DSC02238I know Tomme Arthur, brewmaster at Lost Abbey, has gotten knocked around the blogosphere a fair amount for what many in the beer community see as a lapse in quality and customer care related to the release of their 2008 Brandy Barrel-Aged Angel’s Share that apparently lacked sufficient carbonation. More on that saga here.

I don’t really have a horse in this race, as I wasn’t one of the folks that signed up to be part of the “Patron Saints and Sinners Club,” because frankly $235 plus shipping costs for what amounted to six bombers of beer (two 375 ml bottles every other month, to be exact) seemed a tad steep for my blood. But I can see both sides of the coin on this issue…from a customer’s perspective, when you pay about $40 for the equivalent of a bomber, there’s a reasonable expectation that everything about that bottle better be in pristine condition, even down to the wiring on the cork cage. On the otherhand, reading Tomme’s explanation, I absolutely understand the pressures that must be associated with getting product out the door in a timely manner to meet customer demand. Because as a homebrewer, I know firsthand that variables involved in bottle conditioning (yeast population, available fermentables, temperature) can greatly impact the speed in which the beer inside is ready to be properly served. Sometimes you get a batch that carbonates in a week, and sometimes it takes a month. Sometimes it’s even overcarbonated. It can be a crap shoot, which is why I generally prefer kegging. But I think what some people might forget, as much as they have a reasonable expectation to getting what they pay for, is that beer — and more specifically HIGH QUALITY craft beer — is a living and breathing organism. And consequently, there is a possibility for variation in product, especially in small handcrafted batches as Lost Abbey was dealing with. I’d expect these bottles in question would have eventually carbonated just fine, given some time in the cellar. But if some of these folks are like me, patience is in short supply, especially when you have a fantastic beer package sitting on your doorstep.   

In the end, I think the Angel’s Share thing was an unfortunate incident that probably put a small black eye on what is otherwise, at least in my opinion, a high quality brewery. Their reputation will surely recover.

Thankfully, none of these issues presented themselves when I popped a bottle of their Carnevale, a saison-style ale that uses a healthy dose of brettanomyces to set it apart from many others in its category. I don’t know what it is, but I am completely enamored with wild yeast, I just love it.

Poured a hazy golden color, with a nice foamy head. Very cloudy with yeast, and a definite funky aroma from the brett. A bit spicy and some citrus notes, but it’s largely overshadowed by the musty yeast. The flavor was OK, some sweet maltiness, but not as crisp, clean and effervescent as I tend to prefer in saisons. It seemed kind of “muddy.” I suppose some of this could be from the brett’s overall dominance. Mouthfeel was good, full and smooth. 

A unique saison. But a little one-dimensional, even for a guy that really enjoys brett.

Rating: B

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