Wednesday, October 25, 2006


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.


mumbly said...

The beer dinner was quite a lot of fun. Though I thought the food was good, Bruce has done better. The beer was fantastic, even with the confusing "IPA".

Pizza Port has been making some great beers for years. I always look forward to their entries in the Toronado Barleywine contest.

J said...


Sorry I didn't know you were also at the event, I would have liked to have said hello in person. I was at the table with Tomme and company, and would have been happy to introduce you and tell them about the good work you're doing on behalf of craft beer. We Jay's have to stick together.

Brookston Beer Bulletin

Anonymous said...

I have always salivated upon reading reviews of these beer dinners, I guess I need to mark my calendar better so I can actually attend one. (..and probably spend the night at the hotel there..) Sounds fun!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning where these beers are available - very very helpful....