There are many fish in the craft beer sea, but those that are hunted with the greatest ferocity are the white whales—beers so rare few will ever see, much less taste them. This week’s featured beer, an American take on the classic Belgian sour ale blend known as Gueuze, is most definitely of the baleen variety. Enter The Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze.
A masterful mixing of multiple sour ales aged in French oak barrels for 12, 24, and 36 months respectively, this beer represents three years of work and attention on the part of director of brewery operations Tomme Arthur and his staff. Forty barrels were stored, monitored, and checked on a consistent basis over that span to ensure the microorganisms souring the beers didn’t run rampant and take them to a place where they became too acetic or unhealthily unusable. It’s an all-consuming process that, in addition to sucking time and resources, requires specified knowledge on the subject of sours to get right. That’s what makes Duck Duck Gooze so special. That and the fact nobody else in San Diego is wading into this sudsy territory yet. Oh, and then there's the fact that the beer tastes fantastic.
I can personally confirm the latter, having tasted an early version of this year’s Duck Duck Gooze as well as the first and only other edition back in 2009. Should you land this whale, expect to encounter a variety of tropical flavors—passionfruit, pineapple, lychee (in Arthur’s words, very “Maui wowie”)—intermingling with nuances of green apple, lemon, stone fruit, white wine, hay, and a hint of pepper that appears in the finish. It’s a complex beverage one should take their time with in order to fully appreciate it.
But rather than take my word or that of any of the many beer nuts who’ll be vying for the 600 cases of Duck Duck Gooze the brewery is putting up for sale, refer to the gold medal the beer won in the Belgian-style Lambic/Sour Ale category at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, the country’s largest and most respected beer competition. The 2013 version is softer than the tarter original, which Arthur says should make for a beer with "better evolutionary possibilities" (meaning it should age nicely if stored under the correct conditions).
Duck Duck Gooze will not be produced again until 2016, making it all that more important that those interested in getting some read the following sentences carefully. Starting Thursday, August 8 at 10 a.m., the beer will be available for purchase online. Those who are able to secure bottles will then be able to pick up their beer at The Lost Abbey (155 Mata Way, #104, San Marcos) during a quartet of designated sessions on Labor Day Weekend. Happy whaling!