The Liquid Diet – A trip to Lost Abbey

This week is the first of a two part series regaling my epic adventures last week in a far off mystical land known as California. I made a long overdue trip home to San Diego and, of course, I ate and drank myself into my happy place. I am splitting this piece into two because there is a lot of content and I spent so much money I need to take a week off spending, gorging and boozing. I will only be using the first names of my guides through this adventure to protect their privacy from some of the crazies I know read the nonsense we post on Denver Off The Wagon.

Thursday January 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM PST:

That’s right the time above says ‘AM’. “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!” I sprung out of bed like I was going to a tailgate for the big game, ready to do some damage. I had my outfit all picked out. Stylish, but not trying too hard. I was going to a place and drinking with the likes that humble even the most seasoned beer aficionados. Punched in the address in the Garmin in the rental car (a cop-car-looking Impala) and a guy who is obviously wearing his pants one size too small barks out directions at me. Knowing my destination I bite my tongue and obey. A quick 18 minute trip from my mother’s house and I arrive in an un-assuming industrial park area with only one distinctive feature…a grain silo with a giant LOST ABBEY logo on the side of it! I had arrived, but the journey had just begun.

Upon entering the warehouse space, the smell of wort wafts over me and a grin creeps across my face. My eyes start darting around like a kid on Christmas morning or some other cliché situation of child like enthusiasm. A 16 tap bar with chalkboards, bottled beers and swag catches my eye and without a thought my feet move me right to it. I am met by an all too familiar face, that of a man going by the name Tomme. We exchange pleasantries and jog memories of back in the day when Stone Brewery was in the space Lost Abbey now occupies.

I am then introduced to our Master of Ceremonies, Kevin, who jumps right into the task at hand: Beer! We fill our cups and go on the short and sweet tour of the brewery, most of which we have all seen before on similar brewery tours. What stands out on this tour are over 650 barrels, slowly aging beer or awaiting their fill. Lost Abbey is really taking the barrel aging to another level. Which brings us to the next member of our Carnivale, Miss Gwen, who takes us into the mind of the beer.

Gwen is what you would call a bad-ass. I took a seminar with her at GABF this past year on off-flavor and beer tasting. It was something else getting to pick her brain and dissect her palate as we sipped on beer after beer after beer.

We tasted a veritable cornucopia of offerings. Kevin was quick on the draw, and as we drained each drink, a new one would appear. To aid in some flavor experimentation, we had a chocolate dipped cookie from a local bakery. While I’d love to delve into each brew we tasted, I could start a new blog just on our detailed discussions that day, so I’ll spare you. However, one beer did stand out above the rest.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Kevin pouring a 330ml bottle. From it emerges a bright reddish-brown color, and my ears pin back and my tail starts to wag because I know he’s pouring Cuvee de Tomme, and I am going to drink it in my mouth! This brown ale base ascends into a quadruple with raisins and candi sugars, and is fully fermented before being layed down for a year in oak barrels with sour cherries and brettanomyces (wild Belgian yeast).

With Gwen on board Lost Abbey’s brett inoculation has really progressed. She has the vats in the brewery where she feeds the brettanomyces different beers to help mature the yeast. This gives the brett a house character, something the great Belgian Lambic houses do, and separates Lost Abbey from some other American breweries.

Anyway, the Cuvee de Tomme is so well balanced. The high 11% ABV, the sweetness of the raisins/candi sugars and the tartness of the cherries and the brett are humming right now. The classic funk of the now mature brett takes you right over the edge and there you sit gazing back on your life and you recognize that this is one of those moments. One of those moments you can take for granted and write it off to just another good beer. Or you take the moment to rejoice that your life is a series of moments and this one moment you allow yourself to succumb to something beautiful.

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Benjamin Franklin

Quite a week in the life of THE LIQUID DIET…what will this week hold in store…stay tuned!

About Jensen Cummings

Jensen Cummings (@JensenDCummings) is the Executive Chef at Row 14 in downtown Denver. He calls his food "Pangean Cuisine" and his teaching style "Fortune Cookie Philosophy" so you know he's a little off his rocker! His side passion project is to collaborate with brewers on chef/food inspired beers meant to be paired with high end cuisine. Jensen is an avid beer collector, student of spirits, soon to be Certified Cicerone and a sommelier in training. Basically, he is just really into adult beverages and super geeky!