Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Whale A Week: Lost Abbey Angel's Share 2013

Hey folks, time once again for A Whale A Week!  Last week we tested out Goose Island Madame Rose 2012 and enjoyed it quite a bit.  This week we move from sour to sweet with the much sought-after Lost Abbey Angel's Share.

Lost Abbey Angel's Share 2013 Vintage

Lost Abbey is a brewery with an interesting history.  The brewery itself was started as a mostly Belgian oriented offshoot of the famous Pizza Port Brewery in California.  Brewer Tomme Arthur is famous for pushing the boundaries of craft brew in our country and is usually mentioned in the same breath as Sam Calagione and Vinny Cilurzo as rockstar brewers.  We still don't get Lost Abbey beer in Minnesota, so any of them are a rarity here.  One of their more famous brews is the Angel's Share. Named for the evaporation that occurs while barrel aging spirits, the "angel's share," it is an early example of barrel aging in the USA. This is a strong 12.5% ABV English style barleywine (think J.W. Lees or Thomas Hardy) that is then aged for a year or more in Bourbon barrels.  There is a large description on the website of the aging shed where the whiskey is rested for year HERE, but no information as to what distillery that may be.

This beer comes out in limited quantities every year--sold on tap and in small 375 ML bottles that make this a hard one to want to share.  Beer Advocate has a current rating of 95 for this beer, and RateBeer puts it at 100.  Not too shabby!  

I picked up my bottle in Champaign, Illinois at Friar Tuck's back in 2013 while visiting my dad.  I was shocked at the time to find it there, but happy to pay the cost and cart it back to Minnesota with me.  I have stored it in a cool dark cupboard in my basement since then, waiting to crack this gem of booziness.  

Recently I had a diverse group of friends over to play the geeky Pathfinder card game and drink beers.  Over a long evening of gaming we had started with Ommegang Three Philosophers (2012 and 2003 vintages), then moved to the Bruery's Smoking Wood, then to Fulton War and Peace.  All good beers, except perhaps for the overly oxidized and chunky 2003 vintage.  Then, realizing I had a captive audience who would appreciate a special beer I pressed them all into helping out with A Whale A Week!  Included were Anna, John, and Brian.  Sj missed this one since she was off galivanting on a cruise.

Poured into four Belgian chalice glasses we shared this beer and each wrote down our impressions before discussing.  For background: I'm a National ranked BJCP judge.  Anna is a seasoned brew-in-bag all-grain brewer.  Brian is also a homebrewer and has won awards for his beer (but doesn't brew enough these days).  John is a seasoned beer drinker and apparently is very good at describing beers…

The angel sneaking a sip at the brewery...

Eric: Strong Bourbon booziness and sweet vanilla.  Very malty and caramel-like.  Plenty of alcohol even on the nose.  Smells like it will be overly sweet.
Anna: Faint.  Caramelly and rich.
Brian: Fruity, (date/raisin/prune/fig?)
John: Light Scotchy, warm, malt.

Appearance (combined):
Brown or caramel color.  Hazy or cloudy.  Dirty brown.  Not overly pretty.  Tan head that fades fairly quickly.

Eric: Strongly flavored beer.  Sweetness is dominant, but not cloying--this is actually well balanced.  Vanilla is strong, as is caramel and toffee.  Alcohol certainly present, but pleasantly warming and not "hot".  Dark cherry and prune as it warms up more.  Slight oxidation--more like a nice sherry than cardboard.  Carbonation is better than I expected from the head.  Body is thick and mouth coating, but not syrupy.
Anna: Incredibly well balanced.  No acidity.  No burn.
Brian: The same fruits as in the aroma.  Sweet but not syrupy.  Warm, but no burn.
John: Very balanced malt.  Hint of sweet Scotch.  Incredibly balanced.

Eric: So smooth!  This is a perfectly melded aged beer and makes me happy I held onto it for so long.  I will call this Booze Candy!  5/5
Anna: Hello Mr. Barry White...'cause this beer is smooth!  Lingers nicely. 5/5
Brian: Wonderful and very smooth. 5/5
John: A wonderfully well balanced and proportioned beer.  The sweet Scotch hits early and softly, quickly balanced by an exceptional malt taste.  Like a grown-up malt shop.  Brought a smile to my face! 5/5

So there you go!  Everyone picked up pretty similar aromas and flavors in this beer and to all of us it was incredibly well balanced.  We all gave it the top score and I think this is one of the best beers I've had so far this year.  I apologize to my wife for drinking this without her, but she was off drinking fruity fruity cruise drinks and left me to my own devices…

Fancy photo work...
According to Princess Anna: If this beer was a person, it would be Barry White....

No comments: