned-pumpkin mess.
Craft beer drinkers have seem to agree. Google searches for pumpkin beer reached a peak in 2012 and have dipped every year since. Fast forward to 2015, when, according to Forbes, there was a record number of pumpkin beer left sitting on shelves late in pumpkin beer season. So, essentially, hype led to over-saturation. It was an inevitable decline. But it also means that some of the finer made pumpkin beers will remain on the shelves.
Avery Brewing Co.’s Rumpkin is a 16.9% alcohol by volume monster of a pumpkin beer aimed at creating, according to owner Adam Avery, “a pumpkin pie soaked in rum.” The beer is an essential part of the brewery’s Annual Barrel Series. It’s a beer with all the festive fall components: pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger.
The twist? It’s aged for four months in rum barrels.
The pumpkin shouldn’t be the star of the show just as the Jack-O-Lantern shouldn’t be better than your costume.”
Splitting this beer is almost the only way to do it, and with an eager and pumpkin-loving wife, we set forth on tasting what turned out to be a beer we both liked very much.
The beer pours a bright amber color, minimal lacing and almost no head. Rumpkin doesn’t reek of booze the way you’d expect a 16.9% beer to smell, but more of a soft, slightly-warm spiced aroma of all the pumpkin pie fixings with a shot of spicy rum.
In the middle, though, this beer seemed to pick up steam. Complex at its best, with flavors of molasses and oak and caramel, I found it to taste more like an English-style barleywine than a pumpkin ale (fun fact: I love English-style barleywines). As the beer warmed, the notes of spiced rum and the fall melange of cinnamon/allspice/nutmeg really mingled well to create some interesting and easily identified flavors.
As I previously mentioned, many pumpkin beers can be overly sweet and heavily-reliant on the adjuncts and pureed pumpkin. Rumpkin didn’t miss in that way. The pumpkin was almost the accent, as opposed to the flavor, which threw a proverbial curveball in the tasting.
I preferred it this way. The pumpkin shouldn’t be the star of the show just as the Jack-O-Lantern shouldn’t be better than your costume.
As for my pumpkin-loving wife, Avery’s barrel-aged series might have proved a little too high in alcohol for her tastes (and sobriety), but I really dug this beer. And in the morning, we certainly certainly needed that fresh pot of pumpkin spiced coffee.