Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Palo Santo Marron
Style: American Brown Ale | ABV: 12.0% | IBUs: 50
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

There exists deep in the Paraguayan forests, a wood known as palo santo, or "holy wood." It's exceptionally strong, tough, and dense, with an interesting resinous character. When Sam and the gang at Dogfish heard about this stuff, they knew they had to brew up a beer to use with it.

They came up with an incredibly high-gravity brown ale strong enough to stand up to the wood. According to a video distributed with the first packs of Palo Santo Marron, the ingredient list is as follows. Chocolate, Crystal, and Black malt along with a dash of wheat create the backbone. As for hops, we're looking at Warrior, Glacier, and Palisade varieties. Everything is brought to life with a Scottish Ale yeast strain.

To imbue the resulting beer with the palo santo goodness, Dogfish crafted a massive tank built of the wood to ferment it in. This tank sits next to two other oak tanks of the same size. Clocking in at 10,000 gallons each, these tanks are the biggest wood brewing vessels built in America since Prohibition.

I've filed it under the American Brown Ale category, but as big and bad as this baby is, you could make a case for it being an American Strong Ale or even an American Imperial Brown Ale (kidding!).

Here's how Dogfish describe the finished product:
An unfiltered, unfettered, unprecedented Brown Ale. [H]ighly roasty and malty [with] caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this ale.
It's a little off-topic, but this bottle cap is one of best looking I've ever seen. So, there's that. Anyway, let's pry off that beautiful cap and dive in, shall we?

Appearance: A thick, inky black body that only lets a trace amount of red-hued light escape. It’s capped by a finger of rich tan head that leaves a few patches of lacing. Far from brown, this looks more like an Imperial Stout than a Brown Ale.

Aroma: Boozy, woody and malty; this is complex and inviting.

Taste: I’ve never heard of Palo Santo wood before, but from what I can tell it has a similar effect on beer that more plebeian woods do, that is to say it lends the brew vanilla and “woody” notes. There’s also plenty of character coming from the alcohol, but despite the massive percentage, it never dominates the flavor profile. While this is far from a traditional Brown Ale, I can see this family resemblance. I suppose you could call the beer underlying all of the fireworks a Brown Ale on steroids, or in the parlance of our time, an “Imperial Brown.” The aftertaste is a brilliant mix of oaky and boozy notes.

Mouthfeel: A somewhat syrupy, full body with decent carbonation and some good burn coming from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Solidly in sipper territory thanks to the profile and alcohol content, this is a beer that demands your attention.

Verdict: I had high hopes for this beer, and they certainly didn’t go unfulfilled. Palo Santo Marron is a big, bad brew with plenty of complexity and personality coming from the wood and booze. A twelve percent Brown Ale aged on exotic Paraguayan wood is the kind of madness we’ve come to expect from Dogfish, and the result is just as good too. I can’t wait to see how this ages in the cellar.

Grade: A

1 comment:

TBM said...

Chris, I like how you place the bottle and the glass on the same spot on the table every time!