Deschutes “The Abyss” 2010: Deep (and Dark) Thoughts

The Abyss
Deschutes “The Abyss” 2010: Deep (and Dark) Thoughts

In my humble opinion, Deschutes Brewing’s “The Abyss” is the best beverage – of any kind – I have ever tasted.

So…the 2010 version of “The Abyss” – an Imperial Stout brewed with licorice and molasses, with 33% of the yield aged in oak casks and oak bourbon barrels – is, IMHO, the best edition yet of this ale, starting with a richness, balance, seamless flavor profile, and judicious use of all its elements that makes it, upon release, nearly as good as the aged samples I’ve tasted of the ’07, ’08, and ’09 versions. I had the original release of this – on tap, nicely keg-aged, and perfect temperature – at Deschutes Bond Street Pub in Bend back in October of ’09 and realized then that it was the best liquid I’ve ever swallowed. And this ’10 is starting out so close to that sample that it beggars credulity to think it won’t wind up significantly better.

The effect is nothing short of hedonistic: Viscous, impossibly smooth, decadently rich, complex as differential calculus, and showing absolutely nothing of its whoppin’ 11 % ABV. Yeah, this stuff’ll get ya hammered and fast. It goes down so easily that even finishing one 22 oz. bottle by yourself requires vigilance beyond the usual amount of restraint you’d exercise if you plan to perform normal tasks afterwards, like cooking, cleaning house, or hitting a urinal on the first try. The flavors are so numerous and so subtle that it’s like reading a good mystery novel, except that, when you finish, you don’t still have that whole intact book. What you have is a tragically empty bottle and the sort of yen for more that normal people usually only experience in missing a high school sweetheart. Coffee, dark chocolate, caramel, black cherry, currants, smoke, toasted bread, and, yeah, licorice and molasses all rest atop a tasteful and – again – appropriate sweetness; just the right amount of sweetness to amplify the flavors with becoming cloying. And, because of the nature of this stuff, it simply gets better as the bottle warms. If I didn’t think it would harm the flavor profile, I’d be very tempted to heat it and drink it as a Christmas grog. It’s every bit as inviting as a cold-weather concept as a steaming mug of hot cocoa or an Irish coffee.