There aren't a whole lot of beers out there quite like Lost Abbey's Cuvee de Tomme. It's the spawn of the head brewer of Lost Abbey (and formerly of Port Brewing) Tomme Arthur. The base of the beer is Lost Abbey's Quadruple, which is then aged for a year in bourbon barrels with a massive amount of cherries. I had heard mixed things about this beer. Some reviews swore it was the best thing ever to come out of Lost Abbey while others said that it lacked carbonation and was completely undrinkable. Either way, I knew that it was something I had to get my hands on. I was able to find one a few months back and I opened it last week alongside my friend, Beau, who happens to be a wine connoisseur. Because this beer has been said to have a lot of wine-like characteristics, I felt he would be a good judge of how well the brewery pulled this one off.
The bottle comes corked and caged like a lot of Lost Abbey's offerings. The differences between this beer and every other beer I've had with a cork became apparent once the cork came off. When you pop the cork off a bottle of champagne, the pressure inside the bottle caused by the high levels of carbonation make the cork rocket off with a huge "Pop!" Most beers that are corked don't have the level of carbonation of champagne, but when you take the cork off, they release a low pitched popping sound that let you know that there's some carbonation in the bottle. This is good because it tells you that the yeast in the bottle has been doing it's job eating the sugars and creating CO2. When you pop a bottle of Cuvee de Tomme, it sounds like you're popping the cork off of a liquid that's about as carbonated as maple syrup. There's no "pop" and no release of gas from the bottle, the cork just kind of slides off. Luckily, I had read some reviews of this beer and knew that this was to be expected. What I wasn't expecting was the beer itself.
Cuvee de Tomme pours a murky, muddy brown color that looks like sludge. Never in my life have I seen a beer that looked this ugly. Some beers are unfiltered and that gives them a hazy look. The addition of bacteria such as brettanomyces can also cloud a beer and make it look hazy. But this one was out of control. The color in the middle was much darker than the rest of the beer and there was absolutely no head whatsoever. Beau and I exchanged "What the hell?" looks before we gave the beer a smell. And from there, things got a bit better.
The beer smells way more interesting than it looks. The cherries jump out right away and bring a bit of a sour note with them. Paired with the cherries are some strong red and black currant notes. There's a bit of blackberry jam in the background as well as some vanilla. The beer is aged in bourbon barrels, but neither of us could detect a trace of bourbon.
The cherries make up the majority of the taste as well, and there's a good amount of tartness throughout the taste. Though this beer is labeled an "American Wild Ale" (ie. sour), that punch of sourness is lacking and a more wine-like tartness and dryness comes into play. The tannins (which Beau says come from the fruit skins themselves) are more present here than I've ever tasted in a beer before and give the beer a nice, dry quality. We both agreed that the lack of carbonation didn't detract from the beer at all. Some beers really are better without carbonation and this happens to be one of them. The one thing against this beer has to be the price. At $40 for a bomber, this puppy is way overpriced. I was able to pick up a 375 ml for much cheaper, and I'm glad that I didn't pay any more than I did for this. It's a good beer, but not anywhere near a top-tier beer and that's what it's being priced as.
Final Grade: B