Tag Archives: The Lost Abbey

The Beer Geek’s Guide to Las Vegas – Part 1

Sometimes when you travel finding a source of great craft beer is a no-brainer, this is true if you go pretty much anywhere on the west coast of North America or say Belgium but sometimes if can be a little bit more challenging to locate your next beer fix.

Oddly enough the latter description applies to Sin City. Yeah I know it’s kinda ironic that the capital of overindulgence is not resplendent with gushing craft beer fountains and tap houses on every garish block but hey that’s what you’ve got me for right? The beer geek that plots her beer routes on the map before landing in the desert.

 

I always have a few beer priorities when I am travelling. First, finding a store that sells lots of great beer so I can stockpile bottles for my hotel room mini-fridge; second, locating a place I can go to grab a decent pint and third, staking out that oh-so-elusive eatery that allows me to both drink great beer and eat great food.

So what did I find in Vegas?

Probably the most important time-saver I can think of is to constantly repeat the mantra that the Strip is basically a giant corporate marketplace sponsored by the big macro-brewers – if you love Bud Light with Lime you’re golden otherwise you’re boned.

Granted you may find the odd craft beer sprinkled here and there at a Walgreens but if you are serious about having a decent bottle selection on hand head south my friends, head south (and don’t stop until you get to Town Square).

A quick cab ride from Mandalay Bay will get you to the local Whole Foods or as beer geeks know it Old Faithful. Here you will find all the craft beer your heart desires, at reasonable prices, and in sixes or twelves to boot!

 

Some highlights from my bottle line-up…

Brux Domesticated Wild Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Russian River Brewing Co. – Deep amber gold ale with lots of sediment and tons of stiff white head. Super yeasty and earthy on the nose with that barnyard element coming through on the nose, flavour and finish. Straight forward live beer with no flavour embellishments. This could be a challenging beer for some since bacteria-laden brews can be an acquired taste but I have to say this one worked for me.

Calico Amber Ale from Ballast Point Brewing Company – Deep amber to brown in colour with a ton of cream coloured head. Quite hoppy on the nose, but well-balanced flavour wise with lots of malt coming through and a nice smooth mouthfeel. Very clean and smooth to drink. Not remarkable but a good beer all-in-all.

Table Beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales- I love the concept; an analogue to a table wine this table beer is a blend of various styles to make a versatile go-with-anything brew. Very pale gold in colour, slightly cloudy with bright white head. Hoppy on the nose, bitter on the finish. Flavour wise I would say this is most comparable to a Pale Ale. Overall, I think they met their goal of making an accessible and easy beer that most anyone could drink.

Brett Beer from New Belgium Brewing Company and The Lost Abbey – “We got the funk”. Hoo boy, a cloudy gold coloured beer with lots of head, tons of sediment and that fresh-from-the-farm aroma. As the name suggests this is a bacteria bomb; a wild ale that is earthy and sour in flavour. Another challenging brew but if you are open to pushing beer boundaries this is one to try.

Hell’s Keep from Squatters Salt Lake Brewing – Deep golden colour, lots of bright white head and sweet malt on the nose. Fairly light-bodied beer, malt heavy in the profile with a bit of an earthy aftertaste. An easy drinker for a Belgian.

 

Other options include, getting growlers filled at local breweries like Tenaya Creek or Sin City Brewing Co. Or checking out Lee’s Discount liquor for a decent selection of craft beer (I did not get a chance to get there myself but the bartender at the Freakin’ Frog recommended it). The Freakin’ Frog will also sell you bottles out of their impressive fridge but you won’t be paying retail prices.

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Sleep Less (drink more) in Seattle

Last weekend was the Seattle International Beerfest, a modest affair with a scant 210 beers from 15 countries, a beer garden with $3 pints, live music and a pet friendly venue. Situated under the Space Needle in Seattle Centre the event ran for three days with the $30 admission getting you unlimited re-entry and ten tokens towards some of the 4oz pours.

 

 

The Venue

Despite the central location of the tasting garden, it took us a considerable amount of time to find the entrance. After wandering behind the Sci-Fi museum, over to the King Tut exhibit, talking to a rather unhelpful staff member, we eventually spotted beer drinkers through a chain link fence. We followed this fence all the way to the end of a gigantic line, which thankfully moved along quite quickly.

