Drink of the Week: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (Not Summery, But Superb)

July 27 2010 - 12:44 AM

It's never too late to post about the best beers to tip back this summer.  A great place to start is a recent beer I tried that wowed me, Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron.  I recently tried this one at Guthrie's Pub in Wrigleyville, the cozy neighborhood bar with a great tap, warm yellow light, and every board game you grew up playing with your brother or sister.  Guthrie's also boasts an outstanding tap, usually featuring several outstanding American microbrews, and a few quality pints from the U.K., Belgium, and Germany. 

The other night I visited with some friends and was surprised to see the Dogfish tap, with its traditional seaweed green color in a shark shape. My heart skipped a beat, thinking that it might be the cherished 90 Minute IPA, rarely seen on tap around here.  Seeing the Palo Santo instead was highly unexpected but welcome. I'd had it before in bottles but never really on tap.The friendly bartender, Mark, poured it into an 8 oz snifter glass.  Given this beer's 12% potency, that makes sense.  It contained a thick head that started white but quickly turned brown, never thinning.  The color was a deep, dark brown, like shoe polish. 

The beer is cloudy. It tasted remarkable, offering a wide array of flavors.  It gets its name from the Palo Santo wood from Paraguay that's used in its brewing tanks. Malts are roasted for the brewing process, and a decent amount of hops (50 IBU's) to ground it and tame the sweetness.  A host of flavors emerge from the combination of these ingredients and the special wood.  Roasted vanilla, coffee, chocolate, barley, smoke, and maybe a bit of licorice give this a rare and unusual complexity.   A brewer-described brown ale, it's almost unclassifiable.  It comes closer to drinking like a porter with its firm – but not viscous – body, dark color, and roasted flavor. 

This beer's a remarkable achievement by Dogfish head, which offers one of the most unique lineups of any brewery in the land.  For those unfamiliar, the 90 Minute IPA, Burton Baton, and this one are perhaps their crown jewels, must-haves if you appreciate craft beer. 

This beer would pair easily with most desserts, particularly chocolate based treats, creme brulee, even cannoli. Yet it's is wonderful on its own as an end of the night brew.  If you plan
on starting out with this, I recommend switching to a lighter stout or
porter afterward. 

Cozy up to one.  And think about all those South American trees you're tasting.