As the days grow shorter and Third Street grows icier and more pockmarked by the hour, the sophisticated Pacific Northwest drinker's thoughts naturally turn toward The Abyss. Deschutes Brewery's intensely flavorful Russian imperial stout has the power to get beer nerds lining up at liquor stores from L.A. to Philadelphia, but we in Bend don't have to deal with any of that nonsense—not when it's just a short jaunt over to the brewpub on Bond Street, where Deschutes busted out Abyss beer flights for $20 last week that give you a taste of every vintage from 2009 forward.
Originally bottled in 2006, The Abyss is the result of Deschutes boss Gary Fish calling upon his brewing team to make the company's first beer over 10 percent alcohol by volume. It was, at the time, the most complex beer they ever made, with blackstrap molasses, brewer's licorice from Italy, vanilla beans and cherry bark all popping up in the ingredients. It's not strictly a barrel-aged beer (only about 28 percent of the final product is aged in bourbon or Pinot noir casks), but the combination of aging and complexity makes The Abyss just as deep and engaging as the Bourbon Counties of the world.
That said, however, the 2014 Abyss doesn't seem as thick and boozy as previous years when drunk fresh. That's a good thing in some ways—it's ready to drink right now, offering up tons of molasses, chocolate, and even cherry flavor as you slosh it around your mouth. One wonders, however, whether the 2014 vintage will taste very different after a couple years in the cellar. Along those lines, by the way, if you have any 2011 Abysses left, now's the time to crack them open. The booze is now gone, leaving a chocolatey, woody, ever-so-slightly-sweet flavor package that crashes over you like a tidal wave. Yum.