The Abyss - Deschutes Brewery

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The AbyssThe Abyss

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5,936 Ratings

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Ratings: 5,936
Reviews: 1,811
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 9.56%
Wants: 2,702
Gots: 3,100 | FT: 266
Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery visit their website
Oregon, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-24-2006

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)
View: Beers (154) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 5,936 | Reviews: 1,811
Photo of JWD
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

A- this beer is black as black, there is no light to be seen through this wonderful brew. Hard pour with a dark tan head that dissipates quickly.

S- Old coffee grounds, very roasty

T- Coffee, roasted malt and vanilla, with a slight oak detection

m- Thick but not BCS thick, however your mouth will be coated in flavors.

D- I have alot of these which is dangerous as I could drink a couple of these pretty easy in a good night, superior drinkability for the abv.

Photo of bobhits
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A top 20 beer with over 1k reviews and available off the shelf in many areas? This has already built up HUGE anticipation with me!

Deep and dark with a tall chocolate milk head. Amazingly dark given that this isn’t motor oil. Liquorish and bourbon mix to create this sweet vanilla note with a slight oak finish. This is almost candy bourbon with a dark chocolate vs say a bourbon ball with milk chocolate.

Light oak notes open this one up. A bit cool still to go into detail. Liquorish and bourbon mix to create this sweet vanilla note with a slight oak finish. This is almost candy bourbon with a dark chocolate vs say a bourbon ball with milk chocolate.

I see why people age this beer, the barrel blending gives off very overt layers of flavors that will blend wonderfully and a touch of alcohol that will mellow. Opens with a dark malt chocolate like profile. The flavor then goes to wet odd hop liquorish flavor that isn’t ideal. Finally the beer switches to a nice oaked bourbon aged beer. Warming up this no longer has the distinct beginning middle and finish. I’d never thought about liquorish and bourbon going together but I like this combo. BTW what does 33% brewed in oak and oak bourbon barrels? Is that 1/3 of this beer was in half oak and half bourbon barrels? Or do they use oak sometimes and bourbon barrels (which are oak) other times? This beer needs a bit more something to balance the molasses and licorice sweetness, and this blend of bourbon doesn’t add enough of that oak and woody note to finish it.

Certainly a dense beer, but of the imperial stouts I’d say this is medium or medium high density. More carbonation than average here works well.

I have a hard time seeing this as a top 20 beer. It is truly wonderful and I am amazingly thankful that I was able to get this in a trade but I think this beer’s ranking it a touch higher. That said everyone should have this beer at least once given the reasonable price. Now noticing the best after date and wondering how I missed that. Well I suppose I need another bottle, anyone? Overall a bit too sweet imo and that won't be helped with age. That said some blending of flavors could dramatically improve things.

Photo of DenverHopHead
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap, poured into a snifter.
Appearance - motor oil is darker, I suppose.
Smell - a blend of chocolate, bourbon, dark fruit and fudge.
Taste - the nose is more powerful, but the taste follows brilliantly!
Feel- bold and robust; smooth and easy to sip!
Overall - lives up to the hype; about as good of an imperial stout as you'll find!

Photo of hoppymeal
4.25/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours oily black in color with an orangish tan head that slowly fades and leaves some light lacing. Nice roasty aroma, some light soft sugariness and some bourbony alcohol as well, but aroma is mainly a charred, burnt roastedness, coffee like. Very smooth and creamy as it hits the tongue. Again the sweet sugariness from the malts is quite soft and subtle but lingers slightly longer than in the aroma. Sweet sugariness has some light chocolate flavor and is followed by some acidity from the roastiness creeping in and growing stronger towards the finish. This acidic roastiness blends with some decent hop bitterness. An almost nutty roastiness in the finish as well as a decent amount of alcohol. Finishes dry with some alcohol burn at the back of the throat and an anise aftertaste. Very nice and roasty, extremely well balanced beer. Mouthfeel is great start to finish. Taste is solid and fairly complex.

