With the steady growth of his brewery Dogfish Head since 1995, Sam Calagione has become one of the biggest names in the craft beer scene. “Off-centered” is a term used by him to describe his brewery, his staff and the styles of beer they brew. Palo Santo Marron is no exception – a brown ale aged in a 10,000 gallon Palo Santo wood brewing vessel – declaring it to be “unfiltered, unfettered, (and) unprecedented”. At a near wine-like ABV of 12% with 50 bittering units, Palo Santo Marron is unlike any brown ale I’ve seen on the market.
Pouring a very dark brown (almost black), this unfiltered beer generates a modest one finger brown head that fades quickly due to the high amount of alcohol present. When held up to a bright light source, you can see some lighter shades of mahogany at the edges of the glass. It’s hard to see any carbonation through brown murky body but there is some carbonation present. On the nose you get a mix of the Palo Santo wood, alcohol, sweet roasted malts, raisons (and maybe some other dark fruit notes), with hints of smoke and molasses – a fantastic, complex aroma.
With bottled on date of May 2009, the beer I’m reviewing has over a year of age on it which tends to mellow out the alcohol presence on palette of big beers. That being said, I do get a slight bit of alcohol burn on the front of the tongue followed by the dark fruit notes with a touch of smokiness. Mid tongue the sweetness of the roasted malts takes over the palette along with the molasses notes. By the back of the tongue this beer truly shows its complexity with vanilla and caramel notes (as mentioned on the bottle) and a touch of chocolate along with enough bitterness from the hops to keep the beer from being too sweet. At this point the alcohol is long gone leaving a mostly dry finish of chocolate caramel flavored coffee.
Palo Santo Marron is unbelievably complex, big-bodied, yet drinkable ale that takes the standard American brown ale in a unique and “off-centered” direction. To my knowledge there isn’t a brown ale out there that compares to this beer, backing up Dogfish Head’s claim that this beer is “unprecedented”. I’d recommend drinking this beer as either desert or paired with a desert or being slowly sipped as a night cap on a cool evening. Make sure to let the beer warm up to get all the nuances it has to offer. Thankfully Palo Santo Marron is one of Dogfish Head’s year round releases and with their increasing range of distribution, an easy beer to obtain.
Beer Geek Nation rating: A
Beer Advocate: A / 4.4
Rate Beer: 4.5