Out of all the beers I’ve managed to review on this blog, The Lost Abbey brews are perhaps the most fun to spill some ink over, so to speak. Not only are these brews so pleasurable and oftentimes eventful to drink, but The Lost Abbey’s sometimes apocalyptic and post-modern themes about heaven and hell and challenging boundaries are testimony to a brewery that completely appreciates the value and joy of not just a beer’s taste and aromatics, but the fun one gets from artful packaging that’s both holistic and thematically-connected. In each of the three samples I’ve reviewed here (10 Commandments, Avant Garde, and Judgment day), the bottle’s labels border on the realm of mesmerizing and make for wonderful conversation while sharing its contents. The value added from The Lost Abbey’s packaging is akin to the value added by purchasing a music album, with its easily accessible artwork and text, versus the bland act of simply downloading the album (legally of course). In short, while packaging will never turn a bad beer into a good one, it will make the pleasure of drinking a good beer all the more pleasurable. And this was precisely my experience with The Lost Abbey Judgment Day.
Founded in 2006, The Lost Abbey or Port Brewing is located San Marcos, California – a medium-sized city located about 20 miles (32 km) north of San Diego. The brewery offers about six regular beers, another six seasonal variants, and four of what they refer to as “non-denominational ales” – i.e. ones that don’t comport with any well-established beer style. Hence, not only does The Lost Abbey clearly value a good sense of humor, but their product line appears to reflect a blend of conventionalism and innovation, or perhaps “reformation” (see my 10 Commandments review for a somewhat quirky elaboration on this point).
Judgment Day, along with other Lost Abbey brews, are some of the most eye-catching products. The packaging, with a towering, almost gothic-like bottle affixed with a cork and well-designed artwork, really does speak volumes to The Lost Abbey’s sometimes-apocalyptic brewing theme. In the case of Judgment Day, the theme is the coming of the apocalypse, where according to the Lost Abbey’s website presentation for JudgmentDay, “the sunny blue pastoral skies turn sickly black revealing the imminent demise of every soul caught between heaven and hell”. Then come the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are depicted on the bottle’s purple and black label and collectively symbolize conquest, war, famine, and death. Indeed, God’s eternal judgment has arrived, and The Lost Abbey’s page wraps up with the appropriate sales pitch: “Challenge yourself to embrace passion, persistence and a motivated way of life. So that when Judgment Day arrives from nowhere, you’ll go out knowing full well that you’ve lived your life on your terms and they can’t take that away from you”.
Without a doubt, The Lost Abbey products I’ve sampled are tributes to “passion, persistence and a motivated way of life”, and Judgment Day is no different. Brewed with raisins, this 10.5 percent ABV abbey quad is a fine representation of this style and, in some ways, it’s in a class of its own. Grabbing the bottle and forcefully pulling off the cork immediately releases a brief hiss and then a pop, just as any beer in this price range should do. When pouring Judgment Day into a glass, the translucent, super dark brown body and well-retained, two-finger beige head yields a fair lacing matrix. Aroma? Well, Judgment Day is anything but apocalyptic! The smell of raisins is definitely forward, as is the sweet malts and a distinct candy-like note, all or which blend well with the barely noticeable alcohol tone. Faint woody and perhaps vanilla notes are also present. Overall, the nose is seriously powerful, complex, and predicts a very sweet brew.
The mouthfeel is pleasant, with a somewhat syrupy feel and a moderate amount of carbonation. Judgment Day’s flavor is remarkably similar to the aroma. Again, raisins and malts clearly dominate, and if you close your eyes, it almost feels like drinking some sort of syrupy raisin juice (although I must admit to never trying that). This beast is all sweetness, and perhaps a just a tad too candy sweet for my palate. But, while the alcohol note is surprisingly well restrained (especially when compared to the roughness of The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments), the alcohol’s warming sensation plays out nicely with the sweetness. And, while the hop references gain just a bit of prominence in the finish, I suspect that a hoppier finish may have helped to balance out that sweetness.
All in all, The Lost Abbey Judgment Day is an amazingly sweet and complex beer, and pairing raisins with this particular beer style is well thought through. And, if the Four Horsemen were to descend on all of us today, I would indeed be happy to have Judgment Day around as one of my final beers before God’s eternal judgment.
Middle image: http://thefullpint.com/