26 February 2009

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Rating: 6.9
Brewery: Dogfish Head (Milton, DE)
Glass: Pint
ABV: 12%
Seller: The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA)
When Enjoyed: 10 February 2009

This is the continuation to the comparative rating of brown ale displayed in their distinctive way by Brooklyn Brewery and Dogfish Head Brewery. Where Brooklyn's Brown Ale demonstrates a modest, but solid representation of the Brown Ale style; Dogfish Head creates a Brown Ale focusing on the experimental.

Dogfish Head as a brewery focuses on creative artistic flourishes of standard beer styles that people have become used to. However these are anything but ordinary. Dogfish Head takes pride on using unusual ingredients and brewing methods to create drastically different and creative tastes on different styles of beer. Palo Santo Marron for the Brown Ale is no exception. The description from the bottle itself explains its unique brewing process. "The caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this ale comes from the exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood from which these tanks were crafted. At 10,000 gallons each, these are the largest wooden brewing vessels built in America since before Prohibition." This kind of eccentric brewing has become much of the norm for Dogfish Head. Always leading to interesting and complex tastes, this offering however falls short in terms of a brown ale.

While experimentation is appreciated in the creation of new craft brews and tastes, this offering seems to have gone too far. It tastes little like a brown ale and often the taste is too complex and conflicting to be greatly enjoyable. The overly strong alcohol content also seems to kill some of the lighter tastes usually present in brown ales and takes a deep caramel and vanilla flavors that often seem to work against each other during drinking. A little less would have done a lot more for this beer and given it more of a brown ale taste that was expected. This beer seems to be the opposite offering of the Brooklyn Brown ale in that it is incredibly interesting but not always eminently enjoyable.


  1. The blog is back!
    Still unclear whether it will get me drunk.

  2. Back with a vengeance! If you can stomach two of these, it will certainly get your drunk switch turned on.

    What is so sad about this beer is that it should be a 10. DFH had to go ahead and amp this to 12%, which is way, way too high for us to really get the intricacies of the wood or really much of the other awesome, subtle flavors packed into this. I maintain, if this were at 8-10%, it is at least a 9.

    Ultimately, this shows us where this debate is headed, DFH shoots for the stars and often falls short, BK sets modest goals and achieves them.

  3. I don't think anyone will argue that dogfishhead has some fantastic "misses," but when they hit, they knock it straight out of the park. i'll take that over consistent mediocrity any day

  4. And yes, 12% is way, way too high for this beer

  5. My beef with DFH is that I feel like they really get ahead of themselves sometimes. They try to pack too many good ideas into one beer. They're IPA's are awesome because they found this great new technique of hopping a beer continuously. The fact that they made SPM a fantastic beer, but just had to crank it to 12% to make it 'extreme' is sad, because it almost ruins an amazing beer (not to mention that it was absurdly expensive to produce, I think they spent close to a million on the tank alone).

  6. This one deserves a little revision. Harry and I were able to get a glass of this stuff on draft in Manayunk and, wow, what a difference. For most beer, going to draft doesn't make a ton of difference, but for this beer, its all of it. I don't know all of the science (but our upcoming interview with a brewer from River Horse will help explain things), but PSM on draft brings out all those caramel and wood tastes that it bellows about on the label and in the press.