Once inside, I found the set-up to be really confusing. In retrospect I probably should have read through the line-up ahead of time and mapped out a route. There were only a few stations but each one had a dozen or so line-ups and you had to get in front of the cooler serving the beer you wanted to try. Token amounts were displayed prominently while the beer number was in smaller handwriting below. Despite my own ineptness at tracking down the beer, obviously a lot of work went into the beer fest guides, which had detailed and abbreviated beer lists, a map, general beer knowledge, tips to maximizing your experience and ads from local beer stores and tap houses.

Unlimited access is great if you are staying all weekend but it also meant that on a warm sunny Saturday you could barely find a place to stand and drink. Smarter people than I came early armed with blankets to stake out a coveted lawn space. For a beer geek trying to keep notes and take pictures it was a pretty comical juggling act -if you break your tasting glass it will set you back $5!

The Seattle International Beer Fest billed itself as a “high-end event” but I am not really sure how this was supposed to play out. This beer fest was similar to most outdoor events and $3 pints did not exactly contribute to a restrained drinking environment. Just an observation that notions of a high-end beer festival may be an oxy-moron.

 

 

The Beer

There was a lot of beer and in order to try even a portion you really needed to come for all three days. Since I could only make it for the Saturday I had to strategize the best I could by focusing on rarities, new (to me) brewers, collaborations and anything with a really long line –very scientific I know.

There was an almost even split between draft and bottle selections. Cost to sample ranged from 1 to 10 tokens –for ten tokens you got to try on of the Samuel Adams Utopias, which was a rare chance to buy into a very expensive bottle of beer. The bottles tended to be the more expensive selections with one of the Evil Twin beers fetching 7 tokens and the Deschutes Conflux fetching 6 tokens. Doing the math on the bottles it seemed to me that the draft beers were a better value.

One odd element was the cask rotation. You would find the beer you wanted, follow the map, only to learn that it was all gone or had not been tapped. Okay, so the guide warned about this possibility BUT when you inquired when they may be tapping the keg the servers did not know!?! Kind of like winning the beer lottery if you show up at the right time and place.

What did I try? Not as much as I would have liked as a mix of hot sun and high ABV meant I had to be a picky drinker. I did manage to sample a couple of Mad Viking Beers, the Belgian Strong and the Vintage Bourbon Stout, a couple from Double Mountain Brewery, the Peche Mode, Ferocious Five and just a wee taste of the Rainier Kriek, the New Belgium Brewery/Lost Abbey collaboration, Mo Betta Bretta Sour Ale, Anderson Valley Brewery’s Brother David’s Triple, Lost Abbey’s Serpent Stout, Two Beers Brewery Ascension Triple IPA, Scotch de Silly Belgian Scottish Brown, Evil Twin Freudian Slip Barleywine, Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge Sour Ale, Oakshire Brewery Blackberry Impy Stout Gin Barrel Imperial Stout, Tenth & Blake Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Pike Brewery Pike Saison Houblon, and finally, an Icelandic beer Olvisholt Lava Smoked Imperial Stout.

As always I like to toss out the caveat that it is really hard to give a review based on a small pour at a beer fest but I did enjoy the Mad Viking beers and the Double Mountain beers quite a bit. The Cuvee des Jacobins Sour was also an awesome choice on a hot day.

 

 

All in all a fun event with lots of unique beers! Thanks Seattle.

 

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Becoming a Lost Abbey Convert

Though I am pretty new to this brewery I have quickly become a devoted convert to The Lost Abbey. Since their beers are not available in Canada (sadly) I had been eye-balling them on visits south of the border; literally because of their fantastic label art work and also because of their hefty price tag. I’ll admit It took me awhile to want to shell out $17 dollars for a small bottle of beer but oh boy am I glad I made that leap of faith.

 

 

As their name suggest, Lost Abbey brewers focus on monastic and Belgian brewing traditions “for the enjoyment of Sinners and Saints alike”. They have a standard line-up of six beers -Avant Garde, Devotion, Inferno, Judgement Day, Lost and Found and Red Barn; five seasonal beers – Carnevale, Gift of the Magi, Seprent’s Stout, The Ten Commandments and Witch’s Wit; and finally, my favourites, five non-denominational barrel aged ales – Cuvee de Tomme, Deliverance, Duck Duck Gooze, Red Poppy Ale and The Angel’s Share.

