Serious Eats: Drinks
We Taste the Lost Abbey Ultimate Box Set
We first heard of the Lost Abbey Ultimate Box Set about a year ago, when SE contributor Jonathan Moxey happened to be in California for the Track #2 release party. He chatted with Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur about the project then, and we wrote off the super-rare beer collection as something we'd never get a chance to taste.
What is the Lost Abbey Ultimate Box Set? The famed San Marcos, CA brewery released a different small batch beer every month of 2012. Each beer was designed as a tribute to a different rock anthem from the 70's or 80's that invoked heaven and hell, with label art from Sean Dominguez. They produced about 100 cases of each classic-rock inspired brew, and released 350 of the bottles in the brewery tasting room for on-site consumption only. (No Ebay! No trading!) After some more were served at beer events, the remaining bottles of each beer were saved for the Ultimate Box Set—no bottles were ever released individually for distribution or sale.
Everyone who went to the brewery to taste the newly released Tracks was entered into a lottery, and 500 of those folks won the chance to reserve a complete box set, which sold for $450. About fifty other people were able to score one, as well, and the rest of the boxes? Well, they went to people like Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, All About Beer magazine, and...us.
We've seen some cool booze packaging in our time, but this takes the cake. The set arrived in a deluxe metal road case, filled with all 13 beers (there was a surprise 'bonus track' in the end) and a print of each beer's label art. (There was also a 'back stage pass, which we'll totally wear to beer events someday.) Secured in an album cover describing each brew was a intricately etched record/art piece, carved with the Lost Abbey logo and philosophy: In Illa Brettanomyces Nos Fides (roughly, In the Wild Yeast We Believe), which appears on a sign over the barrel room.
Over the past month, we've cracked into each beer, tasting them slowly: something this rare shouldn't be rushed. There were the sour beers you might think of if you're a Lost Abbey fan, as well as some intense stouts, spiced beers, a barleywine...all aged in wine, bourbon, brandy, or cognac barrels before bottling.
What did we think? The best beers in the set were truly incredible—in general, the sour fruit beers got us more excited than the stouts and other styles. There were beers that really knocked our socks off, but there were also others that missed the mark. With so much hype surrounding a super-rare release, expectations were really high, and not every beer in this set is something we'd buy for crazy-money on eBay (you really shouldn't do that anyway, right?)
Check out our thoughts on all 13 tracks in the slideshow above » (Warning, some label art might be considered NSFW)
Did you taste any of the Lost Abbey rock-inspired beers as they were released? What did you think?
Beers provided as press samples for review consideration.