Beer Review: Deschutes The Abyss

This is the one you’ve been waiting for. Ever since rumors first surfaced of Deschutes bringing their beer to Ohio folks who knew of Deschutes had two words on their lips, The Abyss.


Simply put The Abyss is Deschutes take on bourbon barrel imperial stouts. Less simply I present Deschutes blurb on their beer:

A deep, dark Imperial Stout, The Abyss has almost immeasurable depth and complexity. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors make it something not just to quaff, but contemplate.

As for the great “drink it now or let it age” debate, we stand clearly on the fence. Distinct and delicious on release, the flavors meld and fuse into an entirely different pleasure after a year or more in the cellar.

Let’s get on to what I think…

Image-10114907-228720770-2-WebLarge_0_4bf2ce55083f3185328cff735c829e20_1ABV: 11%
IBU: 86
Malt: Pale, Black, Chocolate, Black Barley, Roasted Barley, Wheat
Hops: Millennium, Nugget, Styrian, German Northern Brewer
Other: Blackstrap Molasses, Brewer’s Licorice, Vanilla Beans, Cherry Bark
Barrel-Aging: (28%) 6 Months in Bourbon, Oregon Oak, Pinot Noir

The darkness of this body comes close to breaking the SRM charts. Heck, even the head is darker than half the beers out there. Simply a great looking stout. Leaves a beautiful lacing in its wake as well.

Molasses, licorice, and chocolate notes come to the nose but fall in line behind roasted coffee. I’m not going to claim my nose hairs are refined enough to detect that only a third of this was aged in oak barrels but I will claim that I detected a lighter oak/bourbon aroma. Lighter than what? Well lighter than most bourbon barrel beers, especially that so sought after Bourbon County.

I thought I was drinking a beer but my tongue is telling me it’s melted dark chocolate. This dark chocolate really dominates the tongue and is backed by more licorice and molasses notes. Herein again we get to those light barrel notes.

Body is nice and creamy with a slight lasting slickness on the finish but it fades fairly quickly to a nice dry note.

Looking back on what I wrote it comes off like it’s a one or two-dimensional beer, which it kinda is but really isn’t. It’s varied and complex but led by a few items leaving others in the background. These background flavors are like the backing band for many major musicians. Think about James Brown, how many names do you know of the backing musicians? [footnote]If you live in Cincinnati I hope you know at least 1: Bootsy Collins [/footnote] Yet he couldn’t bring us such an awesome sound without them.

As I said at the open The Abyss is one of Deschutes most sought after beers. I’d had it once before at a bottle share and enjoyed it then. I still stand by this being a good beer but strongly await to see how widely available it becomes in Ohio and what price point we get it at. It’s not worth standing in line for, or paying more than $10 or $12 a bomber for. Though extremely few things meet those qualities for me anymore, especially that line bit. If you come across one I advise you buy two and lay one down for another year. Or set about buying it every year for five and build a nice vertical.

Have I thoroughly taunted you into getting a bottle? If so you’ll have to wait a few weeks. The Abyss normally hits shelves in November and it did so for most of the country. Some issues have delayed the shelf date for everything east of the Mississippi so we won’t be seeing it until the first week of January at best it is hitting shelves today December 15th! I don’t have a price yet but it’s likely going to be $14.99 based on past Deschutes special bombers like Mirror Mirror. Loveland Cappy’s has confirmed they’re getting it today and Middletown Fine Wine and Spirits, along with everyone else in the area, should be receiving it soon as well!

FULL DISCLOSURE: Deschutes was awesome enough to send this to me to review. To our readers, and any breweries interested in sending me samples, giving me free beer does not guarantee you a favorable review, though I do promise to review your product and publish a post on it.

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