Well, lots has been going on around Deschutes Brewery lately. Everyone has been so busy; keeping up with communication sometimes does not get the priority it deserves. I am writing here on the day after The Abyss release. This is probably the most anticipated event of the year here (although Hop Trip day is pretty cool too). People line up early to make sure they can get their supply. It becomes an event of its own. I went down to the pub last night and enjoyed some of the nectar myself. They had the ’07,’08 and ’09 versions all on tap at the same time. Quite the unique experience keeping up with how the product really ages. As we stood by the bar enjoying our libations, some of the brewers and myself were discussing, among the various attributes of The Abyss, the difference between the “vintages”. Certainly, the older versions were more oxidized; after all, that is what the aging process is. But the flavors were knitting together in very interesting ways. The ’09 tasted pretty “linear” to me. All the various flavors were on display in their individualistic forms. The alcohol, roasted malt, molasses, licorice, etc. were easily identifiable. With the older versions, whereas the flavors were all there, they seemed to be creating new flavors as the sum of their parts. The wood was a pleasant background as was the bourbon, although the vanilla characteristics of both were working pleasantly with the tannins in the roasted malt now. The molasses had lost much of its sweetness, leaving earthy flavors that seemed to meld with the licorice in perfect harmony. The longer the liquid sat in my mouth, the more it revealed. As my palate seemed to get more accustomed to the product being there, more layers appeared; dark fruits and spices, roasted herbs and more earth. All in all it was a truly rewarding experience because the time, efforts and patience of so many seemed to be rewarded so appropriately.
We have always believed our Reserve Series beers would age well. But, until we actually could experience it, we would not know for sure, or for how long. I believe they have significant aging capacity, particularly with products like The Abyss and The Dissident because of their acidity and the tannins that provide the structure on which these beers will age gracefully for many years. How fun the discovery!
Our Reserve line of beers has created some very interesting opportunities and some interesting challenges as well. We have attempted, with all our products, to push our own limits in beer making. We have created beers that will age like wine, use many non-traditional ingredients (whatever that means, because tradition is an elusive thing very conducive to selective memory), age in various types of wood barrels and date the bottles in a completely confusing way.
Larry Sidor, our Brewmaster, and I periodically have private tastings where we sit in his office and drink whatever esoteric beer we might have recently come upon, solving all the brewery’s and many of the world’s problems at the same time. Sometimes the beers we drink come from abroad, often from Belgium. As we all know the Belgians can be somewhat creative in the ways they make beers and in the ways they market those beers. As we were sitting there one day examining the label of a particularly unique Belgian offering (no, I don’t remember which one it was) we noticed the date code on the label said “best if consumed after . . . “ The date was set at least a year out (not knowing the bottling date we could not be sure). “What a clever idea!” We had been struggling with date coding our Reserve Series beers because we knew they could cellar well for several years, just how many we could not yet be certain. It is likely, that with some, they may last for a decade or two, or more. So, last year we started date coding our Reserve Series bottles with a “Best After” date that was set one year from bottling. We thought the beers were better off having a year to age and would only improve from there. Well, people were certainly confused. “Is it ok to drink before one year?” “Will it make me sick?” The answers are simple, no it will not make you sick (Unless you drink too much and we all know we drink responsibly, don’t we?) And, yes it is ok to drink before one year. As evidenced by our experience last night, it is not only ok, but terribly delicious as well.
So, our recommendation is as always, buy enough bottles so you can enjoy one now and have others to enjoy as far in to the future as your patience and self discipline will take you. Keep it “cellared” appropriately in the mean time (in a cool, dark place), so your efforts will yield the maximum benefit. Maybe you can put on your own “vertical” tasting for family and friends and show what you really know one day.
Gary Fish, owner