Sunday, August 26, 2007

First Annual Lost Abbey Barrel Tasting Party Wrap-Up

Let me start by saying that this event was worth every penny of the $50 admission and then some. The evening consisted of at least 13 different beers to sample, so I'll take you through the progression, the few mental tasting notes I can remember, and some of the awesome twists that Tomme threw in.

We arrived right at 6pm, and from about that time to around 6:30 they filed everyone in. The crowd was just over 100 people. As we walked through the door to sign the guestbook they gave us two sheets. One was a pre-ordering form of all the barrel aged beers we would try that night, and the other was a sheet with two tickets attached- this being the first twist. We were to take this sheet with the tickets to their bottling machine and we would be bottling our own bottle of Veritas, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale with sour cherries added. On our way to stand in line for the bottling there were glasses of Devotion being poured at the bar to have while we waited. Along the path of this bottling line were barrels set up with cheeses, crackers, grapes, and other vegetables. As we kept waiting in line (the wait was pleasant, no complaints here) we could get refills of Devotion, or the many bottles of Avant Garde or Red Barn that they were opening. After about a half hour since entering (and a few Devotions, Avant Gardes, and Red Barns) we got to the bottling line and we bottled our own Veritas in a 750mL corked and caged bottle. Because the labels were not ready at the time of this event we kept half the ticket to go claim our bottle later. Thus concludes the pre-tasting part of the event.

The next part of the evening consisted of tasting 5 different beers, but with a twist. We would sample not only the barrel aged version of each beer, but also either its base or its non-barrel aged version- meaning 10 different beers from this point on. First up were Lost and Found and Amazing Grace- the barrel aged version of Lost and Found. We drank this while Tomme gave a very nice short lecture on the barrels and the types of oak, and also thanked us for "dropping $50 on flat beer," which got a chuckle out of everyone. To address the flat beer thing, yes, all the barrel aged samples were flat or near flat because they had to fill decanters with the beer before-hand in order to serve everyone. Nobody was complaining. The Amazing Grace had a big red wine character to it, and that's really all I can remember for that one. At about this time they were also cranking out different styles of pizza breads, which I had two of.

The next beers to try were the Red Poppy Ale and its base Dawn Patrol Dark, a brown ale. The Red Poppy has the addition of sour cherries and is aged in French oak for one year. Essentially this is a sour cherry beer. This was my favorite beer of the evening, and would be a great digestif or pairing to a dessert. You immediately get a rush of puckering sour cherries but the finish is sweet cherry juice. I reserved the max amount of bottles I could (two 375mL bottles) so I can have this again. As for the Dawn Patrol Dark, it's a mild, sessionable brown ale.

Next on the list was Cuvee de Tomme. I can't remember if we tried a new and aged version of this, or if it was two different style barrels. I'm pretty sure it was an aged and young version though, but I can't remember a whole lot of the qualities because it is such a complex beer that I would have a very tough time trying to describe in a 4 oz. sample. I do remember it had a definite wine character to it. Tomme was up giving another lecture (he did for each beer basically, but I missed this one because we were standing by the food and the part of the brewery where there was air flow).

After everyone was poured Older Viscosity Tomme gave a short slideshow presentation on barrel aging. He talked about how certain breweries like New Belgium, Cantillon, and Boon use barrel aging, as well as some other small details and neat facts about barrels. I believe everyone was poured Old Viscosity as well before his slideshow but I missed it (again standing by the airflow and talking to Molly who let us grace her blog) and being that I was driving home I could live without it. Older Viscosity though was not what I expected at all. I expected something deeply roasted and boozy, but this came out tasting very tangy with dark chocolate malt and a bit of booze as well, of course. Dessert was also served at this time, and consisted of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and like a caramelized brown sugar type of sauce along with something similar to a churro.

As the evening was about to conclude, Tomme stood atop the bar and gave thanks to some of the volunteers and his coworkers, and led a "Happy Birthday" rendition for a customer whose birthday it happened to be. After that two types of The Angels Share were poured. One was pre-barrel aged and the other was barrel aged. The pre-barrel aged was a beautiful beer. Lots of residual sugars making it sweet but there was also a pronounced bitterness to it. The barrel aged version was potent, volatile, explosive.... as Ron Burgundy would say, it stings the nostrils. Yeah it surely had a huge Brandy character to it, and would be my personal definition of a "sipping" beer.

Overall it was a really great night. If I had known beforehand I would have gotten a hotel room, but with the 4 hour length and figuring we consumed maybe 45-50 oz of beer (albeit very strong beer) it actually didn't hit any of us too hard. A bit of relaxing in the parking lot and hanging out in town for a few extra minutes enabled us to be perfect for the hour drive home. If one thing is clear at this point in time, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey is doing some amazing and innovative stuff down there in San Marcos.


Beer Retard said...

Something like this almost makes me want to move to Southern California. Sounds pretty amazing. Ever since my SD trip earlier this year, I've been thinking about how I have to go back since I only tried a fraction of what they had to offer at places.

Beer Sage said...

Honestly Steve, what the hell are you doing up at 7 am posting after that barrel tasting? I didn't get home until after 2 am and didn't recover consciousness until at least 11.

Damn, I haven't even gotten MY barrel tasting post up yet.

Stop this now. You're making all us beer drinkers look lazy and shiftless when in fact we're just drunk and shiftless.

Oh -- and are you going to the Stone Anniversary? Port's got a "warm-up" brunch that day.

Steve said...

Beer Retard - that's also what makes me want to move to SD. But I'll take being just over an hour north of it for now.

Sage- LOL. I couldn't really sleep with that great ice cream dessert that got to me (lactose) and sent me a rude wake up call. I got home pretty early though cause I was taking my parents and other family members down to Stone for brunch. I was planning on hitting the first session of Stone's 11th until your wife told me about the morning Port brunch, and now I'm seeing if my DD (sister haha) is up for that double header. I'll keep you posted but more than likely I'll see you guys at Port sometime in the morning.