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The Abyss | Deschutes Brewery

1,876 Reviews
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The AbyssThe Abyss

Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery
Oregon, United States | website

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Aged in bourbon, Oregon oak, and Pinot Noir barrels.

65 IBU

Vintages (production numbers from Deschutes):
2006 - Released December 2006 (approx 90 BBL)
2007 - Released January 2008 (approx 350 BBL)
2008 - Released November 2008 (approx 350 BBL)
2009 - Released November 2009 (approx 600 BBL)
2010 - Released December 2010 (approx 600 BBL)
2011 - Released November 2011 (approx 600 BBL)

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-24-2006

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Reviews: 1,876 | Ratings: 6,661
Photo of pmccallum86
1.21/5  rDev -73%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

2009 Reserve

Pours a dark oily color body with a big bubbly tan coffee colored head that last forever.

Smell is of big chocolate and coffee with a funky barnyard smell normally associated with sours. Kind of strange, this must be one of the infected bottles.

Taste is chocolate and barnyard funk. Some acidic and vinegar notes as well. Yup, this beer must be infected. Imagine a wild ale had sex with an imperial stout, this is their lovechild.

Mouthfeel has high carbonation with a dry leathery feel. Not good.

I guess the rumor is true, the 2009 Abyss batch has gone bad. I am truly disappointed as this was my first Abyss ever and I was eagerly awaiting drinking it.

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Photo of JamesMcPolin
1.33/5  rDev -70.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

In honor of finally getting my hands on a couple 2010 Abyss bombers, I'm cracking open an infamous 2009 release. I'm hoping and thinking it's not contaminated because I was aging two bottles. When I first heard from my buddy Jeff that they might be tainted I opened the other one a long time ago, just to see if mine were among the bunk ones. The other one still tasted excellent so here we go.

Poured from a bomber into a snifter

A beautiful looking brew. Thick, black, plenty of head that looks like frothy hot chocolate. Mmmmm, delicious looking. Good head retention while waiting for it to warm just a bit. (the garage was a bit colder than proper serving temp)

Uh-oh. Nose seems way off, getting a slight metallic smell or something that shouldn't be there. Maybe im just trippin because I'm nervous.

Ahhh damn it, this sucks. It's totally infected. Man, a year's worth of aging wasted. I should have listened to everyone's advice on BA and drank them all the minute I knew this was even a possibility. Anyways, at least I have a 2010 Release to open and comfort me. I'll review the 2010 and hit re-review later but right now I'm mad at both myself and Deschutes quality control lab for wasting my time and precious money. This 2009 is an F - literally "avoid". For anyone else out there that still has one in the cellar, hurry and drink it now to at least catch a buzz for your thirteen bucks because I think it's only getting worse with age. Mine's already pretty tough to even drink.


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Photo of Wisconsinality
1.65/5  rDev -63.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Bomber poured into Delerium tulip.

2009 Vintage.

A- Pours a deep brown with a big two and a half finger mocha head. The head takes a while to die down and leaves some spotty lacing on the side of the glass.

S- My fears about this beer has come true. I have an infected Abyss. Smells like a wild stout. Some funkiness dominates the nose to go along with sour cherries, roasted malt and a little bit of milk chocolate.

T- Lots of infection, I mean funkiness. Sour cherries, a little smokiness and some chocolate notes. Nothing else is very apparent besides the tartness.

M- Medium bodied with ample carbonation. Dry on the finish but I am not sure if that was the way it was intended or due to the infection.

D- Pretty much a drain pour. I was hoping I would be one of the lucky ones but alas, I was not. Looking forward to trying to '10 though.

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Photo of Kjcobus
1.66/5  rDev -62.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Really don't understand what the hype is about this one. The appearance is fine but it's really just getting high ratings because of hype. Even after resting for a year this one is bitter and dry. Overly oaky wood flavor but not in a sweet way. The flavors are far from balanced and leave an off taste one wouldn't expect from a stout. Blending is an art they clearly haven't mastered. Don't buy into the hype on this one folks. Not worth it

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Photo of chrislouden
2.18/5  rDev -51.3%
look: 5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Purchased from Side Door Liqour Store in El Paso Texas. $13

Bottle dated as best AFTER Nov 15 2011

Appearance: Darkest beer I have ever seen. Aptly named.

