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The Beer Circle » Labels, Lost Abbey, Port Brewing Co. » Lost Abbey Label Artwork

Lost Abbey Label Artwork

Lost Abbey isn’t a brewery, per se, but more the Belgian-beer arm of Port Brewing Company from San Marcos, California.

Founded in 2006 by Vince & Gina Marsaglia, Jim Comstock, and Tomme Arthur, Port Brewing has blazed a trail through the North American beer scene, winning many medals at the Great American Beer Festival in the process. I could spend a lot of time simply describing what Tomme has done for beer in America but I’ll let you read it.

The Lost Abbey site declares, “In the beginning there was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were told not to eat the fruit from the apple tree.They were tempted by the serpent and made a “choice” to eat from the tree. Their actions were not preordained but rather the actions of beings with free will. At every fork in the road, there are signs marking the struggle of Good vs. Evil. The Lost Abbey was imagined as part of a crusade in this ongoing story of Good vs. Evil beer. Everywhere we turn these days, there is a battle being waged between those who make good beer and those who make evil beer.” It’s tongue in cheek but it definitely goes a long way to describe all the thought that goes into the Lost Abbey beers.


Speaking with Lost Abbey’s Media & Communications Liaison, Sage Osterfeld, I learned a great deal about the relationship between the beers & the labels and how they speak to Tomme’s vision of Lost Abbey and their beers.

“The beers and the labels are both part of the creative process of our brew master and director or brewery operations, Tomme Arthur. Generally the beer comes first, but many time the art does too.” The labels first start as a canvas painting by a local artist, Sean Dominguez. Most begin as large oil or acrylic paintings (some as large as 5 feet) which are later reduced for print on the labels once the idea has been finalized. Being the creative mind behind Lost Abbey, Tomme has in his mind a general idea of what the label should look like. He then uses Sean to further refine the idea sometimes going through many iterations before getting to the final product.

Some of the labels have been controversial, but all of the labels’ artwork have been remarkable. Back in 2009, Lost Abbey had an art show highlighting the art work behind some of the labels. Oil on canvas labels include Angel’s Share, Avant Garde, Deliverance, Duck Duck Gooze, Inferno, Judgement Day, Red Barn, Serpent’s Stout, and Witch’s Wit. Labels that started as chalk and pencil drawings include Carnevale, Cuvee de Tomme, Gift of the Magi, Lost and Found, and 10 Commandments.

This art behind this label can be closely linked to Albrecht Durer’s “St. Jerome in his Study.” Bartolomeo Cavarozzi and Domenico Ghirlandaio, among others, have all depicted St. Jerome writing at his desk. He was known as a scholar of the Church and possessed an amazing grace and dedication to what he believed.


It’s possible that Tomme and Sean were trying to show that great dedication was needed to create beer that could be considered art.You’ll notice below that Lost & Found has the same label as Amazing Grace. That is because Amazing Grace is Lost and Found that has been barrel aged for two years.

The major elements in this label are the melting clocks, an homage to Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Time”, the cherries in the hourglass, and a barrel. Together the label lets you know the major element behind Cuvee: sour cherries fermenting in bourbon barrels takes time.Lost Abbey’s description of Cuvee de Tomme:
A massive brown ale base that is made from four fermentable sugars including Malted Barley, Raisins, Candi Sugar and Sour Cherries, this beer is fully fermented before being placed in Bourbon barrels where the beer ages for one year with the Sour Cherries and the wild Brettanomyces yeast.
The angels coming down from the little patch of blue serve to enhance the tug-of-war between good & bad and show the power of the bad.From the press release:
Sean Dominguez worked overtime on the painting for this label. It is perhaps one of the darkest and most disturbing things he has painted for us. So demented in fact his wife Paige expelled it from their home the moment it was completed.
This label is perhaps the most controversial of them all; many pagan groups took offense to the depiction of a witch being burned at the stake. However, they seem to overlook the fact that it did bring the issue of intolerence up to a more general audience that normally isn’t discussing these issues.From Lost Abbey:
Each of the Lost Abbey beers features a label which depicts a theme of Catholic excess — good and bad — on the front, and tells a moral story on the back. (Our founder is a recovering Catholic.)In the case of Witch’s Wit, the back label is a story of the bad consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. The woman on the front is referred to as a “healer” on the label and accuses the Church of being narrow-minded and violent, threatening the same fate to anyone who would help the woman. The label ends with a note that this beer — a light, sweet and golden ale — is brewed in honor of that woman (and all those who died for their convictions).

I don’t personally see how depicting religious scenes on the labels help Tomme get to where he wants to go with his personal faith mission, but I also won’t be one to condemn him, either. The Catholic Church is an easy target to highlight religious intolerance but I’ve yet to find a religion that isn’t intolerent to some degree. But that discussion belongs elsewhere, this is the Beer Circle and not the Religion Circle.


Other labels of Lost Abbey

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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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