The idea for Hardywood Park began in Australia of all places, when the two co-founders, who had known each other previously, had a chance meet-up at a sheep station aptly named Hardywood Park. It was there that their plans for a brewery took shape and, after years of hard work, Hardywood finally opened their doors in Richmond, Virginia back in 2011.
When they started brewing, there was only one other brewery in the city of Richmond…now the city has more than 40 breweries! Hardywood, as one of the OGs, has expanded, opening a second location about 13 miles northwest of the original, in the West Creek neighborhood of Richmond.
While you can find their beers all over Virginia, they are hard to find elsewhere. Only DC and parts of North Carolina are lucky enough to get their brews…so when I had the chance to get one of their bottles, I jumped at the chance.
And today I have their Rum Barrel Pumpkin, a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale.
But this isn’t your typical Saison…no. Hardywood took their Saison base and added tons of local pumpkins and then some nutmeg, clove, allspice, mixed pie spice, and fresh ginger to give it a pie-like characteristic. And if that wasn’t enough, they then took that and aged it in Caribbean dark rum barrels. Whoa.
Plus it packs a huge punch, clocking in with a 12.3% ABV, with each 12-ounce bottle costing around $6. Or, if you’re lucky, you can find a four-pack for about $20.
The brew poured a mostly translucent burnt orange color with minimal head topping it off. Quickly it was down to just a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
The aroma featured a nice blend of spices. The nutmeg and clove took the lead with some light ginger underneath. It did a great job of replicating a pumpkin pie with some of the gourd’s characteristics coming out behind the spices as well.
Each sip began with a quick flash of that Farmhouse base, with some clove and funk, before the nutmeg, allspice, and ginger additions began to appear. The additives - mostly the clove - danced across my taste buds for a few moments before they were quickly pushed aside.
Midway through that barrel aging really impacts the taste, as a boozy bite of rum appears. The rum brings notes of molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla as well as the 12% alcohol. There is a quick bite from the high ABV before the flavors all begin to fade.
The beer ends with some of that charred wood flavor lingering on with a bunch of the clove notes.
As the beer warms up, the pie flavor becomes more apparent and the clove/Saison aspect fades away some but there was one thing missing….there was a lack of pumpkin in the taste. I know pumpkins can have a more subtle flavor and be hard to bring out but there were so many other things in this brew that the actual pumpkin qualities got left behind.
The 12.3% is mostly hidden well as the beer drinks somewhat lighter…like an 8-9% brew. You know it’s there, and get the bite, but don’t expect it to be as high as it is. And that makes this a very drinkable Thanksgiving beer. The perfect compliment to turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and (of course) pie.
I would have liked to see more of the other spices and (especially) the pumpkin come out more but it’s still a very solid holiday brew.