The Abyss vertical tasting

On the 11th of January of this year the wife and I were invited along with about 16 other people to Jon & Sherri Abernathy’s home for one of the most epic tastings ever: Deschutes The Abyss Imperial Stout full vertical tasting, 2006 – 2013.

Epic is the correct word. Certainly there are similar tastings of equally exquisite beers, but bring in all 8 years beginning with the first vintage (2006) and they become very rare, and often epic, events.

The first order of business is a big thanks to Jon & Sherri for collecting, saving, hoarding, storing and, finally, sharing all of those bottles of The Abyss. Bless you Jon for starting discussions of carrying it forward in 8 or more year flights into the future (next year 2007-2014 unless some saintly benefactor shows up with some 2006).

Jon's menu for The Abyss 2006-2013 Vertical Tasting

Jon’s menu for The Abyss 2006-2013 Vertical Tasting

The guests were Jon’s work buddies, local beer geeks and local beer industry folks including Gina and Jason, great people and Deschutes’ social media team. There is of course some overlap between various groups. There were three folks who were not having beer.

We drank the vintages sequentially starting at the beginning with 2006 and ending with 2013, although a few people had already dropped off or were about to by the time we got to 2013. 😉

Deschutes The Abyss 2006 - its 1st vintage

Deschutes The Abyss 2006 – its 1st vintage

We had shared a bottle of 2006 The Abyss back in summer with some of these same folks at the 2013 End of Summer Beer Extravaganza. Jon’s bottle was a bit better aged than that one, which wasn’t bad in the first place. He only had two 22 oz bottles of 2006 so we were getting about 2 oz each. It was an exquisite beer.

I knew trying to keep notes on the nuances between vintages was beyond ridiculous and I wanted to focus on the beer. I was planning on checking them all in on Untapped but only made a few notes on the first few. 2007 was going to be the only vintage I had not yet tasted* and I wanted a few notes on it. Here’s what I said:

  • 2006: A: heavenly. Dry must, cedar. Choc, tobacco, vanilla. Amazing! [notebook and Untappd]
  • 2007: A: tar, tobacco. OMG Beergasm! Slightly more tobacco, slightly spicier in mid-finish [notebook only]
  • 2008: little sweeter; smoother [notebook only]
  • 2009: slight Brett “infection” After that I just checked them in with a five-star rating and got back to enjoying them.
Deschutes The Abyss 2007

Deschutes The Abyss 2007

Every single one of the vintages was exquisite despite its differences from its siblings. Perhaps it is also due to those differences. Drinking 2 pints of The Abyss is not something one undertakes lightly. Experiencing all of those one after the other over a few hours was priceless.

In 2009 Deschutes had a problem with some of their batches getting infected with Brettanomyces. I have had Mirror Mirror and now The Abyss from 2009 (all previous 2009 The Abyss i have had was not infected.) that were both “infected” and let me tell you that they were still exquisite beers—despite and because. For many fans of Mirror Mirror and The Abyss the 2009 infected bottles are their favorites.

After the 2013 there were still some bottles of assorted vintages that weren’t empty. I had another ~1.5 oz of 2006 and then the same of 2010. In all, I had had ~2 pints of The Abyss.

My favorites so far are 2006, 2007 and 2010. I believe 2009 has amazing potential and 2011 isn’t far behind it. 2012 and 2013 are, of course, tasty but are still young.

We have a bottle each of 2007 and 2008, which I got at the Deschutes Bend Pub on release day this year. That bottle of 2007 is the priciest beer per oz. that I have bought so far. We also have 2 bottles of 2012 and 12 of this past year’s vintage. Sadly, it will be several years before we can host a vertical of The Abyss ourselves.

Thanks so very much to Jon and Sherri for hosting this wonderful tasting and for sharing all of this The Abyss with us.

Orange bottle cap from Deschutes The Abyss 2006 [see Jon's post linked below for more info]

Orange bottle cap from Deschutes The Abyss 2006 [see Jon’s post linked below for more info]

Here is Jon’s recap of the evening at his own blog: Abyss tasting Some of his tweets:

 

Deschutes Brewery tweets:

 

* We moved to Bend in time for the 2012 release of The Abyss and had a flight of 2008-12 at the pub on release day, and this past year we had 2009-13, again at the pub on release day.

The Abyss 2013 Release

Thursday was release day for The Abyss 2013—Deschutes’ imperial stout—at both the Bend and Portland pubs. That meant one thing. I was there. Just like I was there last year. Just like I hope to be there for years into the future.

A few others and I were there when they opened the Bend pub doors at 11. I settled in at a table in the bar area as my friend Miles was going to be joining me in a bit for lunch. I ordered my taster flight which came with 5 oz pours of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2013 on nitro along with one of Deschutes’ heavenly chocolate truffles.

Tasters of The Abyss Imperial Stout on Release Day. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013 ntiro

Tasters of The Abyss Imperial Stout on Release Day. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013 ntiro

[Please, please, please Deschutes—if you are listening—put the truffles back on the every day menu!]

Slowly over the next two hours I sampled my way through those small glasses of heaven. Miles wasn’t able to finish all of his before having to head back to work so I inherited varying amounts. He did finish the 2010 and the 2013 non-nitro though.

Since the better half had to work she was unable to visit until very late afternoon. I met her and then we headed to the pub. She had the flight and I ordered a snifter of the 2009. Pub brewer Veronica Vega came by at some point with a tray of bottled 2009 samples and we snagged one. By the time we had to leave for the Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett show at the Tower the pub was really hopping.

Snifter of The Abyss Imperial Stout 2009

Snifter of The Abyss Imperial Stout 2009

We had seen several friends and were able to leave some of all vintages for our friend Jon to taste.

On my first visit earlier in the day I also picked up one bottle each of 2007 and 2008 (very limited, one/person) and two of 2013. The 2007 and 2008 were quite dear and I have now upped my per ounce cost and total cost per bottle even beyond when I got the Westvleteren XII this past spring. As far as I am concerned, The Abyss is every bit as good as Westvleteren XII and 2007 is the only year I have yet to taste. I am stoked.

The Abyss Imperial Stout bottles. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2013

The Abyss Imperial Stout bottles. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2013

If you get a chance, try The Abyss. Doesn’t matter if it’s this years or some other going back to 2006. Just try it. Try as many of the vintages as you can. If you like big stouts you will most likely be pleased.

For me, The Abyss is heaven in a glass. I won’t say it’s “the best beer in the world” because that is just silly. But it is one of my very favorites of what is arguably my favorite style. Thank you, Deschutes!