For a long time now, I've been without a favorite beer. I've had a lot of beers that I liked a lot and a few that I absolutely loved (the Saison Dupont that I recently reviewed being one of them), but not one that I could pick out of a lineup and say that it was without a doubt my favorite. Then I tried The Abyss.
I first heard about The Abyss a few weeks ago from Kenny. He didn't really tell me much about how good it was, he just told me the name, which was more than enough to intrigue me. Soon after, I looked it up on beeradvocate and found that it had an A+ rating from reviewers. Not only that, but a lot of reviewers were judging every dark beer they tasted against The Abyss. I knew I had to try it, I just didn't know if I would get the chance. The main obstacle to me trying this beer was finding it. The Abyss is made by a great brewery in Bend, Oregon called Deschutes. While some of their other beers (in particular, their Mirror Pond beers) are widely released and year-round, The Abyss is only released in the winter and isn't as easy to find. After finding out that it was a winter beer, I resigned myself to waiting a few months and then going to BevMo every week in the winter until I was able to find it. Then I got some good news: Kenny had a few bottles that he was aging and he was going to bring one over for us to try. A few days later, it was time.
I had a pretty good feeling that I was going to like this beer from the minute I saw it. The Abyss comes in a dark bottle with a dark brown label and a black wax seal over the cap. The wax is dripping down the neck of the bottle Maker's Mark style and lets you know that it's a serious beer before you take the first sip. The beer pours a deep deep brown that lives up to its name as far as letting any light through. A nice foamy mocha colored head tops it off.
For a long time, I kind of thought all stouts were the same- dark with lots of coffee flavors and super heavy. As I tried more and more, I realized this wasn't entirely true. True, a lot of stouts do taste the same, but there are a few that deserve to be separated from the pack. In a word, here's why The Abyss deserves to be separated- complexity.
When I smelled the beer for the first time, I got a whiff of something I've never smelled in a stout (or any kind of beer) before- persimmon. However, as the beer warmed a bit and as the level got lower, the smell changed like crazy. Soon after the persimmon came dark chocolate, then plums, then coffee, and at the very end, a smoky almost charcoal smell. It's like the everlasting gobstopper of beer.
On to the taste. I think I really just need one word to sum this one up- Wow. The taste is full, smooth and sweet. There is definitely a lot of dark chocolate and coffee flavors, but these are blended with some kind of dark fruit flavor that round it out really nicely. On the bottle, it says that 33% of The Abyss is aged in bourbon barrels which gives the beer a nice warming sensation on the way down. This beer is 11%, but it hides the alcohol really well. Towards the end of the beer, the smell of the bourbon was a little more present and the beer developed a nice smoky flavor. Finally, it was done, but there was little doubt left in my mind that I had a new favorite beer. Major thanks to Kenny and major props to Deschutes.
Final Grade: A+