GarrettB (896) - San Diego, California, USA - JUN 5, 2007
4.2 AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
UPDATED: JAN 4, 2011 The Abyss is a landmark beer in every beer drinker’s personal history of stouts. It sits side-by-side with beloved icons of the genre like the Old Yeti and Dark Lord. And, well, if you append the word “Reserve” onto brew like this and dress it up like a wine by giving it a birthdate, you’re bound to make an already excellent beer glow like it’s its debutante ball. The Abyss 2009 Reserve, like its more saturnine cousin, “The Abyss”, is a chocolate beer through all three of my applied senses. It’s thick headed (like me), colored like a patiently melted dark chocolate bar, rising about an inch and a half off the surface. The body is unsurprisingly black - that terrifying chasm where color shrivels into the fetal position and expires. Of course, the drawback to this dramatic head and pour is a very thick bulwark to the aroma. It’s a kevlar apron on burly smell, so I bore down into the foam to get a better sense of what the Abyss smells like. This too is dry and chocolatey, but the head is too well layered for me to get a sense of what else lies underneath. The flavor is intense, taking the palate by storm, but the beer itself isn’t heavy. The Abyss comes out roaring with alcohol, licorice, jerky spices, more chocolate and a thorough bitter and alcohol that glows all the way down to the gut. I wrote here in my notes, “Yessir, this is a slow drinker, but that’s because it tastes like charcoal.” In retrospect this was meant as more of a compliment. It’s a deep, dark, dusty beer with a lot of potential energy, unearthed from its own cavernous tubs and tubes at Deschutes’ brewery, and worthy of its praise.
------- appears there’s a competition for the most brutally dark beer on the market. Lately I’ve sampled a motley collection of Imperial Stouts, and all of them have been greased with a nefarious blackness that give it a look more akin of Hell spawn than a drink. If the criteria is the pursuit of a brackish, oozing look, than the Abyss takes a triumphant win over the very able competition. But, as exciting as it is to imagine my glass is filled with a putrid goo from the deepest, darkest recesses of a disease ridden jungle, I find that the taste composition is far more important. How does the Abyss fair with the senses? I am happy to note that it does very well. To mine near sighted eye it is black as crude oil, with a sheen like a well oiled otter’s coat. The head is a brown hue like the coats of charcoal pollution that lent Victorian England its marketable charm, making a perfect match with some of those old stuffy caverns for the blue collar worker – the walls, floors and even the patrons faces at the Cheshire Cheese are the finest examples of this particular shade. The head is further detailed with a wart and pock finish and a craterous center giving the full effect of a terrible dermatological condition. The aroma departs from the ghastly, ghoulish effects of the pour to play up the sophistry inherit in the Abyss’ clever manufacture. The incipient aromas boast potato, beef, soy sauce and Tootsie-Rolls. Then a sipid band of dust, cobwebs, leather and charcoal parade into the nose, manifesting the illusion of an old craftsman market. The slightest tinge of hops reminds me that it is still a beer, pulling me back to the drink and introducing some afterthought smells: grilled sweet corn, char and cucumber. I’m suddenly stricken with a ravenous hunger for Southwestern cuisine. The Abyss falls on the tongue like a blacksmith’s hammer to the anvil. It is both crude and merciless, swearing off sugar to let the full force of the char and beef flavors through. The very start of the sip has a little molasses note that slinks its way through the noise of more dominant flavors, too. For the aftertaste the carbonized flavors of beef and char pair up with a strong dash of coffee and meander around the tongue for a good long awhile before they finally make an agonizingly slow and prolonged exit down the back of the tongue. Here and there are short cameos by all spice and chocolate truffle, but The Abyss predominantly relies on its core flavors to deliver its punch. Despite the industrial petroleum like appearance of The Abyss, the weight and carbonation are both well balanced and lighter than I expected. Considering the flavor I anticipated a cross between dark matter and mercury, but found the palate both pleasing and suitable. In the multifarious line up of similar stouts, the Abyss stands out as more sophisticated. At the top of the list is a brilliant bouquet. I also appreciate the risk the Desachutes Brewers took when they abandoned the sweet for the hardcore flavors only a grill cleaner could like.
