You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mini-Vertical: Abyss 2007 and 2009

Last night a friend brought over a bottle of this year's vintage of the Abyss, and I grabbed a bottle of the '07 for a side-by-side. Mainly we were just shooting the breeze, but I have found that adding vintage specialty beers has its conversational virtues.

Beer raters on BeerAdvocate currently consider this to be the third best beer on the planet, edged marginally by Westvleteren 12 and Pliny the Younger. (Pliny the Elder, a superior beer, trails by just a hair more and is in fifth--but I digress.) It is a beer that always creates a furor at release, and I am fairly certain that you could trade older bottles of the Abyss for an older Camry on the gray market.

All of which leaves me somewhat ambivalent: I am not an Abyss-head. I tried the first vintage green and found it undrinkably intense. The black malts were grinding in their bitterness and the overall presentation was just too rich. I've encountered some triple-chocolate cakes of a similar ilk--too much of a good thing. No worries, though--I put the bottles in the cellar and figured I'd wait it out. Indeed, on election night I revisited the '06 and with two years it had stewed quite a bit. Still intense, but the edges had mellowed and it came together. At Christmas we tried another bottle of the '06 (just one left!) and again, nice.

So I wasn't surprised to find the '07 in fine form. After a couple years, the beer takes on just a plummy hint of oxidation (mainly an aromatic), and all the violence of the malts, bourbon, licorice have taken a step back, put down their weapons. They blend much more gracefully, and I found a lush dark chocolate character there, just on the good side of bitter.

What really shocked me was the '09. It was far more drinkable than the '06--the last green Abyss I tried. The body is lighter, and a bright floral note somehow survived the process. You find it both in the nose and on the palate, unsullied by the motor-oil it inhabits. It's really a revelation, bringing out a kind of lavender flavor from the dark malts. Readily quaffable and not particularly agressive--at least by comparison. It's odd; I'm not sure I would even recommend aging this one (though of course I will). That fresh, delicate note won't survive bottle aging, and it's really something to behold.

Deschutes made quite a bit more Abyss this year and you can still find it on shelves. You might appreciate grabbing a bottle and sampling it green.


  1. Anyone know where I can still find it on the shelf?

  2. '09? Belmont Station, and I also bought a few from Fred Meyer a couple of weeks ago or $10.99/ea.

  3. Anon - John's Marketplace in Multnomah Village still has some in stock. I would not wait for too much longer, however.

    I don't think I'm an Abyss-head, unless the qualification is that you believe it's the greatest Imperial Stout ever made. In which case . . . um, yes, I guess I'm in the party.

    I've had 2007 green, 2007 aged for a year, 2008 green, 2008 aged for nine months, and 2009 green and would agree that this year is much more mellow right out of the gate.

  4. Indeed, I found in my review that Abyss '09 shows restraint and maturity right out of the gate--I think in a few years '09 will be the one everyone talks about fondly.

  5. Jon,
    The differences in the "vintages" reflect what we have learned over the past five years. We here all agree that the '09 is much more approachable now. However, I think it will age every bit as well as the others, even perhaps more gracefully still. Time will tell, that's the beauty of it.

  6. I saw it on the shelves at the local Lamb's Palisade's Market near my parents house...I also LOVED the '09 and wish I had access to more bottles

  7. Many stores still seem to have bottles. I know the Roth's stores in Salem and Keizer all seem to have cases upon cases still.

    I think this one needs to age a bit. I tried '09 right when I first got it and I wasn't thrilled. It was a decent beer, but the flavors weren't all in harmony yet.

    That, and the wood character from the barrel aging reminded me of chewing on a dixie cup spoon.

  8. I know the New Seasons in Raleigh Hills and the one in Beaverton still have them.

    I tried an '09 green since I'd never had Abyss before and really enjoyed it. Very intense, but I liked it well enough to buy another bottle for saving.

  9. I found out that they have some left at the brewpub as well. Glad they made more of it this year.

    I hadn't tasted it until a bottle of 2007 this holiday season. Good good stuff.

  10. Very recently QFC on E. Burnside had it. In general, they have an excellent selection, BTW, if east-siders aren't turned on to it already.

    I think it dwells in Belmont Station's shadow, being as they're only a few blocks apart; but if you're needing groceries AND beer, and want to save a trip, it's great.