Dogfish Head = Good. Pumpkin Beer (as a whole) = Bad. So you combine a great brewery with an overplayed, cliche, underwhelming genre of beer and you end up with something drinkable and about as good as a pumpkin beer can be.
I do not like pumpkin anything. I don't like pumpkin pie. I don't like pumpkin flavored coffee. I don't like pumpkin muffins or pumpkin candy or pumpkin cake. And I definitely don't like pumpkin beer. But...I do really like Dogfish Head. Every year I have a few friends and my wife tell me about some pumpkin beer that is amazing. Every year I try it and at best I am underwhelmed. But is it possible that a brewery spearheading the progressive craft beer movement can take an overplayed genre of beer and make me look twice? Yep. As far as pumpkin goes, this is as good as it gets.
Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a copper colored beer with a really nice near-white head. The head is short lived and the beer is thin in the mouth. It actually reminds me of what would happen if you took a very traditional German martzen and soaked a fresh pumpkin and a few spices in it overnight. It tastes fresh and it tastes like pumpkin...not just a bunch of pumpkin pie spice dumped into a beer. The beer's aroma is a bit pumpkin and a bit sweet potato with scents of molasses and a small note of orange peel with nutmeg and allspice.
The flavor is better than other pumpkin beers because it is a beer first and pumpkin flavor last. It has a nice underbelly flavor of nice caramel malt that slides down the tongue and a quality earthy hop punch that rides the back of the tongue. The pumpkin flavor is definitely there but it is more of a fruity taste. It is not just a bunch of pie spice floating around in a sub par beer. Punkin Ale was brewed with serious intentions. I am guessing that Dogfish made the decision that if they were going to brew a beer with a gourd in the name they were going to do it right and truly explore what a pumpkin beer could be.
While I have never found a pumpkin beer I wanted to go on a second date with, Punkin Ale makes me reconsider my position a bit. It is a good beer. Before this year I would never seek out anything with the word pumpkin in the name or description...well Dogfish remedied that slightly. First, they made a good beer focusing on freshness and a good quality beer underbelly and second they did not use "pumpkin," in the name. They used "Punkin," so I guess that helps. Now, and it is hard to confess this, I have sought out Punkin Ale because if I have to have a pumpkin beer in the house (for friends of course) I will seek out Punkin Ale.
Full Brewery Name: Dogfish Head Brewery
Brewery Location: Milton, Delaware
Alcohol by Volume(ABV): 7.0
Drinkability: High - No Problem Putting These Down