Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 1 (7/25/2011): Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head

So, after a relatively false start, a trip out of town for a wedding, followed by nasty cold, I'm finally ready to get this show on the road. I still have the sniffles, but I don't think they'll greatly affect my ability to taste beer.

As some of you know, I recently got married AND bought a house. Why not take care of all the big stuff in one month, right? Anyways, yesterday evening's bit of backbreaking manual labor was tearing down an old compost bin and bagging all of the compost to be hauled away. This would theoretically be a simple task, but whatever Einstein built the bin constructed the walls out of wood lattice. This is roughly the equivalent of building a dam out of attached screen doors; it just doesn't work. What this means is that roughly half of the compost is no longer in the bin, but has slowly eroded and is now surrounding it. Fun!

The purpose of that story is to get across that after an hour or so of that nonsense in 90+ degree heat, I was ready for a beer. After a shower, I opened the fridge and gave the selection a look over. Any reasonable person would, of course, pick something crisp and refreshing like a hefeweizen or IPA (both of which I have in my fridge). What grabbed my eye, of all things, was a brown ale. And not just a brown ale, but one that is 12% abv. Sometimes I wonder about those hamsters running on their wheels making my brain work.

I popped the bottle, poured it into one of my favorite tulip glasses and simultaneously saw and smelled that I was not dealing with your average brown ale. I suppose I should have expected that from a Dogfish Head beer and one which is 12% and has been aged on wood.

It pours a dark, dark brown bordering on black, with about a half inch of tan-brown head.The wood aging is immediately evident in the smell, but after that, in descending order, the scent is booze, roasted malts, dark fruit, and a bit of vanilla. The booze is right up front there with the wood, though, and dominates pretty much everything else.

The same is true of the taste. The primary thing here is the 12% abv, with the wood, roastiness, coffee, and raisins/dates taking a back seat. It has a good amount of sweetness to it, but finishes with some hop bitterness. The 50 IBU is there, but not too pronounced. In terms of body and carbonation, I'd say it is roughly medium for both. It drinks more like a thin imperial stout than a brown ale.

Overall, I thought this beer was a boozy, hot mess. I probably wouldn't even consider it a brown ale; it's better thrown into the catch all category of  American strong ale. At the 12% showing considerably, it definitely is a candidate for cellaring. Hold onto a bottle of this for a few years and my guess is that the flavors would even out and the alcohol in it would cool down a bit. If you want to try it fresh, though, consider it a sipper and let it warm a bit before you dig in. The flavors became quite a bit more complex as it warmed.

I would like to try this cellared, but fresh I give Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head a B-. The booziness just overwhelms anything else good it has going for it.

Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 12%
IBU: 50
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/98

Purchased from Party Town (Florence) for $4'ish a bottle. Pretty readily available where Dogfish Head is distributed.

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