The Abyss

The AbyssNow that some of the furor over Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss has died down, I thought it was high time to open up the bottle that Deschutes very graciously sent me and write about it.

(Actually, I don’t know that it has died down completely… there are still bottles of it on sale on eBay, with some completed sale prices in the $60s… Steve has gone in search of it… I keep seeing the random blog post about it bubble up… you get the idea.)

The label on the bottle says it’s brewed with molasses and licorice, with "33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels." I take that to mean a third of the volume was barrel-aged, and then blended back in with the rest of the beer. And oh yeah, it’s a big 11% alcohol by volume. This is a Russian Imperial Stout, after all.

And incidentally, the label itself is great. Simplicity itself; that’s probably why it works for me.

Appearance: Inky black with a dense, creamy chocolate milk head… completely opaque. Thick and leaves a nice sticky lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell: Dark coffee, dark bittersweet chocolate, roasted grains, and charred wood… a hint of bourbon and black licorice.

Taste: Creamy, roasted coffee-bean chocolate that seems to melt away thick and creamy in the mouth. Ironically, I think this is better from the bottle than it was on tap. Turkish coffee splashed with Kentucky bourbon. Lots of roasty notes, tangy wood charcoal, smoky undertones. The name is very apt—it’s easy to get lost in the flavors… As it warms I get more of the barrel (wood) notes and bourbon.

The Abyss close upMouthfeel: Full and rich and incredibly smooth and creamy… finishes dry but not at all harsh… a bit of residual heat from the alcohol.

Overall: Believe all the hype, this beer fulfills and exceeds it. Not kidding. A line from Charlie Papazian’s New Complete Joy of Homebrewing comes to mind: "Liquid sex in a bottle." Yeah, I went there. Deal with it. I bought a case + 2 bottles and I may go back for more if I can find it.

On BeerAdvocate, it scores the top grade of A+ ("world class"). On RateBeer, it scores 4.16 out of 5 and is in their 100th percentile.


  1. I thought your blog was PG!!!

    Those photos are highly suspect of an R-rating.

    Oh, dear Beer Gods above — please bring me a 22oz. bottle of Abyss every Christmas, Birthday, and Anniversary for the rest of my life.

    It’s all I want.

    I love this beer. Period.

    I want to make food with it, like chili or soup. I want to reduce it and drizzle it on a filet of halibut or ahi. I want to carmelize it and make chocolate cake with it. I want to sip it for breakfast before my coffee, and maybe soak my feet in it during a pedicure. Surely the high alcohol content will soften my cuticles, right?

    Is there such a thing as a perfect beer?

    More. Please!

  2. I had a glass at Concordia the day after the superbowl and was pleased with the beer. I’m not really sure why folks are going ape-poo over it, but they are. It’s really a damn fine beer, but i could only see it within my self (wallet) to buy one bottle. Somehow I managed to get a bottle recently, long after I thought they’d be gone.

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