 

 

What I love about this Brewery…

Everything. No seriously, I think they have a fantastic core of beers bolstered by some of the best barrel aged beers I have ever had. I am a huge fan of Belgian beers and it can be challenging style to emulate, after all you are following breweries that have been at the game for hundreds of years. I like the incorporation of an over-arching theme running through the brewery name, back story, homage, art work and labels and beer names. This easily identifiable signature makes it simple to walk into a beer store and pick out the Lost Abbey selections. They also have an informative and fun website with tons of affirmations, a brewcam and all kinds of brewery information. For instance:

 

 

Our Ten Commandments

1.The most imaginative beers are our crusade

2.We believe we are all in this together

3.We strive for honesty and integrity in our lives like you

4.Fresh beer is great, aged beer is better

5.Now that you have found us help us spread the message

6.There is good and evil in the world – our beers are good

7.Passion isn’t something you can buy at the corner store

8.We believe an inspired life is worth living

9.Life is about choices, The Lost Abbey is a great choice

10.We are not perfect, but no one is

I definitely have not had the pleasure of trying their entire line-up (I’m working on it) but I have tasted several Lost Abbey beers including Judgement Day, Devotion Ale, Red Barn Ale, The Ten Commandments, Deliverance and The Angel’s Share. Out of the beers I have tried I have to highly recommend The Angel’s Share and The Ten Commandments though you really could not go wrong trying anything from this brewer.

 


Drowning in a Sea of Green in Seattle

Elysian Brewing Co. Research

 

This St. Patrick’s Day long weekend (well I took a long weekend anyway) found me sipping my way around some of Seattle’s breweries and maxing out my cross-border beer allowance. There is always a great energy in Seattle, and this trip was no exception as Pike Place Market was awash with live music, tourists and emerald clad runners looking to put back on any calories they may have burned off during the morning’s run.

 

First stop for us was The Pike Brewing Co. a veritable Seattle institution. It was beyond packed thanks in part to the fact they were serving three dollar pints of Naughty Nellie and Kilt Lifter at a cash-bar located in the brewery basement. Deciding to opt-out of the hour-long wait for an actual table we saddled up to the bar to do a little reconnaissance. After flagging down the harried barkeep we worked our way through The Pike Sampler, which proffers the standard six offerings from Pike:

Naughty Nellie is a Golden Organic Artisan Ale named for the madam at LaSalle where Pike was founded (beer and brothels together at last). A crisp, light ale with a 4.7% ABV and IBU of 24. Safe choice for the hard-drinking St. Paddy’s crowd since it was very quaffable or as Pike puts it ‘light and curvy with plenty of sex appeal’.

Pike Pale Ale an heirloom amber, 5.0% ABV and IBU 32, with that classic nutty character and reddish-brown colour. Apparently this is the first beer Pike brewed in 1989.

Pike IPA India Pale Ale for those residing is some sort of beer exile for the last two hundred years- a golden amber pour with lots of in-your-face hop character; a little bit flower and a little bit soap. An ABV of 6.3% and IBU of 62. Rumour has it this beer is one of the ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die’. Mark it off my bucket list then.

Pike Kilt Lifter a lovely Scotch Ale that is ruby-amber and full of sweet malt elements. ABV of 6.5% and IBU of 27, Kilt Lifter is well-balanced with some bitter hops and a bit of a smoky character.

Pike XXXXX Extra Stout boasts a 7.0% ABV and IBU 65. ‘Sensuous and X rated’ this deep amber black beer has a ton of roast coffee flavour, a little bit of sweet chocolate and a nice burnt aftertaste.

Pike Monk’s Uncle is a Tripel (read Belgian) Ale with the heftiest ABV at 9.0% and IBU 34. Yeasty and sweet, whoa boy is this one sweet, brewed with organic candy sugar. A bit of fruit and a dry finish but I think the sugars ate all the yeast (and it is not even supposed to work that way).

 

Pike Thoughts: Kilt Lifter and the Pale Ale were my favourite beers, great brewpub with a great location in the market, cool beer swag and fun atmosphere – I would like to offer a shout out to the very drunk Southern gentleman drinking solo at the bar and trying to read the script on my tattoo upside down; you just can’t stage those kind of Kodak moments.

 

Next stop was Elysian Brewing Company’s brewpub in the Capitol Hill district; another great location in a trendy little region of the city boasting lots of coffee, foodie joints and general hipster-ness. We managed to work our way through two taster flights this time round and the rule is the resident beer geek does the selecting for you …fun!

