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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week:" Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 12, 2008 6:00PM

2008_03_botw11.jpgWe've had a hard time warming up to Maryland's Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery and have a hard time explaining why. They have everything we expect in a great brewery: a commitment to brewing inventive, high quality brews; a balance of hops and malt; wide selection and good word-of-mouth. For us the problem with some of Dogfish's signature selections is in the balance. Some of their brews are so overboard on both hops and sweetness that it makes our jaws ache. And don't even get us started on Raison D'Etre.

So it was with some hesitancy that we picked up a four-pack of Palo Santo Marron. This brown ale, aged in handmade wooden brewing vessels. The 10,000 gallon vessels, the largest built in the States after Prohibition, are made from Paraguayan Palo Santo ("holy tree") wood, which is popular among South American winemakers for adding flavor and texture to their yields.

What the Palo Santo wood is imparting to the mix is a rich vanilla flavor to the malt that complements the natural roasted barley flavor we also picked up. At 12 percent alcohol, this is a heavy, cold-weather beer that doesn't form a lasting head, but leaves some sick lacing on the inside of the glass. We almost felt like rubes drinking it with some of Phil's pizza. Almost.

If we can get our mind - and palate - around some of Dogfish Head's other selections, it may just change our mind on the brewery. All it takes is one beer to open the door, and that beer is Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron, Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week."