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Beer Man is a weekly profile of beers from across the country and around the world.
This week: Deschutes The Abyss 2017 Reserve
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
There are a lot of imperial stouts on the market. They differ wildly in aging, from a few weeks to more than a year before hitting the shelves.
Overall, the strong ales that do have longer aging have better-blended flavors and extra smoothness.
When I was younger, and so were many microbreweries, raw and rough strong beers got a pass just because they were unusual to consumers at the time.
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These rougher American stouts were commonly referred to as “earthy” or “homebrew style.” The truth is, most of them weren’t aged very long before being released to stores. Much of this had to do with the microbreweries just not having enough storage space to keep barrels of beer taking up space for a year or more.
Now that many of these breweries have been around two or more decades, they have expanded and have the space to properly age their stronger beers.
Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss seems like a throwback to the early times. It’s made well, with appropriate carbonation, chewy mouthfeel and nice head and lacing, but its strong alcohol presence (11.4% ABV) and mismatch between bitterness and maltiness indicate it could use a few months more aging. The bottling date of my sample was Oct. 30, 2017.
As a consumer, it’s as easy as just putting the beer aside in the basement for several months. However, if you’re like me, I want to drink such a beer right away. It is a conundrum. It is frustrating to wait several months to taste a beer you’re looking forward to. However, if you wait to buy it, it could be a specialty or one-off you might never have a chance to taste again.
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The Abyss mouthfeel was a bit harsh as opposed to smooth and creamy, possibly because of the strong bitterness that seemed more from bitter roasted malt than hops. The aroma was mostly strong chocolate and molasses, which carried over into the flavor.
There was some coffee, licorice, vanilla and a slight tartness in the background, which was a good characteristic. Half of the ale used in the recipe was aged in bourbon, wine and plain oak barrels. Cherry bark and vanilla bean also are listed as ingredients. I recommend storing this beer for several months for more of these flavors to come through.
Deschutes beers are available in 28 states (and Washington, D.C.); its Beer Finder link is here.
Many beers are available only regionally. Check the brewer’s website, which often contains information on product availability by mail. Contact Todd Haefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous Beer Man columns, click here.