My husband and I went on a Brew Hop tour a year or so ago, and had the best time. Our guide, Summer, was so friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating from the minute I first called to schedule the tour. We started out at Stone Brewery, which has a beautiful garden area out back, and had an amazing lunch (especially the local clams w/ pancetta and the roasted garlic cheddar soup, made w/ Stone Ruination IPA - yum), then went on a tour led by Matt (who was a great guide; really funny).
After our tasting, Summer picked us up in a flashy black Navigator and took us to our next stop - Lost Abbey, just a few miles away. What a cool place - it's Stone's old brewery, and to be considered a "tasting room" rather than a "bar" under CA law, they don't have any chairs - but they do have a long counter, and some barrels w/ big grain bags on top that you can sit on if you like. They also have 2 bar cats lounging around.
The Lost Abbey tour, led by Sage, was one of the most interesting ones I've been on, and since we were a little short for time, Summer brought us several of the religiously named Lost Abbey beers to sample along the way. I believe we tried Devotion, Judgment Day (made w/ caramelized raisins), Lost & Found, and Red Barn Ale (made w/ ginger, orange peel, black pepper and grains of paradise - something like Allspice) - they were all Belgian style beers and each one was amazing. My husband had mentioned to Summer that he had tried the Angel's Share ale the week before at a beer tasting at Wine Steals and that it was incredible - it's aged in a freshly emptied bourbon or brandy oak barrel for a year, and sold in a 750 ml wine-size bottle for $30-40/bottle.
I love the story of the name, too - when whiskey is aged in oak barrels, a certain amount seeps into the oak and is lost for good - distillers in Kentucky refer to this as "the angels' share." This beer is never on the tasting menu, but Summer pulled some strings and somehow managed to get us each a taste - wow. We ended up buying two half bottles of the brandy-aged '09 ($15 each). If you want to try something totally different, I recommend getting a half bottle of the Angel Share to try, and I absolutely recommend the Brew Hop tour - thanks Summer!
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