Last Friday I paid $65 to attend a five-course “beer dinner” at San Francisco’s Cathedral Hill Hotel, with the guest brewer of honor being San Diego County’s red-hot PORT BREWING – also known to many at PIZZA PORT, and also lately as LOST ABBEY, as their new sub-brand of beers are known. Just this past year word of how fantastic this brewer’s wares are have reached critical consensus, and I’d been dying to try them. Oh, and I like a big fat meal with lots of meat as well. This chef named Bruce Patton has been curating these events for quite some time now; last month he had RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING as the guest brewer; next month it’s DOGFISH HEAD, whose beers can’t even be found in California. Wow.
In attendance this evening were representatives of all of the Bay Area’s 5-star brewers, as well as serious beer aficionados from hither and yon. In their company, I felt I’d arrived, but then, that’s what throwing a little money around once in a while will get ya. All told, there were nearly 100+ beer hounds sampling the wares, and pairing them with excellent, vaguely Mexican-themed cuisine like chipotle-spiced lamb, duck, skewered meat, seafood pastry puffs, and so on. Patton’s a terrific cook, and every dish was great, including the dessert that I barely remember. Barely remember? Hey, they did not skimp on the snobby-ass beer one bit. Brewmaster Tomme Arthur and his crew drove up from San Diego with some kegs and a ton of bottles for the event (they also deposited some at the Toronado Bar, at City Beer Store, and at Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley). Here’s what they served, in order:
LOST ABBEY AVANT GARDE – This was an amazing way to start the evening; I had 3 glasses in very short order, and the funny thing was: we thought we were drinking something called “WIPEOUT IPA” the whole time, when in fact it was a “Biere De Garde”. It was so incredibly flavorful and smooth, just this perfect golden Belgian-style nectar that couldn’t have been better. Need to find more of this ASAP! 10/10.
LOST ABBEY RED BARN ALE – This Belgian Saison was also fantastic & very full of complex yeasty flavors, just not off-the-charts incredible like Avant Garde. 8/10.
CUVEE DE TOMME – Tomme Arthur actually apologized to the crowd for this one – it was flat, he said, and most folks just shrugged and said, “Whatever, this is still great”. This is a Belgian-Style Dark Ale, and it tasted like an ultra-experimental fruit beer crossed with port wine. It was sort of a surprise that it wasn’t served with dessert, but Arthur had an explanation for this – I just forgot why. 6.5/10.
LOST ABBEY LOST AND FOUND ALE – This Dubbel was pretty interesting and very drinkable as well. I could pretend to tell you about it but I’d be lyin’. I do remember giving it a 7.5/10, though.
LOST ABBEY ANGEL’S SHARE – Incredible. Another knockout – this Barleywine is the absolute best representative of that style I’ve ever had, though Beer Advocate is calling it an “American Strong Ale”. Arthur definitely called it a barleywine, so there you go. The man knows his own product, I’m sure. 11% ABV – whew. Everyone at our table was oohing and aahing over it, and the pouring/serving fella just kept coming back with more! 9.5/10!
The talk of the town all week post-event has been how more Port Brewing/Lost Abbey beers are on tap at the Toronado and in the two aforementioned stores. I myself sampled the Toronado ales just last night, and will have a full report soon in this very space. In the meantime, every beer doggie in the Bay Area now has a new favorite brewer - shirts off to Tomme Arthur and his crew, and please get some distribution in Northern California soon.