Review: 2014 Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale

Dogfish-Head-Punkin-Ale-labelI’m surprised that I never posted a review of Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale over the last few years.  This year was special – a local retailer added growlers to their offerings and I got to have Punkin’ from the tap!

The half-gallon went pretty quickly, but I did take some notes.  I have said in the past that I didn’t want to do quantitative reviews, but if I don’t keep to some kind of standard I’ll never be able to keep up with what I’ve experienced.  I have decided to use the Beer Judge Certification Program‘s beer scoresheet to take my notes and give ratings.  This will also allow you to bench my scores against other ratings, though others may be on a different scale.  BJCP scores are 0 to 50.

Aroma

Sweet alcohol, cinnamon & nutmeg.  To my olfactory, this was a lot like last year.  Appropriate for this style.  (9/12)

Appearance

It pours clear in a deep amber color.  The keg it came from was perfectly carbonated.  It has a foamy yet crisp head that lingers.  (3/3)

2014-punkin-in-globe

Flavor

Hoppy up front, followed by sticky sweetness with an only slightly-floral bitterness in the alcoholic finish.  The next breath is of alcohol and spices. (16/20)

Mouthfeel

Positive.  The palate is well-compensated as it comes in to balance.  Warm in the throat.  The low carbonation makes it very smooth.  (5/5)

Overall Impression

After drinking for a few minutes, it begins to warm up (and so do I).  More spices surface and everything comes into play.  The alcoholic finish, while a bit strong at first, subsides and becomes quite enjoyable.  If I could change anything about this beer, it would be the quantity of spices present – its festivity gets a bit overwhelming in the same way that a strong scented candle does in a small room. (9/10)

Score

The tally is 42 out of 50 (Excellent).

With that said, I want to make sure no one reads this review as a desire to change what Dogfish Head does.  There’s absolutely no way I’d tell any brewery to do anything differently – from my I love Craft Beer perspective, it’s perfect.  I wouldn’t believe for a second that a batch of Punkin’ that reached consumers wasn’t what Dogfish Head wanted to serve, so I know that this beer is exactly what they wanted me to have.  Besides – Dogfish Head makes “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.”  It would only be an odd beer if it were a perfect example of a particular style.

In the end, I highly recommend Punkin’ to those adventurous enough to tackle this year’s craft Pumpkin beers – it’s worth the time.

First Pumpkin Ale

I can’t recall the origination of my idea to make pumpkin ale, but I do remember sticking with it.  It was probably sometime back in July when I decided I’d start brewing again and this time make seasonal brews, like a pumpkin ale for Halloween/Thanksgiving.

However, the season wasn’t on my side for making pumpkin ale in time for Halloween.  We don’t see pumpkins down here until the second week of October, pushing back the beer tasting well past Trick-or-Treating.  No big deal – we don’t join the majority of the United States when it comes to that holiday.  We’re really big on Thanksgiving and Christmas but not on the celebration of goblins and such.  Having pumpkin ale in time for a Halloween party just wasn’t on the top of my priority list.  Getting to drink it at Thanksgiving is a more highly desired and attainable goal.

I started searching back in August for a recipe, and luckily I found several.  There’s one at The Brew Site, Serious Eats, and Brew More Beer.  Taking something from each recipe and changing the ingredients again when I went shopping, I came up with this recipe:

5 Gallon Rehberg Pumpkin Ale

Ingredients

3 lb Light Dry Malt Extract 4 lb Domestic 2-row Malt 1 lb Crystal 20L Malt 3 oz Chocolate Malt 3.75 lb Roasted Pumpkin
2.5 Tsp Cinnamon 1.5 Tsp Nutmeg 1.5 Tsp Allspice 0.75 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets (9.4% AA) 1 oz East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.7% AA)

Instructions

  1. This will take three main stages: Roasting the pumpkin, Mashing, and Boiling.Cut the pumpkin into quarters (or smaller if you prefer) and remove the seeds and stems.  Place them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350°F oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin meat is soft.
  2. Put all your grains and the pumpkin in nylon grain bags and mash (steep) them at 145°F – 155°F for an hour.  Remove the grains and pumpkin, allowing them to drain into the wort.
  3. Bring to a boil and add the dried malt extract.  Boil for an hour, adding the Northern Brewer hops at 60′, the Kent Goldings hops at 15′, and the three spices at 5′.
  4. Ferment for one week in primary and rack to secondary.  Ferment for one more week, then bottle with 5 oz priming sugar.  Bottle-conditioning should be complete in two weeks.

    Poor man’s fermentation chamber

Thanks to John Larsen at HomeBrew Den in Tallahassee for his expertise and recommendations.

Batch Notes:

October 14, 2012: This recipe was followed.  Ended up with an adjusted OG of 1.046.  Pitch temperature was around 75°F.  Will rack to secondary on October 21, 2012.

October 21, 2012: I racked it to secondary yesterday, October 20.  I can still smell the spices but the fruitiness of the hops has settled in a bit.  It really feels like this is going to be good!  I have a gravity of about 1.012 now, and the calculators say I have about 4.3% ABV.  So far it hasn’t been very active in the Better Bottle, so I’ll be checking on it again tomorrow to see if the gravity has changed.  If not, it’s ready to bottle and cap — meaning we may can have it on the show on November 9.

October 23, 2012: Wow.  White Labs California Ale yeast is aggressive.  I got a final gravity of 1.010 tonight and decided that it was time to bottle.  I didn’t want to wait too long and not get a good carbonation, so here we are.  It was non-active in the Better Bottle and hadn’t really done much since I racked it to secondary on Saturday.  I added the priming sugar to the bottling bucket and went to work.  I yielded exactly 48 bottles, and the last one was only about 3/4″ short.  I hope it doesn’t explode.

This is the end of the process for the Pumpkin Ale; I’ll report back in a few weeks when we crack it open.  Look for it on the show November 9.