I had a craft beer “a-ha’ moment this weekend, when my buddy Frank brought over a four pack of Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had one of these beers, and it struck me what a truly wonderful brew this is, and how it’s a testament to the genius of Sam Calagione and the gang over at Dogfish Head.
Simply put, there’s really nothing else like this out there – it’s a truly unique beer.
Palo Santo Marron is brown ale that’s aged in a custom-built 10,000 gallon tank made of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood. Think about that for a minute. Not only did Dogfish Head come up with a truly exotic wood in which to age this beer, they built a 10,000 gallon tank from the stuff. That’s a lot of originality and commitment right there, and that’s what most defines Dogfish Head for me – doing their own thing and doing it big (and having it turn out awesome, too).
In the end, Palo Santo Marron is a big, complex beer that satisfies on many levels. It’s a very dark pour with a fingerful of tan head that dissipates rather quickly. The nose is a sweet mix of raisin, cherry and vanilla, with a bit roasted earthiness holding everything together in the background. The first sip reveals an unexpected complexity, with a background of vanilla and caramel playing host to flavors like roasted malt, chocolate, dates, brown sugar, cherries, walnut and some booze. It finishes with an intriguing woodiness, courtesy of the Palo Santo wood.
This is the kind of beer you want to drink slowly and savor, exploring its complexities and not letting it’s 12% ABV get ahead of you. Each sip is a chance to focus on another part of the flavor and possibly discover something new in the mix. It’s rare to find a beer this layered and satisfying.
While I savored mine, I got to thinking about Dogfish Head. All of the recent TV hubub had made me lose sight of how special Dogfish Head is. They brew an amazing variety of beers, many of which are totally unique and truly inspired, and many of which I adore for their originality and their tastiness.
This Palo Santo Marron is just what I needed to cleanse my mental palate. I’m ready to taste Sam’s beer with fresh buds again. When it comes down to it, Dogfish Head makes amazing beer, and in the end that’s all that really matters.