Smell: Strong malt smell followed by molasses

Taste: ... nothing kind to say

Mouthfeel: meh

Overall: Did not enjoy this beer at all. High expectations based on description on bottle.

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Photo of Tbone
2.32/5  rDev -48.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

2009 Vintage

This beer is infected. The nose and taste are dominated by an offputing lactic sourness.
A very slight bitter roast note comes through. But any complexity, oak, or bourbon is gone.

Sad. I wonder if its a victim of the growing problem I've been hearing about of brewery's wild brews contaminating their non-wild brews.

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Photo of Diglitt
2.67/5  rDev -40.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I was severely disappointed in this beer. Probably the first one I fell victim to over hype. The flavors were just too much for me to really be able to enjoy. It was like drinking licorice. You either really like it, or you really hate it.

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Photo of charlesw
2.76/5  rDev -38.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

So, yeah. We had an RIS tasting. This was to be the highlight of the event.

Black. Nice head that lasts. Perfect. Unreal. Beautiful. Opaque like nobody's business.
Smells like an RIS - rich, dark, sweet, chocolate, coffee and more coffee, burned mesquite.
Tastes like mesquite ashes and coffee grounds. Bleh. Little residual sweetness. Lots of dark and bitter things going on. Another over-the-top beer. Sure, i can see why beer geeks would go crazy over it but it's not anything like, well, a good beer. Where is the balance in there, hmm? I'd think it would need more sweetness and a lot more time before being released before it was even close to being ready.
Seems to me that the body is on the thinner side but that's prolly just 'cause i don't think it sweet enough (for balance with all of the other stuff going on). It would prolly be fine if you toned the flavors down.
I would not seek this out (or even drink it) if it were readily available to me except for trading purposes because you all are so crazy for it.

So, in terms of the RIS tasting this was SOUNDLY panned as being poorly made, unbalanced, not very interesting. My score, here, is greatly inflated compared to the remarks given on this one. Heck, it was one of only 2 or 3 out of 20+ bottles we drank where there was some left at the end of the night - and we had this one fourth. So not worth the hype it isn't even funny.

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Photo of jws7968
2.77/5  rDev -38.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The most disappointing beer I have ever tried. I was looking forward to trying this and the wine smell and taste turned out to be too overpowering for me.

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Photo of Moses_Malone
2.82/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Had 2014 version on draft. I don't understand this beer's popularity. It tasted like bitter teriyaki sauce. No barrel character either. I realize it is expressly stated that the beer sit a year before being consumed, but I'm not sure how much better 6 more months or even two more years can make this.

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Photo of 2xHops
2.87/5  rDev -35.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage bottle opened and poured into a Maudite glass.

Man, this stout is dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark. It really did look very appetizing.

The smell seems so strange. It doesn't appeal to my nose at all.

The taste is not quite what I expected. It was very good, but it was heavy on the coffee flavor profile than I expected. I certainly can taste a hint of molasses coming though, the oak coming through slightly.

The mouthfeel is very, very dry. I felt like my mouth was shriveling up worse than a prune. This is after letting the beer breathe for a long while, and I feel like something's wrong. It's not normal.

Overall, I don't see the hype. I am starting to think that I may had gotten a bad bottle that is skunked or something. I imagine I will need to try another bottle to truly see if the consistency is there. I prefer Goose Island's Bourbon Rare Stout far more to this one. It's incomparable, so I only consider this to be a decent beer, but not world class at all.

So far, so what.... I'll have to revisit this review when I somehow get another 2010 bottle, or at least try the 2011 vintage somehow.

