The moment I saw the description on the label of this beer I was intrigued. “Ale brewed with honey, raisins, & rosemary,” it said. Whenever I see weird ingredients, whether it be in food or drink, I have to try it. Some people travel for their experiences and others hurl their bodies from heights and still others simply enjoy pushing limits in whatever they do. I, in a typical American fashion, consume my experiences.
“You put a raspberry aioli on what?!”
“I didn’t even know you could deep fry that!”
“This is from what country?”
“So the stuffing is inside the sea urchin?”
These are all phrases that indicate I am about to have a new experience. (Yes!) And lest I forget my new favorite phrase, “They made a beer using WHAT?!?” There are some very unusual ingredients out there: cucumbers from Cigar City, watermelon from 21st Amendment, passion fruit from 5 Rabbit in Chicago, hell my friend Keith even made a beer using actual Belgian waffles! There is no limit to a brewer’s creativity and I love to see the weird stuff whether it turns out amazballs or falls flat on its face. That said, these ingredients are fairly unusual, but rosemary is one of my absolute favorite herbs so I’m excited to see how this beer tastes. Let’s pour!
Aroma 11/12: The aroma begins in a very balanced trifecta of their declared special ingredients (honey, raisins, & rosemary), but the honey quickly takes a backseat and the raisins become dominant. The aroma is lovely! The raisins are abundant and enjoy a nice background herbal note from the rosemary. The dark fruit also plays extremely well with an alcohol warmth and the two meld into each other almost seamlessly.
Appearance 3/3: This poured much darker than I expected! It’s a rich dark brown, the color of stained cherry wood and with slightly fewer red glints. The tan head forms quickly and is very large; over two fingers after a very cautious pour. Since the carbonation is so tiny and tight, there is no lacing left, but the resultant retention is outstanding.
Flavor 20/20: There is little room for subtlety in a beer with this many big flavors and a 10% ABV. Immediately, the beer is grinding a bushel of amazing, overripe dark fruits (raisins & plums) directly into your tastebuds! The rosemary is not as powerful as the fruits, but is also far from hidden, and it makes a herbal pairing with the raisins that is absolutely fantastic! Even a dollop of the honey’s sweetness is allowed to show briefly before being swallowed up by the two larger flavors. I immediately want to make a pork roast that mimics this beer. Holding the beer in the mouth allows the honey’s sweetness to grow, as well as a peppery spiciness on the tongue. The spiciness can grow to be fairly intense! The finish is a boozy, dark fruit slugfest that could have been syrupy if not for the Belgian Strong’s traditionally high level of carbonation. Though a flash of chocolate malts doesn’t exactly help the matter. After swallowing there is substantial alcohol heat rising up from your tongue, a vague sourness from the dark fruit, and the remnants of the peppery spices. This beer is not f*&$%ing around.
Mouthfeel 5/5: There are things here that are very strong, but not all together inappropriate for the style. The warmth is not hidden at all and in early sips can almost appear hot, especially in the finish. Thankfully, it blends well with the dark fruits, which instead allows it to be a contributor to a rather garish harmony, but a harmony nonetheless. The carbonation is also abundant, but the style does demand it. In fact, in this beer I’m rather glad to see a higher level, lest all the alcohol and dark fruits make this beer far to heavy and syrupy and give the drinker the impression they’ve accidentally bought a huge bottle of cough syrup. Even if it would be damn tasty cough syrup.
Overall Impression 10/10: Lost Abbey gambled big and won bigger. Huge dark fruit flavors blend well with a very outgoing alcohol heat and the rosemary is such a dissonant, yet beautiful addition! Everything about this beer is phenomenal if you’re in the mood for something new, different, and BIG.
Total 49/50: Wow! What a powerhouse of new, big, flavor combinations! Let me tell you about this beer in a behind-the-scenes sort of way. First off, I couldn’t get the cork to pop (I know… I know… “That’s what she said.”). I actually had to run the neck of the bottle under hot water (no dice) and then grip the cork at a 90 degree angle with a pair of pliers to get it to budge! This beer was not about to be dominated by anyone. Once I finally got it open and went to pour myself a 2-3oz pour for sniffing, the damn thing poured a fingernail’s worth of beer and half a tulip full of head! Even once it was open, it refused to give up. Then of course, there was the huge, boozy beer within the bottle with which I had to contend. Thank goodness for the honey’s sweetness in a somewhat half-hearted attempt for balance. The sweetness and the carbonation are not the stars of the show, but they are the only thing holding this beer back and preventing it from taking over a moderately-sized metropolitan area.
I don’t know what it costs in your locale to buy it, but do so (probably $11-$14). If you like big ol’ face-smashing beers and have a penchant for unusual ingredients, you can thank me later. Wow, what a brew!
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!