- ABV: 7%
- IBU (Bitterness Units): 28
What’s more appropriate to finish off the autumn seasonals than a pumpkin ale? To be honest, I gave up on pumpkin ales a while back. I came to consider them a bit gimmicky. My first one, years ago, was so deliciously well-made that it tasted like a little slice of pumpkin pie in a glass. I chased that dragon for years, expecting the same level of craftsmanship that went into that first glass. Alas, I was continually disappointed as I found all of the proceeding pumpkin ales to be too thin or flavorless, with just a tiny hint of flavoring that was supposed to pass as pumpkin.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up the DOGFISH HEAD Punkin’ Ale, especially at $13.99 for a 6-pack. Would the price be indicative of the quality inside that bottle? It had better be. Dogfish Head is known for brewing outside of the box—brews that seem strange when reading the labels but that actually taste wonderful. And, yes, while more expensive than most of the other “pumpkin” ales on the shelves… the Punkin’ Ale was really enjoyable!
Although the label says brown ale, the Punkin’ Ale doesn’t really pour a brown shade—more of a dark coppery color, or a hazy bronze perhaps? The aromas were all about fall desserts—subtle spice scents like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice—the kind of smells that get you excited for the coming holidays. I gave the glass a little swirl and caught floral hints blended with notes of brown sugar, sweet bread and more spices. It just smelled yummy (wife’s word choice, not mine, but it works here). I took a first sip and allowed this full-bodied ale to linger on my tongue. I picked up the sweet roasted malts, the nutmeg, the allspice… and pumpkin, naturally. But the pumpkin was beautifully subtle.
The Punkin’ Ale worked to restore some of my confidence in the seasonal genre. Dogfish Head did this ale right, capturing that autumn feel without trying to foist some cheap pumpkin-pie-in-a-glass nonsense on drinkers during the holidays. —J.A.