This may come as a shock, but I have never actually had the experience known to the rest of the world as "pumpkin beer." This is not for lack of want — I am a fan of pumpkins and fall spices in just about any form. But this seasonal beer is often a blink-and-miss-it affair, and seemingly, I am constantly blinking. No longer! I thought it fitting to break into the pumpkin beer world with Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, widely acknowledged by both pumpkin beer lovers and eschewers for being one of the tastiest offerings out there.
Beer Details: Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (Spiced brown ale, 7% ABV, 28 IBU)
Appearance: Surprisingly light and very clear, almost more like a pale ale — knowing this was a brown ale, I was expecting something...browner. But it's still a gorgeous beer! As orangey-gold as (yes) fall leaves with a frothy lemon-yellow head of foam.
Aroma: Warm and sweet with the aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg, like a batch of snickerdoodles in the oven.
Taste: Hooo boy, this is a smooth sipper! Creamy and luscious in the mouth, this beer starts off with a restrained brown sugar sweetness and finishes with surprising crispness. The spices — our favorite fall combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger — add warmth to each sip and a whisper of bitterness to balance the caramelized flavors. I noticed a savory, squash-like aftertaste after I'd been sipping for a while, but I admit that I didn't really taste a strong pumpkin flavor in the beer itself. All in all, a very well-balanced beer that I could happily sip all afternoon.
This is not a pumpkin-flavored soda pop, as pumpkin ales are so often accused of being, though it's easy to see how a pumpkin ale could go wrong. A bit more cinnamon, a touch less body, a more aggressive caramel flavor, and this could go very wrong, very quickly.
I feel grateful that Dogfish Head's Punkin has served as my first encounter with this seasonal brew. I have a feeling it will be the standard to which I hold all the rest.
Food Pairings: Grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup. No question.
Have you had this beer? What do you think? Any other pumpkin ales to recommend? (Or recommend avoiding?!)
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image: Emma Christensen)