Brewery: The Lost Abbey
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 12.5 percent
We're all seeking deliverance from something. Maybe evil, if you're the religious type. Taxes. In-laws. Me, I seek deliverance from bad beer, from the desolate landscape populated by bland, cheaply-made lagers and ales crafted by a lazy hand. This week, this particular search for deliverance brings us to the doors of the Lost Abbey.
The experimental arm of San Diego's Port Brewing Co., Lost Abbey specializes in Belgian styles and strong, barrel-aged brews. Two of their most popular are Serpent's Stout, a brew as dark and roasty as the pits of hell, and the Angel's Share, a sweet barleywine with qualities of the divine. The combination of the bourbon-aged version of Serpent's Stout and brandy-aged Angel's Share results in a mighty clash between the forces of heaven and hell, bottled for the enjoyment of both saints and sinners and called Deliverance.
Admirers of bottle design will enjoy this brew's aesthetics -- the label is one of the coolest in all of beerdom. Taken from an oil painting commissioned by Lost Abbey and painted by artist Sean Dominguez, the artwork was supposedly so disturbing to Dominguez's wife that she had it expelled it from their home the moment it was completed.
Once you get a bottle, pop off the cork and pour Deliverance into a snifter. You'll feel like a warlock at his cauldron as the liquid -- viscous and inky as molasses -- takes over the glass. A foamy medium-tan head rises from the depths, and big alcoholic legs grip the glass as you swirl the liquid.
The nose is a nice mix of both bourbon and brandy, and is very boozy. Vinous oak, cherries, dark chocolate and vanilla also make appearances. In the flavor, sweet Morello cherries are noticeable in the front -- you can thank the Angel's Share here -- then darker flavors of roasty malt are picked up as the beer opens. Marvel at the smooth flavor integration as notes of brandy, vanilla, oak, toffee, licorice and lots of ethanol swirl across the taste buds before a dryish finish.
As the fairly high carbonation prickles the tongue, you may find yourself wishing the bubbles on this one were just a bit tamer -- an extremely ironic sentiment toward a brew from Lost Abbey, which has a habit of releasing beers with the carbonation level of tap water. The alcohol is rightfully high, numbing the tongue and subtly smoldering through the nostrils, while the body is a creamy, buttery medium, making the whole experience boozy but smooth.
The embodiment of good versus evil in a barrel-aged blend, this brew is well worth the high price you'll pay for it. Whatever you're looking to escape from, Deliverance delivers.
Deliverance is a dessert beer too intense to enjoy against most foods. Match it with a flavorful final course like a vanilla custard tart, which will complement the barrel-aged notes in the brew. Adding fruit to the dessert will deliver interesting harmonies with the cherry and chocolate prevalent in the glass.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.