10/31/19: Avery Brewing Company's Rumpkin, Another Timely Halloween Post

5:00 PM

Lock your doors. Pull your curtains tight. Strike a match and light a candle. Grab your cat, or your dog, and hold it close. When the knocking comes at your door, pay it no mind. The trick-or-treaters were nestled in bed by their parents long ago. Whatever this is, it doesn't want candy.

What's that?! A shadow at the window, behind the curtain? No, don't get up! What are you doing?! Keep the curtains shut, no matter what! Why are you pulling them open? No, shut your eyes! NOW!!


It's too late. You've met your doom. You cannot unsee it now and it will haunt you until there's nothing left. It is: Avery Brewing Company's Rumpkin!

Would it surprise you to learn that I've only had an Avery beer once before (that one time was during my 2015 Christmas blowout)? See, for the longest time the Boulder, CO's best beers (the ones with the sky-high ABVs) weren't available in Ohio. Until August 31st, 2016, my state capped beer's ABV limit at 12%. So, before then, I honestly wasn't pay much attention to Avery and, while they've been on my radar since, I haven't been able to force myself headlong into the plunge.

Today, Halloween 2019, the end of Spooky Finger Puppet Ghost Month, that all ends. According to Avery's "Our Story" page, the brewery's been in operation since 1993. Shortly after its founding it began to win some high-profile awards (including a GABF gold medal in 1994). Since then, Avery's expanded their offerings (they now have a barrel-aged series and a annual barrel series) and, as of 2015, a fancy new brewing facility.

Now, we get to Rumpkin, which showcases both everything I want to love about Avery and why I've been so hesitant to sample their wares. This bottle touts one of those sky-high ABVs I noted only moments ago. It's 16.3% ABV. 16.3%! That's downright terrifying! But, I think I've properly braced myself (while also prepping Michelle for the absurdity of the ale's alcohol content and how I'm likely to react to it).

So, on one hand, I'm bracing myself for the ale. On the other, I'm genuinely excited. This is a rum-barrel aged pumpkin ale. That means, apart from the gourdy goodness and seasonally-appropriate spiciness, it has, as described on its official page (linked the the first sentence of the paragraph above this one) notes of candied molasses and oak. That sounds like it's immediately up my alley, and I don't blame you for pulling back the curtain to take in the ale's horrifying visage earlier.

Oh, and before I get into my bottle itself, I want to mention a few things. Word on the street is that Avery didn't release Rumpkin this year (although, my source for this could be woefully incorrect--Google's telling me there's a 2019 vintage). When I heard that, I checked my bottle (which I grabbed in early-September). The bottling date stamped on it is July 31st, 2017. So, not only is this thing a pumpkiny titan, it's a pretty nicely (and hopefully properly) aged one at that. Also, since this has a fancy foil wrapper around its cap, I'll be giving it the full treatment it deserves--only because I feel its fanciness warrants as much--and will be pouring my beer into a tulip glass. Wish me luck.

Right off the vampire bat, the bouquet positively sparkles with rum. It's candied molasses, all right. There's a lot of oakiness here, too, imparting vanilla and a hearty woodiness. I find the pumpkin spice easily enough: allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I can't say the pumpkin's made its presence known but, as I'd expected, there's a heavy dose of that alcohol liquor smell--that pure, distilled bite and burn, but not as much as one might think. To me, Rumpkin's nose seems like it belies its flavor and, definitely, its ABV. It's good and deceptive. Poor Purrl harbors an extreme dislike for the ale. See the picture below? I'm glad I snapped it when I did. That was the only whiff she gave my glass.


The main event here is a doozie. A sip (that's right, a sip; only a fool who'd die first in a slasher flick would attempt to swig this beer) provides sweet molasses and a tiny bit of toffee. The pumpkin is here, in a sweeter fashion that I would've thought, as well as its spices. The official write-up of this beer lists ginger as a descriptor and, yeah, I'm picking up on a ghostly touch of it. But then, after all that flavor dissipates, you're left with the main event, which may or may not be what you came to Rumpkin for: the rum. It permeates the entire finish, sharp and warm, like a stab from a masked mass-murderer's butcher knife. But, it's not dry--there's a definite sweetness in the end.

Rumpkin doesn't have much carbonation. All that's left is what hasn't been eaten away over the last two years. It's not exactly flat, and the rum kick gives it the illusion of being more carbonated than it actually is. But with the flavor, the aroma, and, most importantly, that ever-towering ABV, the lack of overt carbonation is precisely what I want. Look at it this way: Do you want a bubbly barleywine? No, you don't, and if you disagree then you're probably the kind of person who'd swig a bottle of Rumpkin and you can see my thoughts on your likelihood of horror movie survival above.

Since I've poured my bottle into a glass, I might as well talk about how the ale looks. It's a coppery color, like the crunchiest fall leaves. The head existed only for a moment after pouring, now all that's left is a thin white ring lining the top of the ale.

When I was a kid, I used to think a witch lived in my kitchen. Okay, I didn't really believe she was there--I knew she wasn't--but, for some reason, it was a dark thought that was always at the back of my mind. I didn't feel she was there all the time, either, only in the mornings. On weekdays, my dad would be the first downstairs and into the kitchen. Before school I'd eat the breakfast nook without fear because I knew he was the one to dispel the presence.

One weekends, however, I was usually the first awake. I'd walk downstairs to the kitchen and stand at its threshold. Looking in, I couldn't see the witch there, but the hair on the back of neck would stand up and the thought would nag at me. I always worked up the courage to walk into the room and spin around, pushing whatever was there (again, there was nothing and I knew that, but I was a child so I never fully believed myself) out and away. That courage I'd drum up twice a weekend is reminiscent of Rumpkin and, more specifically, opening the bottle and pouring the ale into a glass.

Avery's Rumpkin isn't a beer that's for everyone. Good as it is (and, man, is this stuff good), there'll be those who are put off by the ABV and that's absolutely fine. But, for those willing to wear a brave face and run headlong into the ale, you'll find a Halloween treat unlike anything else. No tricks here. Rumpkin's a 10/10 from me.

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