Vertical Tasting 2014 and 2016 Avery Rumpkin


One of the nice things about the craft beer revolution is that we now get to do silly pompous things previously reserved for our wine-drinking friends. This week, that means it’s time for a vertical tasting! OK—most vertical wine tastings cover more than two vintages, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

Specifically, I cellared a bottle of Avery Rumpkin two tears ago. This year’s is now out as a fall specialty. Rumpkin is the perfect candidate for aging as it comes into life as an aged beer. Avery takes a strong pumpkin ale and ages it in rum barrels to both mellow it and enhance the flavor. Rumpkin is kind of like the beer equivalent of brandy or port. It’s the first beer that made me feel like I needed a cigar since Sam Adams Triple Bock.

To conduct this vertical tasting the official wife of DFTB served official friend John and I a blind tasting. Both of us had no trouble distinguishing between the 2014 and the 2016.

The 2016 is full of pumpkin flavor and rum overtones. The alcohol is a little forward in this year’s version, but the 2016 is pretty bright beer, meaning the individual spices stand out. You also get a strong warmth from the alcohol.

The 2014, by contrast, is much smoother beer. The extra 2 years in the cellar have brought the flavors together more, mellowed the alcohol, and thickened the texture just a bit. All the flavors are still there, but they blend together a little better. The alcohol warmth is also still there, but it’s a touch softer.

Both John and I liked both beers. He preferred the 2016 because the flavors are slightly more forward. I was a bigger fan of 2014 because I loved the smoothness and the mouthfeel. And—come on—it’s a vertical tasting. You’ve got to play beer snob and like the older beer!