Inspired by Van Halen's Runnin' With the Devil, this beer started with a brown ale base, aged for 10 months in red wine barrels with lacto cultures from Hollister Brewing Company, to which cabernet sauvignon grapes from Frangipani Winery were added along with brett. The scent was buoyant with tart lacto and berries: after smelling it, we'd believe it if you told us there were fresh raspberries in this beer. The rosy copper-colored brew has a fine, delicate carbonation and smooth texture, and puckering cranberry-like tartness. A rich caramel texture provides lushness that the tart meyer lemon flavors cut through. Our only complaint was a slight hint of metallic flavor on the finish.
'Stairway to Heaven' makes us think of dances held in the junior high school cafeteria, but apparently it makes the folks at Lost Abbey think of ripe fruit going wild. This was one of our favorites of set, made from a mix of sour-cherry Cuvée de Tomme, Angel's Share with peaches, and Project X, a wild fermentation experiment. It has almost no carbonation, but a showstopping aroma and flavor, with loads of rich, ripe peaches and bright sour cherries, plus a wash of tangy apple cider vinegar. It made us wish for a cheesecake to eat alongside. And then the wilder side comes out: earthy, horsey, peach-pit-like bitter notes come out as each sip fades. This is a potent, piercing, and gorgeous fruit beer.
Track 3 was inspired by AC/DC's Hell's Bells, and is a blend of Lost Abbey's Mellow Yellow and Duck Duck Gooze aged in red wine barrels. It pours pale and smells tart, super-lactic and lemony. It's a swirl of super-sour citrus and vinegar with an underlying butterscotch richness: this beer's anything but timid, and it feels like it's constantly moving, building up rich body and then slicing through it with sour. We'd pair it with choucroute or steamed mussels in a rich curry sauce.
Track 4 switches gears and pours a full dark brown. It's called Sympathy for the Devil, so that should be no surprise. It's based on Hot Rocks Lager that had been aging in red wine barrels for almost two years, mixed with a bourbon-barrel aged dark strong ale that rested in wine barrels with sour cherries for over a year. The scent is all spice and chocolate, chewy prunes and coffee. The flavor layers rich fruit jam over decadent malt, somewhere between pumpernickel and ginger bread. The beer is bold enough to stand up against the bourbon barrel punch. This one's a contemplative sipper, and a little on the sweet side, but it would be awesome with some well-made barbecue brisket.
After that robust beer, the album settles into fruit for a moment. Track 5 smells like a field of raspberries that has baked in the hot sun for a few days. We could barely bring ourselves to sip it, it smelled so good. This beer is a blend of two of our favorite fruit beers from the brewery: Red Poppy and Framboise de Amorosa. The flavors are less sweet than the aroma, but still rich and potent, held in a tight web of sourness. There's an earthy, horse-blanket side too: it's not all sweetness and jam. We'd pair it with goat cheese. This beer was our top pick of the box set, a beer that's totally worth the hype.
A seriously boozy (over 14% alcohol!) blend of brandy barrel-aged Serpent's Stout and bourbon barrel-aged Angel's Share that goes down pretty darn easy, like chocolate and velvet and bourbon and silk. (It's the reverse of a winter blend Lost Abbey has been making each winter comprised of bourbon barrel-aged Serpent's Stout and brandy-barrel aged Angel's Share.) This 'Highway to Hell'-inspired brew is not for the weak of heart or spirits-averse; we're somewhere between beer, wine, and harder stuff here.
Track 7 (a tribute to 'The Devil Inside' by INXS) was made with raspberries and cherries and a sour base beer, with orange peel and mandarin orange zest added. But don't think 'friendly fruit beer' here, this one is unforgivingly sour with a compelling leathery texture...your mouth will keep watering minutes after you've taken a sip. The orange zest adds a pleasant warm note to the pucker.
Track 8, inspired by Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast', is an oatmeal raisin cookie in beer form, as its aroma makes perfectly clear. Cinnamon, raisins, rich malt, brown sugar: it's all there. To make this beer, the brewers rested Judgement Day (a big Dark Strong Ale made with raisins) in bourbon barrels and added cinnamon sticks and dried chiles. It's a hard thing to pull off, but it works: not overly sweet, not overly spicy, but full of flavor and dimension and richness. (It trumps Brooklyn Brewery's Cookie Jar Porter on texture alone.) This is quite a beer experience.
This track started with a few barrels of Cuvée de Tomme that weren't ready at release. The team added currants to the brew (which already had raisins and sour cherries) as well as a little extra Brett. The result is smooth and silky with a focused sourness and tons of deep red fruit flavors and a little funk on the finish.
We weren't sure when to drink this bourbon barrel-aged version of Serpent's Stout made with 17 lbs of Ryan Brothers Coffee and 4 lbs of TCHO Cacao Nibs. Would it keep us up at night? With its 13.5% alcohol, would it put us right to sleep? Inspired by Meatloaf's 'Bat out of Hell', this beer pours an opaque chocolate brown and offers an intense chocolate scent. The beer isn't super thick or viscous, but definitely intensely flavorful, rich and roasty. There's a fruity sweetness up front (think salted caramel and sweet dried prunes) that fades into a dark bitter finish (think burnt sugar.)
This one, inspired by 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia' has a lovely cocktail-like scent thanks to fresh peach slivers and Brettanomyces Clausenni, plus whole leaf black tea added to Angel's Share that age 9 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. This is a beer for bourbon lovers: it has a warm, rich, sweet whiskey flavor that's filled in with the fruit (though we'd say this is much more of a barrel-aged beer than a fruit beer.)
This rosy orange beer, a tribute to Black Sabbath's 'Heaven and Hell', is a blend of Avant Garde, an unreleased sour brown ale, and Lost Abbey's golden ale, Gift of the Magi, aged in oak barrels. There's no fruit involved, but the beer smells fruity: almost exactly like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. The beer is tart and fresh up front, but settles into a barrel-dominated flavor that's a little musty on the finish.
The bonus track, which was released as a surprise in December and inspired by "Message in a Bottle" by the Police. It's a barleywine aged in cognac barrels with sour cherries and orange zest. The scent is sweet and the beer is intensely malty; this brew is much more about barleywine and cognac than about fruit. Some our tasters felt that it might have aged a bit too long in barrel. If you had a chance to try it, tell us: what did you think?