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Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron: Cleaning the Slate

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.

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Categories: Beer, review

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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18 Comments on “Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron: Cleaning the Slate”

  1. January 10, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Couldn’t agree more about Dogfish Head, though I haven’t head the pleasure of trying the Palo Santo cuz I’ve yet to find it 😦 If any brewery continues to live up to its slogan its them. They really are committed to unique, quality brews, the key word being quality because I’ve found plenty of “uniqueness” out there that I’d quickly lube my kitchen sink drain with.

    • January 10, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      You nailed it Katie – unique is easy. Unique AND delicious is much, much harder and they do it with amazing consistency.

  2. January 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Had this beer for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Wonderful. You’re right, nothing much like it. What struck me was the wood, both on the nose and the taste of it. We’ve all had oak-aged ales. Palo Santo obviously is different than oak. And you can taste that difference in the beer. Deep and complex, but a more rounded woodiness, soft, not quite as sharp. I will definitely be picking this one up again. Yum.

    • January 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      I had it a year or two ago and thought “very woody” and the rest was lost on me. But this time was a different story. There’s so much happening, I’m not sure how I missed it. Maybe the tank has aged or something.

      Anyway, I’ll be picking this up again – it’s a nice a change of pace.

      • January 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

        Maybe your palate has advanced, too. I know if I’d had this beer a couple of years ago, I would have thought very woody. But compared to some beer aged on oak chips like GDBCs 15 or 16, Palo Santo—while woody—isn’t nearly as sharp to me. Maybe that’s just a difference in the type of beer or time it’s aged and has little to do with the wood. It would be interesting to hear Sam’s thoughts on why he chose the wood and what he thinks it imparts to the beer.

        • January 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

          My tastes and perceptions constantly change, so you’re probably right.

          Here’s a video where Sam talks about where he got the idea for using Palo Santo wood. It sounds like it came from a wood floor salesman who’s also a beer geek. I guess that’s why the tank looks like Pergo.

  3. Alex
    January 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    The New Yorker wrote a very good article a few years ago that features Sam Calagione and the story behind Palo Santo Marron: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/24/081124fa_fact_bilger

    Palo Santo is probably my favorite Dogfish beer, with World Wide Stout a close second.

    • January 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      Great link, Alex. What an awesome article – good to know Palo Santo is bullet proof. You never know when that’s gonna come up!

    • January 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Great story on Sam C. thanks!

      • Alex
        January 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

        I’m glad both of you enjoyed it! After I first read the article I immediately went out and bought some Palo Santo. Before that I had never really tried any Dogfish Head beers, except for 60-minute IPA.

  4. January 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Jim,

    FYI. “Ah-Ha Moment” has been banned by the prestigous Lake Superior State University.

    http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php

    I’m Just Saying.. I’d hate to see you continue to Fail the American (brew lovin) People with Epic mistakes such as this.

    Live Life to the Fullest!

    You’re BFF
    -Chris

    • January 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      That’s hilarious, Chris. Did you google that? 🙂

      • Alex
        January 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

        Epic FAIL, Jim.

        • January 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

          LOL (which should have made the list)

        • Don
          January 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

          Who knows, maybe this link will go “viral”

        • January 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

          I don’t think people would understand the back story, Don.

        • Don
          January 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

          Jus’ Sayin’

  5. pcf11
    September 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I live about 5 minutes down the road from Dogfish Head Brewery and I’ve enjoyed their Palo Santo Maroon since the beginning. I’ve noticed over time that the brew has lost most of its vanilla hint that I imagine the wooden vessel imparts to it. I think they either need to scrape out the insides, or throw some fresh wood in there while a batch is aging.

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