Cognac you say? Aged 12 months as well? Damn, well, if you insist.
Deschutes Brewery hasn’t steered us wrong much in the past … let’s keep it that way.
Two variants of Deschutes’ imperial stout “The Abyss” will grace shelves around the country this year. It’s a “remarkably limited release,” meaning it will only reach where they feel it’s deserved. (We almost had to pry our bottles from the local beer store clerk’s hands. Probably due to only 50 cases making it to CO.)
If you’re lucky enough to come across one of these beasts, the arduous task to carve through the “Bruery-esque” wax job will reward you with the gentle hiss of a force-carbed bottle. Jet black in appearance, the head on this Cognac barrel-aged The Abyss is almost darker than any regular stout you’ll find here in Colorado Springs.
If you like cognac and you like beer, you’ll like this version of The Abyss. If you like beer and don’t like cognac, stay far, far away.
Deschutes has taken their expected heft of The Abyss and applied a strong barrel flavor liberally. It’s a thick concoction of many of craft beer’s excesses. Vanilla, cherry bark and herbal notes from the black strap molasses pervade the senses. An almost sour note wafts in between heavy sloshes of vanilla and spices. Yet even with that tart sensation, this is not a “sour stout.”
Chilled, it’s somewhat of a mess of flavors and aromas. As it warms, it really shines.
The harsh, barrel-aged sour flavor almost completely subsides, leaving only the warmth of a twelve percent alcohol aged in oak behind. No longer do you feel like you’re getting the “angel’s share” from the inside of a medium charred cognac barrel but instead sipping the sweet success created by craft beer melding with distilled liquor. This beer, like many of its imperial stout brethren, is thick, chewy and bold. The flavors rise up out of the glass and smack you in the face like a serpent from the deep vying to take your “ship” under. The sour keeps trying to invade, yet the malt and chewy backbone of The Abyss continue to keep it slightly at bay.
With all the crazy that swirls in the glass, we’re almost disheartened to say its not as drinkable right away as we hoped. I know, it’s a big, huge beer. Let it warm up. It’ll reveal its treasure with a little warmth. Don’t serve it warm though, you won’t enjoy it as much. Maybe laying it down for a year will soften the blow, but right now it’s almost too much for one man to take on alone.
If you’re game for a strong beer that tastes even stronger, give it a whirl.