I think we can all agree that throwing a delicious beer in another alcohol barrel for added aging and flavor can only be a good thing. Barrel aging strong beers has become a common practice ever since the bourbon stout, but many other barrels have a lot to offer. Port, rye, wine and why not rum? One of my favorite beers of all time is the rum barrel aged pumpkin ale unsurprisingly called Rumpkin. My first encounter with this beer was at the bar Churchkey, and I was drawn to it because of the description. I actually had plans to accomplish things after the bar before I started drinking the beer…but it was 15.9% alcohol. I was drunk, and incapable of doing my LSAT prep. Ever since that first batch release in 2011, I have eagerly awaited the next release of this beer and even followed the bottle count of the release and was concerned when they released almost 100 fewer cases between the first and second batch (512 to 418 and 617 this year if you are interested). I knew Hardywood released a rum barrel aged version of their pumpkin beer in the 10% range, so I wanted to take the chance to try them side by side to see if the mellower version was superior or if the more robust boozier version was superior.
Avery Rumpkin Batch No. 2 Bottled Sept. 17, 2012; 418 Cases 18.1% ABV
This is an aged version of Rumpkin that I have been saving for a year and it actually has taken on a lot of new characteristics. The original beer is rummy with a rich pumpkin flavor. There are notes of apple cider, spices like cinnamon and all spice, and the alcohol burn at the end balances the intense sweetness and spiciness. The barrel aged version ends up having a stronger malt flavor with some nice caramel burnt sugar notes, molasses, and some toffee. The rum is more pronounced in the flavor but the harshness of the booze has subsided. I love the new flavor and the fact that it has become so drinkable is nice but also really concerning because this version is 18% abv. It’s still sweet and has a very heavy mouthfeel which makes me think that this beer has some growing to do (in a good way)
Hardywood Barrel Series Rum Pumpkin, 10.5% ABV
This was not a fair contest. I was trying to see if I liked Rumpkin just because the rum aging was something so unique that I was more drawn to the aging. Not true. Rum Pumpkin is nice because they start with a bready malty pumpkin farmhouse ale that they age in rum barrels. The rum adds to the sourness of the beer and leaves a nice boozy rum note that smooths out the pumpkin farmhouse ale.
But its no Rumpkin. It may not have been fair because this beer isn’t aged. I had some newer bottles of Rumpkin but was really interested to see how this beer aged. I am just going to keep letting this age because its developed some fantastic new flavors that work well together and enhance the already unbelievable drinking experience. Rum barrel aging is awesome and I recommend checking out rum barrel aged beers if you want to try an alternative to bourbon aging.