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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deschutes Brewery 2011 Abyss Release and Tasting (Bend, OR)

The initial draw to visit Bend, OR... Deschutes Brewery released its winter seasonal 2011 The Abyss Imperial Stout.  As one of the standout Imperial Stout offerings on the West coast, the release of a new batch of The Abyss is a reason for celebration.  Deschutes decided to ring in their newest release of their iconic Reserve Series by offering a special menu for pair and a vertical flight of four years of the releases, a nitro pour of the 2011, and a The Abyss truffle.  

Arriving an hour early to make sure I had a seat and could relax, I had no choice but to kill time with a flight of some of Deschutes' newest offerings-

Deschutes Extra Pale Ale- This ale was an interesting effort at highlighting hops with as small a body as possible and a sessionable abv.  Deschutes Extra Pale Ale was extremely bright, light, and citrusy-forward, with almost no body.  There isn't a lot going on other than the hops, but this ale is easy to drink.

Deschutes Cinder Cone Red- I believe this used to be a seasonal offering from Deschutes, but I haven't seen it this year.  Speaking honestly, there isn'yt much to say about this ale, and if it always tasted this way there is probably a reason it isn'y available at stores anymore.  Muted, blurry grains and bitter, flavorless hops.

Deschutes Los Muertos Tamarind Sour Ale- This sour ale, a wheat base brewed with tamarind and soured with their house Lactobacillus, was slightly tart and sweet at the same time, with lemonade being the flavor dominating and only a hint of tamarind.  This was enjoyable, nonaggressive, and would be even more interesting if aged longed in the barrel, I'm guessing.

Deschutes Never E Nuff IPA- This big IPA was tasty, but overwhelmed by Citra hops.  The result was a well carbonated IPA that was enjoyable but had a distinct taste of old orange juice.

Deschutes Big Eddy Belgian IPA- Unprepared for the almost 9% abv, Big Eddy Belgian IPA opened spicy and earthy.  The hops were rather subdued for an IPA, but this allowed the Belgian yeast spice to shine.  This is another ale I wouldn't mind seeing in a bottle.

Deschutes Bretterweiss- Of the first tasting, this was the star of the show for me.  Bretterweiss had a pleasant, balance tartness with enough vinegary notes to add depth and earthiness without overwhelming.  The hops and malt balanced nicely against the brett, and the oak was pleasant but appropriately light (surprising, given the 14 mounths of oaking).

Ah... but time for the Abyss flight and meal pairing.  Pardon the poor lighting for the photo, but the meal pairings (there were three options) were fantastic.  We had the Beef & Mushroom Stew (Top Round in beer stock with black trumpet mushrooms and roots) and the Porc a la Biere (Breaded, braised pork with pan sauce over Abyss butternut squash mash and sauteed brusselsprouts)

But the beer!  I'll save the details for a full review later this year (I've been sitting on a bottle of 2010), but for the comparisons-

Deschutes 2008 The Abyss Imperial Stout- 2008 was bright and chocolaty, with much less molasses and licorice than I remember for a standard, new release abyss.  While far from tame, the stout was well settled and integrated.

Deschutes 2009 The Abyss Imperial Stout- Oddly enough, 2009 was markedly smoother and more chocolate-heavy than the 2008.  It seems unlikely this is an issue of aging, so this may be the result of a change in recipe?

Deschutes 2010 The Abyss Imperial Stout- 2010 was brighter than 2009, with an edge more lemon citrus than 2008 (likely the difference of hops fading).  Chocolate fell more in line with 2008 than 2009, the notes of cherry and licorice were clearly present as the ale faded.  The alcohol heat felt more separate from the flavor profile than in the previous years.

Deschutes 2011 The Abyss Imperial Stout- 2011, the newest release (note the bottled version recommends a best after date of 8/4/12) was the most herbal and bitter of the group, with molasses, licorice, and healthy hop pepper and bitterness fighting with each other.  The less integrated newness of the 2011 version made for a rougher, somewhat more chaotic flavor experience.

Deschutes Nitro 2011 The Abyss Imperial Stout- On nitro, 2011 smoothed out incredibly, with the creamy body highlighting the vanilla and milk chocolate more than any other an obscuring some of the earthier, more savory aspects of the tap/bottle version.

Deschutes The Abyss Imperial Stout Chocolate Truffle- OK... this is just a truffle made with The Abyss, but it was excellent and brought out some of the fruitier notes in the stout when enjoyed side-by-side.

Although I did not quite experience the marked difference I expected from the flight of Abyss, the lovingly matched food pairings, and the general air of celebration Deschutes brought to the event (black balloons, a speech, stickers and merch) all contributed to a special evening.  It was a hell of a night to be a beer geek.

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