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Photo of francisweizen
2.98/5  rDev -33.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I revisted this one last night from the bottle, and wow what a dissapointment. I must have been high as a kite when I wrote my first review, as this stuff is just not good. On the pour this beer looks great. Dark black/cola brown with a coffee whip espresso head of foam. Aromas are good too, slight chocolate, coffee, roasetd malts. Nice. However the taste is fine up front, but this is too sweet in the middle and the chocolate/coffee/roast flavors just turn to acrid bitter cold brewed coffee in the sour finish. Also, the mouthfeel is thin for an imperial stout. The thin mouthfeel and bad sour coffee aftertaste of overburnt espresso beans really kills the drinkability for this one. Maybe a bad bottle? Maybe, but it was fresh from the most recent release in a wax dipped 22oz bomber, so it seems unlikely. Not good.

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Photo of mactrail
3.1/5  rDev -30.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Pouring this you get a surprise-- it's so black, oily, viscous, and nearly foamless it made my wife laugh. She poured a dose to taste-- and given the choice finished off the Modern Times Monsters' Park IS instead.

Tarry, charred taste is endless. Mouthfeel is like a serious liqueur. Plenty sweet, but after a few hesitant sips, the bitterness is more dominant. Roasted malt and burnt sugar no doubt, but it's mostly charcoal. Sourish barrel tang with a brief malty sweetness, then-- oh, I get it-- the Abyss.

I don't get the attraction with something so nearly undrinkable, even though the flavors are quite intriguing until the bitter medicinal quality catches up. From the 22 oz bottle (2014 vintage) purchased at Liticker's Liquor in San Diego. The price was eye-watering but I felt obliged to try it, but once will be enough.

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Photo of Bmoyer0301
3.13/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

The dreaded 2009 sour vintage....


This bottle has a very simple yet classy looking label with a wax dipped neck preventing any oxygen from getting into the bottle creating spoilage. As I finish up checking out the label I noticed they have a little piece of information on the side of the bottle that I never saw before, a "best after" date which says 11/16/2010. That's really interesting to see on a beer because usually you see "best before" dates telling to to consume the beer while it's still fresh and this is telling me to cellar this beer to attain optimum flavors. I had to get a knife out to pry off a small slice of wax before I could get my bottle opener under the lip of the cap which was a mild pain in the butt. After the cap was removed I got a healthy sounding hiss noise and no gushing which was a good sign so far that there wasn't any infection. I pulled out my Victory snifter and gave this beer a healthy straight on pour and was welcomed with a nice mocha caramel colored two finger thick head which hung around for quite awhile. When I hold the glass up to the light all I can see is black murky midnight with no light shining through and a medium amount of lacing sliding down the walls.


On the nose I am pulling out loads chocolate, and woody barrel aging with vanilla. The large amount of dry roast is there too almost like a freshly made Starbucks hot coffee with loads of molasses thrown in. I am not getting any sour or lactic aromas witch is yet another good sign that this is not infected, I guess I am feeling lucky today! In the finish I'm also pulling out a fair amount of prunes and figs that have been chard over a campfire.


Hmm...maybe I spoke too soon. The smell is much better than the taste at this point, surprisingly this beer is very thin and not quite like I remembered. There is a tinge of sourness lingering around which is not off putting but yet its not typical or expected in this style. I can pull out some bakers chocolate and a slight amount of woody undertones but over all this beer just isn't right. As I trudge on through this beer I am noticing some licorice that adds a small amount of spiciness to the complexity. I can sense some vanilla, and chard ashy taste but I keep coming back to the tartness in the finish and as I kept going it seemed to get worse and worse on my palate.


Overall, I am a little bit disappointed by this beer. I really thought that I was going to escape from the infection that everyone was talking about. As I finished up the bottle it became harder and harder to drink because I really could pick out the lactic funky taste. For a future reference I will be searching out other vintages of this beer because a lot of people have had great things to say about it and I would love to know how it taste fresh. If you come across this beer in any other vintage you should definitely give it a try and let me know what you think, as for the 2009 version all I can say is that you are taking a gamble on getting a bogus bottle

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Photo of imstimpy
3.14/5  rDev -29.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2014 Reserve, best after date of 11/10/15.

