Today is but a preview of what will be a bittersweet 5-day journey. Bitter, in that my family will be leaving me to wallow in my loneliness for several long, dark days. Sweet, in that those days will be jam-packed with reviewing beer. As an aperitif to this brew-tasting-bonanza that begins tomorrow, I have chosen a seasonal specialty from Dogfish Head.

While I have sampled several of their beers, I realized today that this my first written opinion on one of Sam Calagione’s finest. In my attempts to determine the nation’s best Pumpkin Ale, I knew Punkin Ale was going to make the list. I figured the liberty to style that usually is taken by this brewery would bode well for a less usual beer such as the great pumpkin ale. I was right.

It has a rich, earthy, chewy color. Tones of orange mix in the light to offset the brown-amber of the whole. Initially, there is just a layer of foam, that dies down almost right away. The smell is definitely pumpkin, but not obnoxiously so, but rather earthy, calm and strong, more like bread out of the oven than a too-candied sweetness. There are spices too, indistinguishable in general to my untrained nose, but present in droves. I can pick up a bit of cinnamon, which I soon find out is also present in flavor. The pumpkin flavor dominates less, as it blends with the spices and malt. The alcohol is present, balancing the pumpkin and following my sip all the way through. To be honest, I like strong, bold flavors and I could go for even a bit more in way of pumpkin, here, but overall a very solid brew. If you’re not a huge fan of pumpkin, but want something with hints of autumn and reminiscent of the season, this is a great choice. Not overdone, the spices, pumpkin and typical beer qualities blend together incredibly well.

ABV: 7%

Grade: B+