Two longtime California beer institutions came together on Tuesday of SF Beer Week, to the delight of sour beer lovers.
Tomme Arthur, head brewer of Lost Abbey Brewing near San Diego, was one of the first American beer makers to successfully brew, blend and barrel-age Belgian-style ales spontaneously fermented with Brettanomyces wild yeast.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco craft beer party was just getting started several years ago when Craig and Beth Wathen arrived on the scene, surveyed the landscape and concluded that opening a beer store might not be a bad idea. That at a time when selling craft beer wasn’t the no-brainer it is today.
Fast forward to today, and both Lost Abbey and City Beer Store have done pretty well for themselves, and have inspired legions of followers and imitators along the way. Lost Abbey and City Beer have built well-run businesses and iconic brands by focusing on uncompromising quality and constant innovation. Neither got where they are today by resting on the laurels of early success, and they have set a high bar for the rest of the industry to measure up to, both in California and across the country.
City Beer is hosting several meet the brewer events during SF Beer Week, and the quality of the beer that flows from the taps on Folsom Street is a testament to the high esteem in which City Beer is held by brewers far and wide.
Not surprisingly, Lost Abbey brought some of its very best “non-denominational” barrel-aged beers, served at precisely the right temperature fresh from kegs—Cuvee de Tomme, Red Poppy Ale, Framboise de Amorosa and Deliverance—along with Mongo IPA and Mayan Apocalypse Judgment Day.
Lost Abbey has been making its raspberry-infused framboise for five years, and Arthur said this year’s version is the best one yet. Raspberry aromas leap out of the glass and onto the palate, delightfully refreshing, full of tart fruit and yet dry and complex. Just an amazing beer.
Lost Abbey’s take on the classic Belgian cherry-infused Kriek, called Red Poppy, tastes a lot like tart, dried Montmorency cherries, only it’s a beer and a delicious one at that.
Cuvee de Tomme is a massive beer. The base beer is a brown ale made from four fermentable sugars: malted barley, raisins, candi sugar and sour cherries. The beer ages for a year with the sour cherries and wild Brettanomyces yeasts inoculated into the barrel. The result is a beer that seems to evolve as it warms in the glass with each sip a new delight.
Enjoying these beers fresh on tap at City Beer was a revelation.