Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

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Avery “Rumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale is 18.1% ABV.

I poured some of this 12 oz bottle into a round wine glass.

Appearance: A slow pour gave absolutely no head or bubbles. This poured a very murky and opaque rusty orange/brown. This has some noticeable sediment floating in the beer, but no noticeable carbonation.

Smell: Up front I get strong roasted pumpkin and rum, along with a heavy amount of spices. The spices include strong clove, cinnamon, and perhaps some of the other usual suspects; However it is difficult to discern much more because of the strong rum and fruit. For fruit, there is pumpkin, but also banana. My girlfriend noted, and I agreed, that there is also some cherry and dark fruit in the aroma. This gives off a slight booziness. Overall this smells warm, rich, complex, and too good for me to spend more time writing about the aroma.

Taste: Up front I get an impressive and overwhelming punch of pumpkin, sweet and dark fruit, and spice. This also has a smooth rum flavor with some wood to it that is present throughout, but not overwhelming or distracting. The dark fruit flavors come across as quite sweet and raisiny, and pair well with the earthy spicing of clove, cinnamon, and something like mild pepper. There is the flavor of banana that also works among the other fruit of raisin and mild cherry; however the banana is less pronounced than in the smell. The fruit flavors in this are quite strong, and (for me, quite surprisingly) do not overwhelm the pumpkin. As I sip this I notice more new flavors, like vanilla and some other (otherwise non-descript) earthy spicing. This does have some alcohol that comes through, though nothing like one might expect. For its strength, it is quite good on the booziness score, actually. This finishes to let some of the fruity sweetness linger and give off some chewy and juicy rum-infused notes of earthy… fruit. This “fruit” doesn’t present itself as any one fruit, but does have some earth (like seeds and stems) that tastes quite different from the earthy spicing some beers have. The finish also brings with it some strong booze, which noticeably (but not overwhelmingly) joins the earthy fruit for the aftertaste. The more I drink this, the more the rum comes through (though it has yet to hit an unpleasant point). This has the most intense flavors of any pumpkin beer I have tried. Good marks here.

Feel: This is on the heavy-bodied side, with mild carbonation. The fruit and earthy spicing gives some movement to the feel, which is also made complex by the serious rum flavors. The rum adds a serious warmth to the feel on this one. I wouldn’t say this is syrupy, though it is sort of sticky. As noted above, the more I drink this, the more the rum flavor comes through. This is also true for the boozy parts of the feel. Even so, the otherwise smooth wood and fruit contribute some balance. Overall, I’d say this has a pretty good feel, despite the stickiness and increasingly strong booze.

Drinkability: This is obviously not the beer for having a six-pack of while watching the game. It is strong, has intense flavors, and really stays with the palate. Yet, for something that is 18.1 percent alcohol, I’d say it is darn drinkable. You would know you are drinking a strong beer, but could be shocked to know just how strong. It is impressive how drinkable it is, given its stats (i.e., being aged in rum barrels, being 18.1 percent ABV, having many different strong flavors incorporated, etc.). You wouldn’t want a whole lot of this one, though.

Overall: This is really an impressively flavorful pumpkin ale. The pumpkin isn’t the star of the show in the way it is in other pumpkin ales (i.e., the Cigar City “Good Gourd” and the Williamsburg Alewerks Pumpkin Ale). Still the pumpkin doesn’t get lost and has a real solid place in the flavors of this beer. I quite like the pumpkin presence in this, and don’t remember this being so of last year’s Avery “Rumpkin”. This is now just the second year for Avery’s “Rumpkin”, and it’s gotten better, I think. (I really look forward to next year’s.) It is impressively smooth given its potency and complexity, so I give this beer quite high marks. In comparison to some of the other top scoring pumpkin ales, I like this better than the Saint Arnold “Pumpkinator”, in great part because of how much better the Avery establishes pumpkin flavor as pumpkin flavor (rather than as something fruity that resembles pumpkin in some ways). On the other hand, I like the Avery somewhat less than the Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin”, since the latter has both great pumpkin and a real warmth in flavor that isn’t just accounted for by the liquor-barrel aged process or high ABV. (The Heavy Seas “Great’er Pumpkin” uses bourbon barrels in the aging process.) In any case, this Avery is a really great pumpkin ale, and is best treated as a sipper. Try it if you get the not un-rare opportunity. A big thanks to Jay at Beer Run in Charlottesville for helping me acquire this bottle I am rating. (I should also give a big thanks to Greg from Whole Foods Short Pump for helping me get bottles of this both this year and last. I am using those for a vertical tasting of sorts that I’ll be doing in the future!)

Overall Rating: ****

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