Lost Abbey Angel’s Share(s)

July 29, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale.

Who says Twitter is useless?

Well, pretty much everybody who isn’t producing bad movies that they don’t want you to know are bad via word of mouth and Iranian elections protesters that no one is paying attention to.  I too found one swell use for it recently.  Allow me to elucidate.  Back in May I attended the SAVOR beer festival in our nation’s capital.  As is the case at most classy events–weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s, junior proms I’m chaperoning–I arrived appropriately soused.  And, when I’m appropriately soused, I’m inappropriately confident in my ability to seduce, impress, and entertain people.  Usually women.  But in this case, at SAVOR, I drunkenly marched up to Lost Abbey’s brewmaster Tomme Arthur and proudly slurred to him that just the previous day his Serpent’s Stout had handily defeated the more-legendary Deschutes Abyss in a blind stout drink-off my friends and I had conducted.  With a friendly smile and not much more, he seemingly dismissed me in the same way countless women have dismissed my drunken inveiglery.

Nevertheless, that next week after having typed up a post reporting on that very same Imperial Stout Drink-off, I then tweeted to the masses:

My imperial stout drink-off btwn: @lostabbey Serpent’s @DeschutesBeer Abyss & Avery The Czar http://tinyurl.com/ry9c7k

(If you know nothing about Twitter, @’ing someone else’s screenname creates a link which allows that user, in the cases above, Lost Abbey and Deschutes, to read the tweet I posted.)

Well, lo and behold, a few hours later I got an e-mail from the big man himself, Tomme Arthur, who had seen my tweet, read my Vice Blog post, and been compelled to write me.  Excerpted…

“…I actually remember our conversation from Savor so score one for sobriety!  Send me your address where you would like some goodies sent and we’ll return the love…”

Not bad.  “Goodies.”  I assumed I’d be getting some keychains, bumper stickers, bottle openers, perhaps a t-shirt or some glassware.  Which would have been great.  So imagine my shock then when a massive package arrived the next week from FedEx, which I actually had to sign for and show my ID to prove I was 21–I was getting anxious!–and in which I found neatly packed a bottle of the Lost Abbey’s swell saison Carnevale and a bottle each of both their bourbon and brandy barrel-aged Angel’s Shares, two legendary West Coast rarities I thought I may never touch as long as I should live.

This previous Friday, friend and fellow beer blogger The Captain was visiting NYC and I joined him at his hotel room for an epic beer tasting–more of which I will discuss tomorrow–but which we led off with both Angel’s Share.

Brandy Barrel-Aged (2008)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

First up was the lately-much-maligned brandy barrel-aged.  At one time, and we’re talking recently, like as recent as earlier this year, I can recall it being in the top 30 or so of Beer Advocate’s Top Beers on Planet Earth, but the events surrounding this very year’s release and some questionable carbonation levels–and some bitchy holy-than-though beer folks–caused it to have a most precipitous fall into oblivion.  I wasn’t sure what to expect other than that I would surely like the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share better because, I mean, ipso facto, I like bourbon better than brandy.

I was grossly wrong.  This beer was absolutely sublime.  Smelled nearly identical to the glorious J.W. Lees Harvest Ale port casked beer, a glorious beer in and of itself.  This is called a strong ale, but the taste is very much that of a barley wine.  Dark caramel malts, tons of vanilla and oak flavors, a nice little candi hint, and of course a perfect amount of sweet, sweet brandy.  The brandy and the beer combine so flawlessly it’s amazing.  It’s like they were made for each other.  Truly a special and unique offering.  As for carbonation, it is indeed negligable, but I hardly cared.  This is a 12.5% fairly flat beer with a rich, syrupy, and luxurious mouthfeel.  And that’s how it should be in my opinion.  What, would you want, a fizzy, efferevescent beer with these same flavors?  Can’t please everybody I guess, but you sure pleased me, Lost Abbey.  And I’d be saying that even if I hadn’t gotten this expensive beer for free!  (Sorry for bragging, I got excited.)


Bourbon Barrel-Aged (2009)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

OK, so Lost Abbey is the first brewery to ever send me free shit, which automatically makes them an inductee into The Vice Blog’s Turn-Me-Into-A-Shameless-Shill Hall of Fame, but luckily they are one of the finest breweries in America and I don’t need to shamelessly shill for them, I can be a straightshooter.  I had saved the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share for second because nothing ruins my drinking experience more than having beer in qualitative descending order as opposed to ascending (see my recent De Struise tasting.)

For as much as people had been bashing the brandy barrel-aged, the bourbon barrel-aged had continued to get near unanimous praise, holding steady high on the BA Top 100, often drifting into the top ten even.  I love bourbon and I love bourbon-barreled beers, so I thought this would be a masterpiece.  But, you know, even though it was very, very, very good, it simply wasn’t as good as the brandy offering.  It was much hotter.  The taste harsher on the palate.  Is that due to the barreling or the year?  Hard to say.  But based only on what I tasted, I simply don’t feel like the bourbon combined quite as well with the strong ale as the brandy did.  Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a great beer, absolutely worth locating.  I kinda just wish I’d set it aside for a little longer to let the booziness calm down and mellow out, the bourbon mix into the beer a little better.  Hopefully I’ll get to do that some day.

And maybe Twitter can help me out some more…


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