In the sixth sampler glass is a chocolate truffle (made with The Abyss, I think). 2008 starts in the back on the left, so that’s where I started. It was rich and full of bittersweet chocolate, and had a deep cocoa body that was full and rounded. It was dry in the same way dark bitter chocolate is dry, and was just superb.
The 2009 was not one of the ones that was infected with Brettanomyces (which I confess was a mild disappointment for me). Instead it was a touch sweeter than the 2008, and a bit thinner too; it didn’t have the same full-rounded rich body. No hint of the Brett, which would have shown up by now otherwise.
The 2010 was roastier, with coffee and some molasses character. Not as thin as the 2009, nor as full as the 2008, somewhere in between with a roasty body.
2011 hasn’t yet developed the complexity of the previous years when you try them side-by-side; there’s definitely more roast and dark malts present in the flavors here, and after drinking the three preceding years it needs some time to mellow out still.
Finally, this year’s batch, 2012: it’s a little hot, very smooth, and roasty with the dark chocolate followed up by a molasses and licorice tang. It’s young and tasty and will age very well.
It’s interesting, trying all of these together, to note how obviously well The Abyss ages—in fact I think the 2008 was the best of the bunch and it’s easy to chart the development in the succeeding years. By itself, the 2012 is a terrific beer, very mature for a complex 11% barrel-aged imperial stout—but in conjunction with these other vintages it’s amazing how young it seems! Cellaring beers isn’t always the best thing, but in this case it’s worked out very well for The Abyss. Highly recommend a vertical tasting if you can swing it.
Oh, and go pick up some bottles of this year’s Abyss as well. It’s definitely worth it.