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Review of a Dogfish dark

Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron.

Gary Dzen/Globe Staff

Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron.

A few beer events for your calendar.

On Nov. 2, the 2d annual Latin Foods & Local Brews fund-raiser takes place at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville. The event will support Casa Connection, a nonprofit organization based in Boston that supports the Casa San Jose Orphanage in Colima, Mexico.

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The event features New England breweries paired with food from Boston-area Latin restaurants. Music will be provided by the Afro D All Stars. A silent auction with special items will accompany the evening’s festivities. Breweries include Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Smuttynose Brewery, Mayflower Brewing, Foolproof Brewing, White Birch Brewing, Enlightenment Ales, Samuel Adams, and more. The fund-raiser provides funding for 25 percent of the charity’s operations. All proceeds benefit the charity. There are two sessions: 3 to 6 and 7 to 10 p.m. Buy tickets at www.casaconnection.org/events.

From Nov. 14-Nov. 16, the New England Real Ale Exhibition North 2013 festival will be held at the Barking Dog Ale House in Haverhill. NERAX is one of my favorite events, championing cask or “real” ales in an age of carbonation and too-cold beer from your local sports bar. The festival aims to present more than 50 hand-pulled, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and noncarbonated offerings from the United States and Great Britain. Ticket information can be obtained on the NERAX website. Now on to the brews.

New from Mystic Brewery

Winter is coming, and if you’re looking for a medium-bodied fall beer to help you transition, Chelsea’s Mystic Brewery makes a good one.

Will o’ the Wisp is Mystic’s autumn saison. Brewer-founder Bryan Greenhagen specializes in Belgian-style beers. Using big, square wine fermenters, Greenhagen crafts small batches for each season. His fall saison is sweeter and darker than the ones you’ve seen on store shelves this summer. I picked up a bottle labeled “batch no. 002” last week.

“For fall we celebrate with a beer focused on dry rye malt with character, accented with brown sugar, and spiced with American and Slovenian hops,” the bottle label reads. “At this time of Samhain, when the door to the other side is flung open, travelers must be aware that leaving the path to chase the will o’ the wisp may lead them so far astray they may never return.”

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter (I had to look it up). Will o’ the wisp are lights seen by travelers over bogs, swamps, and marshes at night. This brew is for those thirsty wanderers. The beer pours a dark chestnut. There’s some citrus in the nose, but I mostly get the scent of warm, spiced cookies.

The first sip reveals lots of brown sugar. It’s not as funky or crisp as most of Mystic’s saisons, but it fits the season. It tastes like a Belgian Dubbel, not overly sweet but plenty bready for a cool night. As a fan of Mystic’s beers I am continually impressed with the varieties of saison produced.

A Dogfish dark

The Dogfish Head offering I reviewed is not the strongest beer in the world, but at 12 percent ABV, it’s nothing to sniff at. Palo Santo Marron is a brown ale aged in a 10,000-gallon vessel constructed from hard, oily Palo Santo wood from Paraguay. According to Dogfish’s Sam Calagione it’s the largest wooden vessel constructed since Prohibition. It cost $140,000 to build.

“If Dogfish were a publicly traded company, I’d have been fired for building this,” Calagione told the New Yorker.

Palo Santo Marron pours oil-slick black with very little head or carbonation. Dogfish calls this a brown ale, but the beer is so dark it obscures the other side of the glass. Roasted chocolate and coffee wafts up.

The mouthfeel is thick, like drinking a milkshake. It’s viscous — you might say oily. There’s a lot to the flavor profile. Up front is chocolate and coffee, but vanilla quickly pokes through. There’s also a bit of an herbal quality to this, though the beer is mostly sweet. It’s a sipper; with this beer more than maybe any other I realize just how much difference there is between this alcohol level and ABVs of 8 or 9 percent. This is decidedly a winter brew. At $17 a four-pack, it’s an expensive one. Someone’s got to pay for all that wood.

Gary Dzen can be reached at gdzen@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeGaryDzen.
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