Hello and welcome to night three of the 13 Beers of Halloween. Over the first two nights, we’ve been subjected to the Devil, the Goblin king, stolen souls, devious tricksters, and absolutely delicious beer. It’s been a nonstop, white-knuckled beerpocalypse, and we’ve only just begun. So, tonight I figured we could take a little breather. Not from tasty beer. Oh no. Rather, I’ll dial the horror setting back to a more mellow level, so that we can celebrate the more friendly side of Halloween – fun, parties, sending your bags of candy through an xray machine, and pumpkins! That’s right, tonight is all about Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale. And who knows, maybe we’ll find a few tricks in the midst of some treats.
Starting out, the bottle aroma begins with allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, mingling with a buttery pumpkin nuttiness, all atop a bed of mellow malts. The aromas rise up slowly, offering their secrets in their own time, rather than bursting in your face from the get-go. As the seconds pass, the malts gradually grow stronger, bringing along an underlying sweetness of brown sugar and sweet caramel, completing a comfy pumpkin pie profile. Now, I love pumpkin pie, and I love pumpkin beers. So far, Dogfish Head’s offering is starting off on the perfect pumpkin foot. But, as always, the proof lies within the bottle.
We’ve reached our first trick! Instead of following the pumpkin pie route, this beer chooses to travel the path of fresh fall pumpkin itself. The spices are still there, as is the nutty pumpkin smoothness, but the malts are much more robust than evident from the aroma, and there is also a slight bitter hoppiness that sets up shop at the back of the tongue. There are also some hints of ginger and licorice. Not super strong like a stout, but present enough to bring a slight herbal earthiness to the mix. The flavors are very fresh, giving the feel that you’re drinking it straight from the pumpkin patch, assuming the pumpkin patch happened to have an onsite brewery as well. It’s a tasty take on a pumpkin beer that chooses to boost the freshness of the season, as well as the tasty festivity of Halloween. The aftertaste is primarily malty, but pumpkin and spices linger just under the surface, lasting quite a while as a pleasant reminder.
The poured aroma is slightly subdued, rising up light and floral with little to none of the previous spices, or even pumpkin. After sitting for a few moments, a slight nutty pumpkin note rises up, mixing into the floral notes and bringing you right back into the festive fall mood. A short time later, cinnamon, nutmeg, and even a little allspice show up, proving that fashionably late is just fine, if you can explain your tardiness with a great aroma. It pours a glowing shade of pumpkin-brown, under a creamy, light tan head that takes its time fading.
A few new arrivals mark the poured flavors. Pumpkin and rich malts make up the backbone, and all the previous spices show up as well, but there’s now a hint of sesame, peaking in from time to time, and making a big appearance in the aftertaste. The pumpkin also provides some nice, floral notes that accentuate a diminished hop presence. There’s a malty sweetness, with just a hint of brown sugar throughout the entire drink. It’s more of an earthy sweetness that stays subdued but noticeable from start to finish. Normally, I prefer a slightly sweeter edge to my pumpkin beer, but this fresh, earthy offering is quite tasty. The aftertaste lasts forever and remains warm and fruity, with an strong malt presence throughout. Compared to the bottle, there’s a bit of a kick, but it’s hidden almost entirely, making it a wonderfully drinkable beer.
In the end, this is a tasty, festive pumpkin brew that keeps things earthy and bound to nature, rather than embracing the pumpkin pie route. There are a few pie-like notes at times, with nutty pumpkin and sweet brown sugar, but its rich malts and fresh pumpkin place it squarely into the “pumpkin” category, rather than “pie”. Additionally, some earthy notes of ginger, licorice, and even sesame bolsters that fresh pumpkin patch flavor. Mild spicing from cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice team up with brown sugar to keep things fun and festive, but hold back enough to avoid initiating “total pie mode”. (Side note, Total Pie Mode would make a great band name). The aftertaste is a spiced, fruity maltiness that lasts forever, and despite a mild alcohol kick, it goes down smooth. The price may make some hesitate, but if you love fall, pumpkins, Halloween, or tasty beers in general, picking up a 6 pack wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Some suggestion for this beer include a chilly fall night, chatting with a group of friends around a fire. Also, while carving some tasteful, or crude, pictures into a pumpkin. My horror genre is a light one this time. Anything comedic, ranging from “Shaun of the Dead” to “Zombieland”. Even “Nightmare Before Christmas” would work. Sure, it’s a “kid’s” movie, but if you want to watch it, you go ahead and watch it. Shine on, you crazy diamond. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale earns a pumpkin patch approved A-..
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.2/10 A-