It pours with a thick tan foam that slowly dissipates to a rather fascinating residue of bubbles and cascades across the surface. The body is quite dark brown, nearly black.

The smell is quite subtle: molasses and malt. Nothing much here, honestly.

The taste, however, is eat your heart out roasty! I suppose I pick up a very slight cherry and perhaps the vanilla, and maybe the wood, but it all takes a back seat to the roast. It tastes more like an hot oatmeal stout. As it warms the roasted malt balances out nicely.

Good feel. Thick, but without coating the tongue too long and lingering.

Overall, I don't find the Abyss as complex as the label suggests. The smell is too subtle and the taste is too one-dimensional. It is good though, and I intend to finish the bottle.

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Photo of DIM
3.18/5  rDev -29%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

a: This was a very thick looking black with no highlights. It poured with the darkest mocha colored head I've seen yet.

s: This was surprisingly mild overall, smelling of molasses, cocoa, licorice, alcohol, and some vanilla.

t: This started out as an amazingly complex and superb imperial stout. Every sip seemed to be different. To varying degrees at different times I tasted molasses, vanilla, chocolate, mild coffee, toasted grains, and oak. no two sips were the same and if it weren't for the finish this would absolutely live up to the hype for me. I'm not a fan of licorice so the strong licorice flavor at the end was a turn off for me. But the worst part was the mentholated rubbing alcohol at the very end. The feeling it left in it's wake reminded of how my mouth feels after an altoids. Not the flavor, just that sinus clearing "fresh" feeling.

m: The body and carbonation are both outstanding, but the mentholated dryness at the end left me cold.

d: I'm very glad I had help with this one, eleven ounces was about all I could take. If you like licorice you'll like this more than I did. Thanks to JohnGalt1 for the chance to try this one.

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Photo of uberkane
3.22/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2010 fresh

A: A dark black, viscous looking beer. Pours with an impressive, frothy mocha head that dissipates very slowly. Tons of lacing.

S: Light roasted malts. Notes of vanilla and hints of chocolate. Sweet burnt toast.

T: Big bitter coffee/espresso with dark chocolate. A little harsh. Vanilla and bourbons hints. Dark burnt sugar is occasionally apparent.

M: Thick, with some velvety carbonation.

D: The thickness and harsh flavors bring the drinkability down, but for all it's complexities it is pretty drinkable.

Notes: Honestly, I was a little disappointed with this beer. I'm a big fan of big stouts, so I expected to be a big fan of this beer. However, the flavors seemed a little harsh in the wrong places. I have another bottle, and will give this beer another chance after a year of aging.

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Photo of chrisgalvin
3.26/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Clearly I am an arse because I was not really satisfied with this beer and I bought three bottles to be as subjective as possible -- I just wanted to see what the hype was all about. I just felt it was a bit average, just not balanced for my palate and bit too much.

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Photo of Crosling
3.28/5  rDev -26.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Around $ 9.00 per bottle in Colorado. I can’t appreciate subtlety in this style. Either smack me with hops (Yeti), blast me with oak (Bourbon County) or spank me with tons of malt (Expedition.) It’s a good, drinkable beer, but I didn’t find much complexity in my bottle.

Another bottle: I drank this one warm and still cant get why you people like it.

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Photo of schellsbeer
3.29/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes from Early December 2008.

World Class...yeah...Not really. I really don't understand what all the hype is about. From our night of tasting, there were some many better expamples of Russian Imperial Stouts that we sampled.

A - Great example of a RIS. Black and thick syrup. Very nice.

S - Clean but really not much there.

T - Cream. Dark. Thick. Dark chocolate but no bitterness. Molassas. No alcohol present which is a definite plus but sort of bland on taste. Just average in my book. Single layered. No fuss. Plain and simple in my book.

