Reviewed: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
Product description: A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.
Dogfish Head – Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale – 12 oz. bottle poured into specialty glassware. 7.0% abv.
Fall is here and pumpkin beers have hit the shelves. Dogfish Head’s Punkin has been around since 1995, making it legendary by craft beer standards. This was one of DFH’s very first recipes, which I didn’t know until researching more about this beer. Today, I believe it is the same recipe it has always been, which includes real pumpkin meat instead of just a fall spice blend like many others in this segment.
Punkin is super clear, bright amber in color going into the glass with thick, off-white foam that persists for several minutes. Carbonation is lively with roaring bubbles right after pouring making for a beautiful presentation.
The aroma is a predictable fall spice blend with nutmeg, cinnamon, and a sharp lemon and cracked black pepper character from the allspice. It’s similar to cardamom, my favorite spice. But the spice medley isn’t overpowering like potpourri or air freshener. Rather, it is nicely integrated and you can still appreciate the amber ale base underneath with a background of fresh bread rolls. It’s an iconic aroma that has become synonymous with pumpkin beer despite there being nothing pumpkin about it in the squashy sense.
Flavor-wise, Punkin is rich and oily with excellent density and hardly any sugar beyond what’s needed for body. There’s prominent saltiness to brighten up the flavors and add some saline buoyancy to the palate. In the finish, it is quick and neutral with no aftertaste. This is actually a pretty refreshing beer despite the name and the looks. It’s medium-bodied, incredibly well-balanced, and the fact that the sugar and alcohol character aren’t overpowering lets you really sit back and enjoy the phenomenal malty amber ale base, which is perfect all on its own without the spice additions. Usually, I poke fun of these pumpkin spice fall beers, but this one really doesn’t stray away too far from regular, good ol’ amber ale. DFH nails all the essentials here and the fall spice character is just icing on the cake.
The 7% does end up piling on by the bottom of the glass, giving it that alcohol warming fitting for the season. But I was worried that the brown sugar component would fortify the beer into a boozy mess. There’s nothing of the sort. Initially, the beer feels more like 5%. For better or worse, I can’t pick out the real pumpkin character in the aroma or flavor, but that’s a pretty nuanced flavor itself and I can’t recall ever experiencing that with any pumpkin beer I’ve tried in the past.
Overall, Punkin is the original and easily one of the best pumpkin beers out there. There’s something for everyone here as the adjuncts aren’t overpowering and the amber ale base is perfect. Whereas I find many pumpkin beers are higher gravity and cloyingly sweet, Punkin is approachable and drinkable no matter how picky you are.