Photo of Gasc0igne
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 Reserve. Consumed @5 months old.

A: cola pour, terrifying maw of darkness no colour on edges held to light, copper-brown large head, small bubbles, excellent lacing, settles to a light cap atop the beer, medium-long retention
S: heavy espresso front, sweet vanilla, heavily charred fruity wood, bit of bourbonesque liqour, charcoal, toasted marshmellows, roasty roasty malt!
T: burnt coffee, very bitter dark chocolate, bourbon sweetness for a brief moment before moving into a strong milk chocolate carries through to light tart fruit before finish, dry charred oak finish, a slight salty licorice throughout too,
M: medium-full bodied, satisfyingly coating, low-medium carbonation, feels thin to me, slightly ashy finish
O: consumed young, bitter as expected but nowhere near as much alcohol as expected, will revisit on enjoy after date

Photo of vfgccp
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Opened less than 12 months old. 2013 bottle, opened Jan 2014.

A - Thick, motor oil black body. Towering cap of milk chocolate brown head. Awesome retention and lace.

S - Fresh toasted wheat, sesame seeds, vanilla, bread dough, and dusty grain silos.

T - Toasted grains and warm bread crust permeate the flavor profile. Milk chocolate, vanilla, and caramel sweeten the center, and are balanced by ash, soft tannins, oatmeal, and molasses. Touch of anise and burnt chocolate through the finish.

M - Outstandingly creamy. Smooth, full body.

O - Surprisingly little barrel character, but the quality of the blend comes through in the smoothness and balance of the beer.

Photo of BMMillsy
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2012 Reserve popped in the first week of December of the same year. Says "Best After 11/1/13" but screw it! Pours black with big brown creamy head. Hangs around for a bit with lots of lacing. Aroma of chocolate, roasted grains, molasses, hints of black licorice, and dark fruits. Don’t get any bourbon or vanilla on the nose, but still smells very nice. Interesting flavor. Strong roasted flavor with seriously bittersweet chocolate. Alcohol warmth on the finish. I do get a bit of the barrel addition, but it is very subtle. Solid stout, but was hoping for a bit more vanilla/chocolate/molasses. Will have to grab another one to mature and see how that helps it.

Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Best after: 8/24/2014, Consumed: 1/28/2014. Wanted to have a yard stick by which to measure the effect of aging this beer.

A – Impenetrable darkness, the like of which was last seen when camping on a moonless night in the middle of a Pacific Northwestern forest. That’s very dark. Burnt toffee head which maintains perfectly ordered bubbles. The foam clings like foam-scum on a river but in an attractive way. Excellent retention.

S – A little muted. Mainly getting roasty toasty scents. Not very much coffee or chocolate.

T – Not as much hotness from the alcohol as I had anticipated which is a pleasant surprise. I expect age to add complexity to this beer; developing some sweet toffee or caramel notes to balance the bitter chocolate finish and burned, toasted malt-bread flavours. The vanilla, molasses, cherry bark and liquorice which are mentioned on the label don’t really make an appearance at this juncture. I do get some woodiness from the various oak-agings it undergoes, however. The booze arrives with scotch flavours mid-sip and fades to ash on the finish.

M – Already spot on. Thick, rich, hearty and satisfying. The thickness of the mouthfeel is visible even on the pour. This is a beer of significant substance.

O – I’m still pretty new to imperial stouts in general but this is certainly a very well-rounded beer. From memory it seems to be on an even keel with Narwhal, albeit with a richer body and less caramel or maple on the palate. I look forward to seeing how this beer ages.

Photo of pdoran10
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Fresh 2010 vintage poured into a snifter. three fingers of light brown rocky head. this and hunaphu are the best looking imperial stouts i have seen.

