Monday, February 11, 2008

The Abyss (’06 & ’07)

After the “Abyss-O-Mania” (as John Foyston put it) where all bottles of The Abyss in Portland sold out in less than three days, I wasn’t expecting to get any this year. Then, last week, my buddy Dave and I went to “Deschutes Night” at the Moon & Sixpence where I got to do a vertical tasting of this year and last years beer.

Brewery – Deschutes Brewery, Inc. in Bend, Oregon
ABV – 11 % ABV
IBUs – 65
Serving Type – Draft
The Abyss is the second beer in Deschutes’ “Reserve Series”. The first beer was an oak-aged barley wine called Mirror Mirror launched back in 2005. In 2006 The Abyss was released and became so popular, and won so many awards, that they decided to mix up another batch of ’07. However, it didn’t actually get released until mid-January of ’08, which may have had something to do with the über-hyping of this beer.

The popularity of may have something to do with the fact that it is aged in French oak, pinot noir, and bourbon barrels for 9 months. Also, Cherry bark and vanilla bean were added during the fermentation staged (dry-hopped).

Glass – Both were in a 10 oz. snifter glasses

Aroma – The ’06 had a very pronounced smell of dark roasted grains, coffee and dark chocolate. The ’07 was more subtle and rounded. The dark aromas blended, and complimented, the more delicate vanilla and molasses notes.
Appearance – This is where this beer earns its name. The color is so dark; you might as well be gazing into the hart of a black hole. This void in reality, from which no light can escape, is so enveloping that men have gone mad from staring into the nothingness. It also has a wispy dark tan crown.
Flavor – As in the aroma, the flavors of the ’06 were more jagged and aggressive. The younger was roasty, with hints of chocolate down the sides of my tongue. In he back it was a coffee or dark chocolate like bitterness, which got sweeter as the beer got warmer. Right down the middle was the pronounced taste of alcohol. The younger brother was once again smother, less bitter, and sweeter. The alcohol was more subtle and I was also able to pick out some licorice and floral flavors.
Mouthfeel – Both had a full body. The ’06 finished dry, while the ’07 finished wet with a lingering bitterness.
Final Thoughts – The 2007 was a more complex beer and yet easier and more enjoyable to drink. I definitely got the impression the ’06 kept fermenting and dried out the beer while the hops naturally mellowed out and their subtle contributions were overwhelmed by the roasted grains. It’s amazing to see what a year can do to a beer. I can see why this beer has such a cult following.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Collaboration not Litigation Ale

The story of this beer is so beautiful it just might warm the cockles of your heart. Even if it is a year old.

Brewery – Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, CO (with a little help from Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA)
Style – Blended Belgian-style Strong Ale
OG: 1.079
ABV – 8.99%
Serving Type – 22 oz. (bomber) bottle

In the fast-paced world of craft brewing, beer names are bound to be repeated. In this case, "Salvation" became the moniker for two Belgian-style ales from two of the countries leading brewers. In one corner we have a Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Vinnie Cilurzo and the boys at Russian River Brewing dominating the flavor palette with sweet, complex malts and yeast flavors. In the other corner, with plenty of refreshing hops and spicy esters, Adam Avery from Avery Brewing enters the arena with a Belgian Strong Pale Ale.

In our overly litigious and adversarial culture no one bat an eye if these companies sued each other into the ground (although it would have been a terrible loss for the craft beer community). Instead they took a page out of Voltron's book when they had to battle the evil King Zarkon, and combined the two beers to form a new and even more powerful third beer.

In the spring of '04 Adam met with Vinnie at the Russian River Brewing pub where the two tried blending their individual beers together, in various concentrations, until they the ratio just right. As the story goes, they also found them selves more than a little "blended" by the end of the night. Vinnie's wife, Natalie, came up with the name that aptly highlights this (unfortunately) seldom used business strategy. In mid-November of aught-six Vinnie when to Avery Brewing and brewed his beer just as he would back in his own brewery. On December 11th, 2006 the two beers were finally blended together.

Glass – Thistle glass

Aroma – Definitely a Began beer. As soon as I opened the bottle I could detect a musky and yeasty aroma, which dissipated quickly. In the glass I got notes of apple and fig as well as a faint spicy and nutty scent.

Appearance – Pours with a big fluffy, stable white crown leaving big sheets of lace. The color is a crystal clear dark ruby.

Flavor – It starts off with a malty sweetness on the front of my tongue, turning slightly floral as it moves towards the middle. The apples are present in the taste profile on the sides. There is a subtle clove-like spiciness throughout. In the back it gets a little tart, and reminds me of a green apple Jolly Rancher.

Mouthfeel – It has a medium body with a dry, almost astringent, finish.

Final Thoughts – I really wish I had gotten this beer before it was a year old. After reading some of the other reviews I can tell this beer has mellowed and is a mere whisper of what it was originally intended to be. I also think it’s much drier than it would be if it was fresh. On the other hand, my bottle had a much bigger kick since the residual yeast has been working on the unfermented sugars for the past 12 months.