M - Love the thickness. For this reason...a 5.

D - Ok if I could find this but can't. Also, at 11%, little high....just right though for a RIS. Would I drink again? Yes but I think a few more years of aging would do this beer wonders.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.31/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle. Pours a dark blackish brown with a frothy dark brown head that retains well and laces the glass.

The aroma is more subdued than expected - roasted chocolate malts, strong oak with a little anise, nitrogen(?) and leather.

The flavor is strong overpowering black licorice at first with a little oak and sweet chocolate malts leading to a charred bitter finish. The alcohol is well hidden. The mouthfeel is medium to full with low carbonation.

Overall, I tend not to like the black licorice flavors, and this one has it strong. As it warms (or as I get used to it), the sweetness starts to balance it out.

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Photo of dnrobert24
3.35/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

It’s amazing how certain beers gain legendary status. Often times that beer is a Russian Imperial Stout. In this case, we have a great brewery brewing a legendary style. So, of course, if you are a fan of the brewery (and I am a fan of this brewery), you will be prone to give high marks. But, when compared to other RIS’s, the Abyss just doesn’t stand up. Certainly, it stands apart. It is unique for embracing the smoky side of dark malts and for giving us the ever-enduring anise licorice flavor, but the beer itself is just too thin. Where it gives smoke and licorice, it takes away fullness and chocolate richness. The Abyss is certainly a contender in the imperial stout throne room, but it is a minor god, if you are considering the great Olympians.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.36/5  rDev -25%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Thanks, Xenoreactive!

The aroma brings plenty of woodsy dark chocolate. Licorice shows up, as does a gentle hoppiness. My problem here is, while a solid nose, is overly muddled and underdeveloped. Flavor follows the nose. I do get a nice opening sensation of cherry wood to go with the dark chocolate notes. The back end is awash with piny hops, roast, and licorice. Seems muddled, complicated, and incoherent, hampering my enjoyment. On the other hand, I really enjoy the feel - the feel is dry finishing yet rich, warming, and palate coating. Gentle carbonation aids the easy drinking nature. Not particularly impressed with this - maybe it's too young? I respect Deschutes for telling you to age this a year, though; this should integrate more with age.

3.36/5: One confusing abyss

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Photo of n2185
3.4/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage

A: pours black with three fingers of dark tan head that fades into a thin cap with decent lacing.

S: graham, cocoa, vanilla, and some roasted coffee. Fairly muted.

T: very roasted tasting. Lots of bitter chocolate and some coffee. Faint vanilla and bourbon notes toward the finish with a slight alcohol burn.

M: thick body with low carbonation, this beer is nice and creamy.

O: a pretty decent imperial stout. The bourbon is almost nonexistant and the nose is very muted, though. Decent enough, though not worth the hype.

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Photo of lionchow
3.4/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This review is for the 2010 batch.

Pours pitch black with a big, tan, finely laced head. Head slowly progresses to lingering rocky tan head. Very beautiful.

Aroma was very nice and filled with big wafts of caramel and molasses.

Flavor was huge right off the bat. Over the top with licorice and molasses, followed with more moderate caramel. Alcohol is beyond warming, seems a bit hot. Can taste some of the bourbon barrel up front, but quickly is overpowered by the other flavors. Bitterness is herbal and quite apparent.

Mouthfeel is creamy and lingers down the throat. Very nice.

Overall this beer had some interesting flavors that I felt were not well balanced. The licorice and molasses combined with the hop bitterness did not meld well for my pallet. There was not enough oak flavor for me. Some reviewers have said that they prefer this low oakiness to other over-oaked stouts, but for me it was too subtle, or perhaps just overpowered by the licorice, molasses and hop flavors. I wish it would have had more time in the barrel or a higher proportion of barrel aged beer in the blend. This said, I would like to save a bottle in the cellar for 1-3 years to see if the flavors become more harmonious with age.

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The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery
99 out of 100 based on 1,876 ratings.