Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Inferno Ale – The Lost Abbey

                Well, The Lost Abbey's Inferno Ale, where to begin?  With the brewing genius of Tomme Arthur? With the origins of The Lost Abbey?  Sure, let‘s start with the origins, a proper origins story should cover the important parts.

                Vince Marsaglia, one of the founders of the world-famouse Pizza Port breweries became inspired to make Abbey style beers in the monastic traditions of Belgium.  His idea remained stuck in the concept stage due to the lack of a brewer who could produce excellent Belgian beers.  Perhaps it was fate when Tomme Arthur was hired to be the brewer at Pizza Port – Solana Beach.  In November of his first year at Pizza Port, Tomme brewed his Dubble Overhead Abby Ale, the first Belgian-style beer ever brewed at a Pizza Port location.

                After the success of the first Overhead Ale, Tomme developed a series of Belgian-style beers, in turn developing a reputation in the brewing industry.  His beers on the other hand, they became legendary and quickly developed a cult following.  After years of brewing at Pizza Port, Tomme and Vince decided to bring Tomme’s Belgian-style beers to a larger audience.  In 2005, their dream of opening a production brew house became a reality when Stone Brewing moved out of their old San Marcos facility. Vince and his sister Gina Marsaglia (the other co-founder of Pizza Port) founded Port Brewing Company with Tomme and a fourth partner.

                In 2006, Tomme became the director of operations at Port Brewing.  Sporting a 3 vessel, 30 barrel brewery, Port Brewing began brewing two lines of beer: Aggressive West Cost-style beers as “Port Brewing” and Belgian-style beers as “The Lost Abbey”.  In 2007 Tomme Arthur was named Small Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.  Six months later at the 2008 World Beer Cup, the small brewery took the title of Champion Brewery and Brewmaster – Small Brewing Company.

                Port Brewing is currently ranked as one of the top 10 breweries in the nation.  The Lost Abbey division currently has a library of over 800 oak bourbon, brandy, sherry and wine barrels,  They have expanded distribution to major cities throughout the country (although they aren’t in Wisconsin yet…).  They currently produce six year-round beers: Avant Garde, Devotion, Inferno Ale, Judgment Day, Lost and Found, and Red Barn Ale.  There are five seasonals: Carnevale, Gift of the Magi, Serpent’s Stout, The Ten Commandments, and Witch’s Wit; a series of six beers they refer to as their “Non-Denominational Ales”: Cuvee de Tomme, Deliverance, Duck Duck Gooze, Framboise de Amorasa, Red Poppy Ale, and The Angel’s Share.  For 2012 there is a very limited series, coined the “Ultimate Box Set” which currently is on “Track 6” and is only available at the brewery, sold for consumption on premises only; so if you really want it, you have to go to the brewery to taste it.

                Okay, that was long, but I think it covered most of it.  If you want to read more, I highly recommend reading their 10 Commandments or the explanation of their Celtic Cross logo.  As for this post, it’s time to get on to the beer, after all that’s why you come back time and again, right?  Down in the review section I have included Tomme’s tasting notes video from the Lost Abbey website as well as a transcript of it for those of you who like to read ;).  Don’t worry though, my notes are somewhere down at the bottom like usual (on page 3 in MS Word).

On Beeradvocate Inferno Ale has a 90.  Over at ratebeer it has a 97 overall and a 94 for style.

They say:

Corruption, Greed and Lust, they’re all represented on the books today.  Tomorrow they’ll be stringing Gluttony, Desire and Sloth.  Go ahead, tell yourself you’re better than all of them.  But you can’t.  Hell can be funny like that.  Down here it’s all just sin.  Everyone here is screwed just like you.  They don’t care who you sliced, diced or cheated.  No one is escaping this heinous place.

Your roommate is an axe murderer.  Eerily, he’s not threatening.  How can he be?  The Fallen Angel owns your body, mind and soul.  As such, no one can take your live.  It’s already been taken.  Or was it given?  Neither matters.  Did you seriously think you were living a virtuous life?  At least Satan serves beer in Hell.  He brews it himself right there in that flame stoked cauldron.  Rumor has it that the beer is straw yellow, bone dry and simply labeled Inferno.

Tomme’s tasting notes video with transcript below:
                " Inferno is one of my favorite Lost Abbey beers, perhaps the one beer that I drink more of than any of the other ones.  AS one of our year round beers, Lost Abbey’s Inferno was the last to come into our year-round portfolio.  The question that comes up is why would that be, well after releasing it the first time we just determined that we need to make a beer like this on a year round basis.

It’s about 9% alcohol, brewed in a pale strong ale fashion, which essentially means that it’s very deceptive in its texture, designed to look like a lager or a pilsner style beer but have a lot of alcohol presence and really, really belie the senses.  So, let’s give it a little bit of an open here and see what we’ve got going on in the bottle.  As the beers go in the Lost Abbey sequence of things, this is the most highly carbonated and *pops the cork* well, that doesn’t exactly show you that, but I will show you here.  This is the most, highest level of CO2 that we produce in a bottle-conditioned beer and the reason being is that it really allows for that beer to be deceptive, it allows for that alcohol strength to be hidden and at the same time develop a little bit of texture.  As you can see, we’ve got a really dense head going on here, exceptional clarity and lots of bubbles. 
The aroma is gonna have a huge yeast component to it, it’s fairly perfumy and at the same time a little bit citric.  The taste itself, if I can get past the foam here is real smooth, real developed and has a nice tart finish to it.  Again, there is a lot of yeast character going on in this beer.  In terms of food pairings and things, this is my favorite standalone Lost Abbey beer.  I like to drink it on it’s own, although you can pair it with cheeses, salads, mussels, all kinds of things.  It’s a great beer, but for me I prefer just drinking this when the weather gets hot outside, so cheers to Inferno and let’s see how it goes down on a hot summer day."

I say:
Whoah!  Inferno pours a hazy light gold with an excellent rocky, white head that holds excellent retention.  This beer is gorgeous, but beer is a full sensory experience and I couldn’t just stare at it all night.  The aroma is sweet with sugar and fruity Belgian yeast esters.  There are slight alcohol notes on the back end and just the hint of light malts (Belgian pilsner perhaps?).  It easily smelled as good as it looked, if not better.

The flavors are sweet with a nice alcohol bite up front.  It is exceptionally smooth with clove and black pepper coming through to balance out the sweetness and round out the alcohol bite.  It finishes wonderfully sweet and tart, and is definitely a pleasure to drink.  It is medium to full bodied, however the high level of carbonation makes it crisp and refreshing.

Being in Wisconsin, I am unable to readily find Lost Abbey beers, which really is unfortunate because they are so damned good!  I wonder if Vince Marsaglia knew what he was getting in to when he hired Tomme Arthur to brew at the Pizza Port in Solana Beach.  Perhaps he had some feeling of the greatness that Tomme was destined to bring with him, at least I like to think so.  

Mr. Arthur, my hat goes off to you.  Thank you for this wonderful beer, I hope it will be the first of many Lost Abbey beers in my future!

That’s all for today, check back on Friday for a review of Brother David’s Double Abbey Style Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company, and thank you for sticking with this post till the end!  Now head outside, celebrate the 4th of July and have an excellent craft beer!

                Happy Drinking!!

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