Lumpy (1802) - Carrollton, Texas, USA - JUN 3, 2007
3.6 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 15/20
UPDATED: OCT 9, 2007 Nose-bakery, cola, light spoiled milk. Body-opaque with a medium beige ring of bubbles. Taste-creamed coffee, oaky, woody, very, very, very light bourbon, creamy, lactic, sweet grape, plum, light chocolate. Lots of char.
xenthem0nk (101) - Oregon, USA - MAY 28, 2007
4.2 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
Picked this up at Belmont Station in Portland. 22oz Pours out like old oil from a old engine. Just a bit of dark tan head, and has a slick layer on the top once the head faded. Lots of black sweets in the nose, tons of oak, coffee, chocolate. Flavor is strong roasty malts, bourbon (especially once it warmed), coffee, earth, vanilla, toffee.
Mouthfeel was a bit sharp at first, but smooth in the finish.
But overall, dechutes blew me away with this one. Far superior to any of there others...
TChrome (1397) - Bedford, Texas, USA - MAY 23, 2007
4.5 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 18/20
Beer pours jet black with a thick, retained dark tan colored head. Aroma is rich with vanilla and cream, chocolate cake and wood. Mouthfeel is slick and elegantly soft. Flavor is very enjoyable with molasses, very rich dark cholcolate and enought hops to produce a dry, hoppy finish. Delicous. Thanks to Larry Pitonka!!!
nimrod (73) - Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - MAY 19, 2007
4.2 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
22oz shared among Duane and illini08. Many thanks! Poured extremely black with nice lacing and the darkest head I’ve seen. Heavy oak aroma and flavor with a mixture of coffee and chocolate. Enough molasses to not overpower this very earthy stout. Awesome brew.
barleyPops (1141) - Quad-Cities, Illinois, USA - MAY 19, 2007
4.3 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 10/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
22 oz. bomber, many thanks to Styles for the bottle from a trade a couple of months ago. shared w/illini08 & Nimrod.
extremely black with a tan head and lacing. aroma and flavors of dark roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, oak and a hint of bourbon. licorice and molasses add another level of flavor and complexity making this a no brain-er as a top notch brew.
Illini08 (542) - Raleigh, North Carolina, USA - MAY 19, 2007
4.3 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
Duane shared a 22 oz. er w/ myself and nimrod. Thanks Dad! Black pour with a gray/brown head. Very roasty, chocolaty aroma. Flavor is pretty complex. Very roasty and woody. The oak aging is very evident, giving some earthy character to it. Just a hint of vanilla and not really any bourbon to speak of which surprised me a bit. Chocolate, coffee, and some caramel as well. Just a hint of a piney hop finish. Good stuff!
KingpinIPA (841) - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA - MAY 14, 2007
4.2 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
Sampled with brewblackhole. Dark color. Smell of coffee, hops, toasted malt, coco, copper, little oak, dark fruit and a touch of vanilla and spice. Taste of coffee, chocolate, hops, malt, bread, rasberries, cake batter, alcohol, and caramel. Very nice but a little weaker to the Dark Lord "07". Still a nice Imperial Stout.
brewblackhole (1588) - Muskego, Wisconsin, USA - MAY 14, 2007
4.4 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 17/20
Aroma was coffeeish and chocolate,and little hints of alcohol,medium intensity at best, Smooth creamy ,velvety chocolate,is the first thing to grab my palate,high quality chocolate, following sips reveal mellow vanilla, caramel and hints of bourbon alcohol,and a touch of christmas cookie anise, Lots of subtlety here, as smooth a brew as I’ve had in a long time,a touch thinner then Dark Lord and Stones,to appreciate you should be stone cold sober and have an absolutely sterile palate
AllAboutStout (605) - Cincinnati, Ohio, USA - MAY 12, 2007
3.7 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Bottle, drank from snifter.
Pours a dark almost black color with only a small head. I commented on how good it looked in the glass.
Smell is roasty. Very roasty with some molasses coming through as well.
Taste is much the same. All I’m getting is lots of roastiness. No bourbon barrel or barrel aging coming through at all. It was smooth and creamy, yet a tad thin on mouthfeel. Wasn’t getting the plethora of complexity that was advertised. I’ll sit on the last few and let them age for awhile and see if they balance out more.