In Suds & Sounds we turn the spotlight on breweries, focusing on the role of music in that brewery’s history, packaging, tastes, and in its city or town as a whole. The idea is to get beer and music lovers to connect with a side of the brewery that may often go overlooked, but one that we think is absolutely vital. To accomplish this, we are talking to the brewers themselves about their own love of music and the role it plays in how they approach their beer. And who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to a musicians from time to time to give a perspective from the other side.
Rock and roll has always danced with the idea of religion, from salvation to the devil. For the rock and roller, religion can be a foil or a source of inspiration, a force as inspiring as it is conflicting. The same can perhaps be said for San Marcos, California-based brewery The Lost Abbey. The brewery specializes in barrel-aged beers with an emphasis on big stouts, porters, barleywines, sours, and Belgian-inspired ales. It’s best to think of them as the more sophisticated, small-scale and single batch counterpart to the freewheeling hoppy IPAs, brown ales, and stouts of Port Brewing, both of which are brands of Port Brewing Company. It’s worth mentioning that both breweries have garnered numerous awards and are often ranked as some of the best in the nation, and it should come as little surprise that this brewery is a destination for anyone touring the beer mecca that is San Diego. But Lost Abbey’s beers are easy to spot with their colorful label art that often portrays the kind of biblical and fantastical imagery you might expect on the cover of a heavy metal album.
Based on personal experience, I can say they are well deserving of any honors bestowed upon them, and I can’t think of a better brewery to feature for the tenth edition of Suds & Sounds. They even have a “Track” series of special releases, each of which focuses on a rock song (more on that below). These “Non Denominational” beers are essentially riffs on other beers with new ingredients and processes added to create something entirely different. BeerAdvocate recently awarded the Track #8 edition – a bourbon barrel-aged quadrupel with cinnamon sticks and dried chili peppers – a perfect score of 100, describing it as “an insanely drinkable beast of a beer that’s been tamed for your enjoyment.” We asked Head Brewer Steven Burchill to shed a little bit of light on the magic behind Lost Abbey as well as the role music plays in the the brewery.
How long have you been brewing and what do you consider your greatest triumph so far as a craft brewer?
I have been working in craft beer for 10 years now and have been a brewer for 6 of those. I wouldn’t say I have a greatest triumph, just a sense of satisfaction that I produce something many people enjoy.
Talk about the beer culture a bit in your city. What do people look for in a good beer and what do you hope to provide, and also do you see the beer scene as being linked in any way to the music scene?
San Diego has an awesome beer culture. We are incredibly spoiled by the amount of amazing beer here. Beer and music are linked in many ways. I know many brewers that are musicians or just passionate about music in general. Music and beer are also very much alike in that they are both subjective things. What people look for in a “good beer” differs greatly from person to person much like musical tastes. When we create beer, we stay true to our vision and hope that people will appreciate what we have created.
A lot of breweries seem to incorporate their own musical tastes into their packaging and presentation, whether it be a collaboration with a band, a tribute label, or a beer name that references something they like. Has you brewery ever done something like this, and if so can you tell us about it?
Yes. We did a “Track Set” almost 5 years ago, which was a set of 13 different small batch, barrel aged beers all named after songs with a heaven/hell theme. Some of the names included “Number of the Beast”, “Highway to Hell”, “Stairway to Heaven” and “Devil Went Down to Georgia” to name a few. The entire set was released in a “road case” with a decorative vinyl record that had all the beers in the sleeves.
In your opinion, is there a particular band or genre that is ideal to listen to while brewing beer?
My personal favorite is Stoner Rock/Metal. Bands like Sleep, Electric Wizard, Graveyard and Kadavar are some of my favorites.
Some breweries have gotten more into music through sponsoring tours, festivals, or even throwing their own versions of those. How do you think live music fits into the fabric of craft beer, and is this something your brewery has done?
We have never really put on a concert, but have had live music at many of our events. Nothing better than some loud live music and a cold brew!
Do you have any musicians or noteworthy people that you can say are fans of any of your beers?
Not sure of any specific celebrities.
The Lost Abbey Tasting Room is located at 155 Mata Way, Suite 104 in San Marcos, CA. The Confessional is located at 2007 San Elijo Ave in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA. For more info and deliciousness visit lostabbey.com.
Check out other editions of Suds & Sounds: