Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey - Avant Garde Ale
I fell in love with the very first Farmhouse Ale I ever encountered, and it was Saison Dupont. There was just something so magical about a beer like that. Powerful yet reserved, flamboyant yet subdued, intriguing yet revealing. To this day, it remains one of the beers that I enjoy drinking whenever I can. At the same time, the Fantome beers were gaining momentum and respect for being wildly imaginative. I was brewing in Solana Beach at Pizza Port at the time and began to experiment with many unique ingredients, looking to explore possibilities unknown to me.
In 1998 we released the first saison-style beer brewed in San Diego, and perhaps even in the state of California. It was still a fairly obscure beer, and as such we felt it was a great way to put our spin on it. The beer was called SPF45.
The success of the SPF45 in the summer months gave rise to a conversation one night between Jeff Bagby and myself about the beers of Fantome. We were returning from a brewers’ appreciation tasting that we had attended at the BJ’s in Brea, and started thinking about a “winter style” saison. Essentially looking for a reason to crank things up a bit, we drifted through a myriad of possibilities before settling on the recipe for SPF8, which remains unchanged to this day. A dark, burgundian-inspired ale with a nod towards Fantome, while still letting our American roots creep in.
The SPF8 quickly became one of our favorite beers, and the story that we were able to tell about caramelizing the raisins and orange peels made it that much more interesting. At that point we had a few Belgian Style beers that we were making on a regular basis, and a discussion soon ensued about a new brand of beers called “The Lost Abbey.” We knew that the brand name would have better widespread appeal than “Pizza Port” when it came to restaurants and retail outlets.
The desire to brew more of these beers on a larger scale was somewhat accelerated by our association with Michael Jackson and the Rare Beer Club. Demand for our beers was becoming incredibly high, and our facilities were not equipped to handle the requests. Batches of SPF8, Cuvee de Tomme, and the Mother of All Beers were made with a larger audience in mind. We worked with Russian River Brewing to make a batch of Cuvee, and to package it there as well. In the fall of 2006 we again returned to Russian River to bottle the Synergy Ale for the Rare Beer Club. Each of these trips and batches confirmed that there was a market and demand for these types of beers.
Stone Brewing Co. recently announced their intention to sell their original production facility, and it was decided that the timing was appropriate for Pizza Port to move into higher production. The old Stone facility was purchased, and Port Brewing name was added to the building. Many of the beers that we will be producing there have their roots in Pizza Port. It was decided that Port Brewing would operate two brands from the one brewery. The beers of Pizza Port and Port Brewing, like Sharkbite Red Ale, Wipeout IPA and Amigo Lager would be available all over Southern California and Arizona. These are the beers that have defined Pizza Port as an integral part of the Craft Brewing movement.
The desire to make more bottles of our Belgian-style beers necessitated the purchase of a hood and wire finishing unit. This means that The Lost Abbey beers will mostly be finished in 750ml glass for regional and limited nationwide distribution. Four beers will be produced year-round with Avant Garde being the first. It was decided that a Farmhouse style beer would go first, to continue the tradition of great bottle conditioned beers. As we had yet to produce a Biere de Garde style beer at any of the three Pizza Port restaurants, this made perfect sense for the release. Of course, we promised not to make it easy on ourselves - so it was decided that we would use the restaurant pizza ovens to custom toast some of the malt for the beer. We also made a major investment in our barrel program, and now have over 90 oak barrels. Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey will share in this venture as we look for new ways to marry the flavors of beer and oak.
While all of this truly is a great deal of fun, it is done in the spirit of invention and an unwavering commitment to exploration. That is the basis for the Avant Garde being the flagship of The Lost Abbey brand. Certainly, we expect that our dedication to flavor-driven beers will yield incredibly rewarding results, and even more innovation and cutting edge beers will follow.
Avant Garde was brewed from two row barley, Honey Malt and what we call Port Custom Toast. These three malts met three hops- Brewers Gold, Strissespalt Spalt and Saaz.
The whole mixture was fermented with a lager yeast strain at ale temperatures before undergoing a period of extended cold conditioning or “guarding.”
The resulting beer is about:
The beer is served unfiltered, bottle conditioned with live yeast in the bottom of each bottle.
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