Saturday, May 22, 2010


Whether he is taking inspiration from a 2,700 year old Turkish recipe, brewing a beer using one ingredient from every continent on Earth or simply slipping a Golden Shower past the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales is always pushing the envelope in the world of craft beer. At Dogfish, what often starts out as a quirky, brainstorming project is still almost always done for the greater good and advancement of craft beer. Sure it's fun to take what many would call over-the-top risks, but doing so without purpose is just plain silly, and thankfully the Dogfish crew is constantly looking to provide the consumer something new and worthwhile to experience rather than just looking to generate some press with some zany, new concoction.

For Palo Santo Marron, an unfiltered Brown Ale aged on Palo Santo wood from Paraguay, Dogfish decided that they wanted a wood-aged and flavored beer yet did not want to take the typical bourbon barrel approach and in turn end up with the typical bourbon flavor that most of the breweries that experiment with barrel aging end up with, so what did they do? They built a 10,000 gallon wooden brewing vessel on-site at their Milton, Delaware facility specifically for the production of this 12.0% ABV beer. Said behemoth is claimed to be the largest wooden vessel of it's kind to built in America since pre-Prohibition.

So, what started out as a smaller scale, experimental project eventually turned into a large scale, year round beer worthy of it's own expensive-ass holding tank, and the results are absolutely fantastic.

The deep brown color of the liquid here is basically black and looks much like a porter or stout would. That, combined with a nice creamy tan head atop the body, makes for a very inviting beer.

A smorgasbord of awesome aromas then hit you head on: this one is boozy with bits of caramel, wood, semi-sweet chocolate, licorice and brown sugar...all of which are tied together by a bread vibe that creeps in throughout. The aromatics all carry though to the flavor where a nice bitterness comes out to play and blends with more burnt wood and roasted malt characteristics that didn't show up in the aroma very often, if at all. It's even a bit smoky here and there, with brown sugar and somewhat of a raisin bite seemingly carrying you through each sip. The finish is dry and quite harsh but fits perfectly here with the medium bodied, slick and somewhat hefty beer that most definitely has some hotness to it from the higher alcohol content. Great job.

Palo Santo Marron has quickly become arguably my favorite Dogfish Head beer. I've always been a big fan of their 90 Minute IPA, but I think this one may have surpassed it on originality and overall flavor and balance. It's absolutely a sipper, but a damn fine one at that and one that you'll certainly want more of once your glass is empty. Make it a point to try the Palo Santo Marron. Soon. Seriously. Get up, go to the store and get some. Now.

Hopback, beer, Dogfish Head, Delaware, Palo Santo Marron, Brown Ale, Sam Calagione, Paraguay