The Abyss is Deschutes Brewing annual Imperial Stout that they have been making since 2006. This past Monday, BitterCreek Ale House had a party celebrating the release of this years edition. To make it interesting, they had it on tap. To make it more interesting they also had the last 3 editions on tap as well. So, for the $12 fee they set you up with a 5oz glass of each vintage ’10 – ’13 so you can taste them side by side. But wait…that’s not all, you also get a nifty Deschutes snifter…to HAVE !
Abyss is a top notch beer, rated near the very top at both major online beer rating databases. When it was new back in 2006, I managed to pick up a case off that and the following years vintage and have been cracking one open at the rate of 1 or two every several months. I would say the earliest ones are not necessarily getting any better and are likely past their prime, but it is fun to blow the dust off of a 7 year old bottle and impress a few friends sometimes.
Interestingly, the 2009 batch had “infection” issues that were well publicized in the beer “nerdiverse” and a few years ago a gathering that I attended had a ’06-’11 vertical and it was a consensus that the ’09 edition had issues. Deschutes’ own blog talked about this problem and it was also reported and noticed by many that that years Mirror Mirror barley-wine also shared some of that same misfortune cross contamination with some wild yeast being used in the brewery. Well, when you try to experiment and go cutting edge and make interesting trail-blazing beer, sometimes…yeast happens.
At BitterCreek, the flight was brought out in some long stem glasses, and I must say that my greatest fear at that point was when I saw my server come out with 2 glasses in each hand, wondering if he may have lost track for a moment and incorrectly told me which glass had which vintage in it.
It also occurred to me a really mean joke would have been to bring them all out to a real beer snob and line them up and say “I’m pretty sure this is the oldest one…or no wait..maybe this one.” It was all I could do to try to wait a few minutes to let them warm up a tad. I thought the 2010, the oldest of the 4 was head and shoulders above the rest of them. 11-13 all were sharp, fairly hot and had a strong bite. The 10 was soft, mellow, muted and silky smooth. That effect on the older one was what I sort of expected, but I was very surprised how it dramatically dropped off, or increased, how ever you want to look at it, between ’11 and ’10.
I was also encouraged at the substantial turnout that was there. It was 1:30 when I started and the tables were more than half full and most of them had the Abyss line up on them. In attendance for this late lunch soiree were such local beer nerd notables as @beerpoet and @chillman2 among others. Certainly as evening approached, that place would pack out full of folks wanting to get a side by side taste of how one of the countries better accessible Imperial Stouts ages over a few years. BitterCreek has already blurted out on their facebook page that they are now planning a 5 year vertical next year.
My calendar is marked.