From the regular line-up we tried The Immortal IPA, Mens’ Room Red, Dragonstooth Stout, Wise ESB, Avatar Jasmine IPA and Idiot Sauvin IPA. From the specialty beer line-up we sampled:

Bifrost Winter Ale a 7.6% hop-heavy beer balanced with a couple of different malts. ‘Bold, hoppy and smooth’ is the description from the brewers. For those who have not watched Thor, Bifrost is the mythical bridge connecting the mortal world to the heavens in Norse mythology.

Ryezome a 6.2% ABV beer aptly described as a ‘hoppy red rye’. Tons of bitterness tempered with that distinctive soured sweetness, which is the hallmark of rye.

Loki Lager ‘a smooth Dortmund-style lager’ with 4.8% ABV. Golden in colour with that elusive balance of malt and hop that makes a highly drinkable ball-park beer. Named for the Norse god and jester Loki.

Mongrel ‘Cascadian dark saison’ weighing in at a respectable 8.2% ABV. A little earthiness to this one, lots of malt and an extremely dry finish but somehow not quite reaching that saison benchmark.

Cocoa Mole from New Belgium Brewing Co. A 9% ABV monster chock full of chocolate and heat but surprisingly easy to drink with sweet malts and decent body to temper the chili peppers.

 

Elysian Thoughts: I really loved the beers we tried especially the Avatar and Loki BUT (notice this is a big but) the whole experience was tainted by the awful food, we left it virtually untouched but were charged nonetheless, and by the very mediocre service, I don’t think we ever saw the same server twice. I was surprised to see how much my view of the beer selection was impacted by the rest of my visit.

 

In addition to our brewery visits, we went to Full Throttle Bottles for the first time to do a little beer shopping and it was a pretty amazing little store. Situated in an up-and-coming part of Seattle this store was overflowing with ambience, wicked beer selections, and knowledgeable staff more than willing to talk shop with fellow beer geeks. I highly recommend taking the time to visit this beer shop next time you are in the Seattle area.

Some other recommendations from my beer shopping include Adam and Fred from Hair of the Dog (two separate beers) and Noble Rot from Dogfish Head. All three were outstanding beers.

 

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A Christmas Buying Guide for the Beer Geek in your Life

There are only nine shopping days left to find that perfect gift for the craft beer enthusiast in your life. So I thought I would do my part to ease the shopping burden and offer up some of the most coveted things on my list this year as well as some recommendations based on a few of my favourite things:

1.Serpent’s Stout from The Lost Abbey. A winter warmer with French roast coffee, dark chocolate, deep malt and a touch of vanilla.

2.Recycled Beer Glasses from Uncommon Goods. Handmade in Columbia from discarded, recycled and re-purposed glasses.

3. The Ontario Craft Brewers Discovery Pack from the LCBO. Six of Ontario’s finest beers.

4. Handmade Brew Slate Coasters from BadLuckArtCo. Super fun beer mats mounted on slate and completely waterproof. Fantastic Idea.

5. Stone Brewing Co. Tour. The tours are free and include a guided beer tasting. Or if you really love the Beer Geek in your life a whole tour of the Cali Brewing Scene followed by a little surfing (hint, hint).

6. Gift certificate(s) to participate in one of the many great beer tasting events happening in BC’s Lower Mainland, shop at one of our great independent liquor stores and/or  imbibe at a great tap houses.

7. A Beerquet from 99 Bottles; like flowers but drinkable! A hand-selected assortment of six beers from their stellar collection AND a gift card to boot. Who says you need to say it with flowers.

8. Beer Gear like “Stay Pretty & Drink Real Beer” T-shirt or Brewelry (jewellery handmade from old kegs) from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.

9. Home-brewing Course at the Vancouver Pastry School (extract brewing for the beginner and all grain brewing for the advanced) or a home-brewing start-up kit from Dan’s Home-brewing for those adventurous sorts that just like to wing it!

10. Antique Irish Guinness Beer Pulls, Bar Taps, from Stoneybatter Pub, Dublin, Ireland.

11. Beer Books. There are quite a few good ones but for an all-round great and easy read with lots of information on all things beer related you can’t beat Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. For something more in tune with the season try Christmas Beer by Don Russell.

12. Vintage Retro Inspired Rustic Cast Iron Bottle Opener from the Shabby Shak. Never go searching for your bottle opener again (Etsy listing).

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