Most of you have probably enjoyed a beer from the infamous Dogfish Head Brewery. Their take on beer is quite the new perspective in brewing oddities and beers never dreamed of. They’ve got quite the lineup of beers that push limits and boundaries and exceed the guidelines for particular styles. They really are a revolutionary brewery.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting with the brewer for Bavarian Barbarian and of course, discussing beer. Mike, the Brewmaster gave me some fresh ideas to think of when considering Dogfish’s offerings. I had began to view them as gimmicks, beers that were brewed only to somewhat “shock” the audience. My viewpoint has somewhat shifted and I see now what it is that Sam Galagione set out to do. He has busted the seams of the brewing industry wide open and has to set new boundaries.

When I first tried 120 Minute IPA, I was pretty let down by the beer. I had expected something totally different, perhaps lighter bodied, even though I realized that you can’t get 20% alcohol in a light bodied ale. Much the same thing happened to me with Palo Santo Marron, a wood aged brown ale. What I had expected and what was actually delivered to me were totally different. At first, I was somewhat disappointed that the beer far exceeded the boundaries of the Brown Ale style characteristics. My mindset has changed though, after speaking with Mike. I realize that style characteristics are only for judging purposes and should be tossed straight out the window in order to get more beers like Dogfish.

Mike from Bavarian was also telling me about his brewing methods. He doesn’t follow recipe or style guidelines, he builds them from the flavors and aromas of the different ingredients. This follows in the Belgian Tradition of brewing. So many beers brewed in Belgium don’t truly fit into a style category, but we (Americans) force them into categories for judging purposes. In my opinion, we’re better off leaving styles behind and pushing all the limits and boundaries of brewing, the results will be the tangible imagination of skilled artisans. Such as Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron.

Palo Santo Marron is literally forced under the Brown Ale category and most likely into the Big Beer sub-category. Like mentioned above, this is mostly for judging purposes only, as the beer does not fit as a Brown. Palo Santo is brown in color, which is it’s only characteristic of the Brown Ale category. It pours heavy and quite viscous with a slight tan head, that disapates quickly in the glass. Aroma is ladden with malt and alcohol notes that walk straight into the flavor of the beer. The alcoholic character of the beer make it perfect for after dinner sipping and perhaps enjoying the beer with a mild cigar. This beer would not pair well with foods, except perhaps a very strong cheese. Palo is a palate overload and would kill any flavors coming from food.

If your at all like me and have always followed style guidelines, so that you know what the beer is “supposed” to taste and smell like. Your missing the pleasure of experimental beers, such as Palo. Toss the guidelines out the window, let go of the “rules” that are impossed by beer related organizations and let your tastebuds do the judging. You’ll be pleasantly surprised and shocked at the difference when you break the rules.

beer + food = Barleydine



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