The Abyss - Deschutes

When I saw John Foyston's article about Deschute's new "brewmaster's reserve" beer, I instantly went out and bought it. Deschutes almost never brews bad beer, and this one hit my stylistic sweet spot:
The Abyss is the second of the Deschutes Brewery's Reserve Series launched last year with oak-aged Mirror Mirror, which was based on a double Mirror Pond Ale. The Abyss is an imperial stout -- 11 percent alcohol -- aged in French oak and bourbon casks.
Well, I cracked a bottle last night, and I am sorry to report that it's a little green. "Little" as in Kansas has a little corn.

It may be that in a year the flavors will ultimately coalesce, but for now, it's an overly strong, harsh beer. Unlike the Storm King I reviewed last week, The Abyss is unpleasantly bitter and aggressive. Dark malts are alternately burnt and tannic, overwhelming the creamy body and subtler notes of bourbon and oak. Imagine unsweetened chocolate.

I will stow my bottles in the basement and let them age at least five years. It's not a sure bet, but my guess is that these flavors will change and produce an exceptional beer. If you are/were lucky enough to score a bottle, cellar it and check back in 2011.

All the brewery tells us is the alcohol percentage and the method of aging. Everything else is up to your palate.

Available: Bottles: Belmont Station, Liquid Solutions, selected New Seasons. On tap: Concordia Ale House, Horse Brass, Oaks Bottom, the Mash Tun.