Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey - Blended Serpent’s Stout
- ABV: 11%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 50–57° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Chalice or Pinot Glass
Having long been appreciators of the work of Tomme Arthur and Co., we really wanted to procure something a little more special from The Lost Abbey—something that they’d never released before. So... as one of our two featured beers this month, we’re pretty psyched to be able to offer our Rare Beer Club members a new, exclusive blend, combining the brewery’s delicious Serpent’s Stout imperial stout with a bigger, bourbon-barrel-aged version of the beer. We’ve hugely enjoyed both these base beers on previous tastings—but the team was able to pinpoint a blend that takes this combo to whole other level, in a perfect balance.
The Lost Abbey’s Blended Serpent’s Stout is one of the tastiest experiences we’ve had from this brewery. While the dark depths of the base imperial stout—laden with cocoa, and loads of dark chocolate, roast, dark fruits...—are more than enough on their own, that addition of a rich, charred, chewy bourbon-barrel influence brings so much more out of this beer. And while the original bourbon-barrel-aged Serpent’s Stout knocked our socks off, this blended version is our Goldilocks-level “just right” one.
This pours quite dark: an especially dense, slightly oily chocolate brown that allows very little light to get through. The liquid’s capped by a decent layer of fine-bubbled, dark-brown foam that’s pretty significant given the ABV of this beer. There’s a slight added viscosity, while the lingering foam leaves behind patchy lacing whenever the glass gets tilted. From the moment this gets poured, there’s an immediate show of those core stout elements: dark chocolates, a layer of caramel and coffee. There are dense roasted-malt notes that develop seamlessly next to the toasty, bourbon-barrel contributions. And that barrel is just enough. There are vanilla and toasty details throughout, and this one proves vast even without much time to warm up.
It’s one thing to make a brilliant base beer. It’s another thing to get that beer excellent barrel character. And it’s a third thing entirely to get that barrel character to the exact right volume relative to the base beer—which may often require blending. As many of our long-time Rare Beer Club members know, we’re particularly fond of beers that give us a carefully presented, and huge, demonstration of their flavors—that are built in a way that allows us to dig in and really appreciate everything going on, instead of just landing like a bunch of loud noises all at once. This exclusive release of Blended Serpent’s Stout presses all the right buttons for us, as it opens up into incredible layers of dense imperial stout with a carefully integrated bourbon nudge. The carbonation’s just enough to add a liveliness to the dense chocolate, nougat, and cocoa powder that pervades this beer: huge, lush flavors that coat the tongue and need those bubbles accordingly. With the lightly warming elements from the bourbon-barrel piece, plus a subtle edge of oak tannins, the overall feel here is sublime: richly rendered dark fruits, with milk chocolate and barrel influences—but perfectly textured to show all the delicious parts.
The high ABV and careful construction will give this one some longevity in your cellar, with the core caramelization of the blend gaining steam over time. We’re pretty good with where it lands right now, but feel free to age for a year or two and see where things are at. As far as food pairings go: this is one of those times we’d be inclined to go with a traditional imperial stout + beef route, as the roast, caramelization and coffee seem ideal for beside grilled steak.
Most of our Rare Beer Club members will instantly recognize the names “Port Brewing” and “The Lost Abbey” and “Tomme Arthur”—the gifted brewer associated with both. All three have come to mean excellence in brewing and envelope-pushing, boundary-testing beers.
Tomme Arthur started working as the Head Brewer for Pizza Port in Solana Beach in 1997. A native San Diegan, he was proud to promote his hometown as an up-and-coming center for better beer. While his professional brewing career had started less than 18 months prior to joining Pizza Port, he had already worked on brewing a beer with his former employer that brought San Diego its second Gold Medal ever from the Great America Beer Festival.
In his ongoing efforts to promote San Diego as a great beer city, Tomme worked to create many unique beers, and his ongoing experiments included then-revolutionary techniques of oak-aging beers—using fruits, herbs and spices along with numerous wild yeasts and micro-organisms. Each of these experiments further emboldened Tomme to try new processes and time-honored techniques like barrel aging, as he and the brewers of Pizza Port Solana Beach “sought to make the most interesting beers possible.” During those eight-plus years Tomme was Head Brewer in Solana Beach, the brewery won an astonishing 13 Great American Beer Festival medals—not to mention their accolades from various other regional and national competitions. In 2003 and 2004, Pizza Port Solana Beach and Tomme Arthur were named, respectively, Small Brewpub and Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.
So what then is “The Lost Abbey?” The concept started in the mind of Vince Marsaglia (one of the founders of Pizza Port) when he was inspired by the various Abbey-based beers he’d tried from Europe. When Tomme Arthur joined the crew, he started making beers that were Belgian- and Abbey-inspired creations. Of course, to be an Abbey beer, you need an Abbey. And while one could argue Tomme Arthur is the head of a beer cult comprised of followers approaching near-religious devotion, there is no such secular organization affiliated with the Port Brewing beers. Hence, this is a line of beers inspired by Abbey and Belgian traditions, but with no Abbey (hence “the lost” part). Given that many of Tomme’s most revolutionary previous creations fell within the same general vibe, a number of the beers brewed under the Pizza Port or Port Brewing name have been moved to their new home with The Lost Abbey line, and new creations along that theme are released under this brand. The world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson, was a big fan of Tomme Arthur’s beers, and we think Michael would have loved this month’s bourbon-barrel-fermented take on their Serpent’s Stout.
For more information about the brewery and the Pizza Port restaurants where it all began, check out: www.lostabbey.com and www.pizzaport.com.
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