Back in the day, The Lost Abbey suffered from complaints of low carbonation in their bigger, barrel aged expressions. There were a couple of infamous batches of Angel's Share that, to this day, seem to rankle veteran beer nerds because of their near complete lack of carbonation. And I suppose that's understandable, given the typically high price points of Lost Abbey beers. As someone who is especially sensitive to such issues, you'd think I'd have a problem with this brewery, but I've had pretty good luck. I've had a bottle of Angel's Share that weren't quite where it should be (a 2010 or 2011 vintage, if I remember), but later vintages were fine. Deliverance was barely carbonated, but enough that I still enjoyed it. Other than that, I've had pretty fantastic luck. It turns out that Lost Abbey has done a lot of work on this over the years, to the point where they have developed methods of pre-carbonating the beer and bought specialized equipment that lets them check carbonation, even in corked beer. Good for them.
But one of the problem childs has always been Cuvée De Tomme, a beer I've heard mixed things about for a while now. Again, carbonation issues in the bottle are the culprit. What's the problem? Well, these beers are bottle conditioned, which means that they are primed with extra sugar and dosed with more yeast. The yeast eats the sugars and produces carbonation (and slightly more alcohol), and since the yeast is still alive, it will continue to evolve the beer with time. The challenge with something like Cuvée De Tomme is that it's a high alcohol beer (a blend of barrel aged Judgement Day, a 10.5% Quad) that also happens to have a low pH (i.e. it's a sour). These are two environments that yeast does not like, and indeed, the yeast usually just dies off after a day or two. Apparently the 2014 batch was looking especially inhospitable.
As luck would have it, that 2014 batch of Cuvée De Tomme ran into some bottling line scheduling issues and Lost Abbey decided to just make it a draft-only affair. Since kegs aren't really meant to cellar, they are force carbonated, so no issues there. This is a beer that doesn't make its way out to Philly that often (there are usually some sightings at Philly Beer Week), but with the change up, more got distributed this year and during a recent trip to Tired Hands, I noticed that Teresa's had this on tap. So I hopped on the train and got me some. Let's just say that it was a good night.
The Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme - Whoa, darker than expected, almost black, minimal head. Smells of, wow, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, with some sour cherry notes too. Taste is rich, sweet, puckering sour cherries, vinous fruit, and plenty of vanilla, oak, and booze. This is really the only time I've gotten bourbon out of a sour (I feel like it's usually overwhelmed by the sourness), which I imagine contributes to the booziness here. As it warms, the barrel character gets even more pronounced and the sourness feels better integrated as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied with a great richness and ample carbonation, some sour acidity and hot booze too. Overall, very complex and interesting, not to mention delicious! A-
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/5/15.
This is fantastic and even though I'm not a huge fan of high-ABV sours, this works really well. I still love me some Red Poppy though.