Smell is earthy hops, a bit of alcohol heat, some oak. not all that inviting.

taste is much more appealing than smell. Amazingly complex, Roast and vanilla up front gives way to fusel alcohol heat, oak, molasses and licorice linger in my mouth after a few sips. a ton of tasty flavors going on here.

Really great creamy mouthfeel with moderate to high carbonation. Exceptional on the tongue.

this bottle is super fresh and a bit hot. I will be generous with my rating here as I can see this being more drinkable with a few months of age on it.

Photo of TKEbeerman
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into my SN XXX glass, this stout pours a midnight black with an exceptionally dark head. Still not the darkest stout with the darkest head I've seen, that is why this brew gets a 4.5

S: The aroma is a little less satisfying as far as complexity goes, but is loaded with molasses and very dark chocolate.

T: The flavor is amazing. I'm really happy with this stout, and glad Descutes decided to brew a real RIS and not over load it with espresso or oatmeal. Don't get me wrong, I like espresso in my stouts, but at times it gets redundant. Overall, the flavor of the Abyss has a very chocolate and molasses kick. My gripe is that it's hard to sense the bourbon.

MF/D: The mouth feel IMO should be a little bigger for this brew. It's drinkability to is a little less satisfying. It is smooth, it is tasty, but it does warm you up a little bit.

Overall, I would like to thank strikertown for the trade. He is an excellent trader, and has been patient while I work out my broken package with FedEX. Thanks again man~!

Photo of Erdinger2003
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very thick brown head that looks great! There is a very nice lacing left behind on this black as night beer. The smell is chocolately with some coffee, the smell reminds me of a chocolate wafer. The taste is smooth and full flavor of coffee hits you right away and the chocolate is left to the aftertaste. There's a lot of burnt wood in the flavor as well, kinda like when you put charcoal from the fire in your mouth (by accident). The mouthfeel is very silky and full bodied, very nice. Overall I would have this again after aging it a year or so.

Photo of smchenry75
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This will be my first Abyss (2010). What a better way to pass the time while I sit in the garage and brew some cream ale. This puppy pours black as night into my New Belgium snifter with a 2 finger dark mocha head that looks like it might stick around for a while. It smells of chocolate and coffee.

The first sip is solid but a bit bolder than I was expecting. The initial taste is of dark chocolate and coffee, licorice and possibly wood with some alcohol presence. As I continue to drink and things warm up, the coffee, licorice and oak are really coming out. Things are starting to sweeten up but not overly so. I'm not tasting any bourbon.

In the home stretch as the beer really warms, the licorice, oak and alcohol are dominating and some hop bitterness is coming through.

This is a very solid RIS that reminds me quite a bit of Stone's IRS. Very good overall but I'd like to store one of these guys away in the cellar for 2 to 3 years and see what some age does to mellow
things out a tad.

Photo of kfsv034
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been waiting to try this one for awhile finally decide to break one open tonight

A - Pours black with a creamy tan 2 finger head

S - chocolate, Bourban, Oak maybe some vanilla

T - pretty much the same as the noise. Pick up alot more wood in the taste though very smooth and tasty

M - medium bodied not thin not thick

D - at 11% this beer drinks well not to hot.

Photo of Braz
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got a bottle at Tacoma Boys. This is the 2012 offering.
Pours a rich molasses color, with a creamy tan head that recedes down to some light bubbles.
Aromas of wine and cocoa. Some coffee and dark chocolate as well.
Big bold heavy flavor. Chocolate and wine. Interesting and enhanced by the silky creamy texture. Dry heavy alcohol, metallic aftertaste. Texture is very good. One to savor for sure. Great beer. The aftertaste is slightly offputting to me but not so much that it ruins it. This kind of reminds of a valentines day type beer, with the chocolate and wine.

Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage. thanks to Gkunkle for the bottle.

Appearance: Deep black. Runs dark brown and deep red at the edges. Head is a red-tinged dark tan. Drops to a spotty head with a thin collar. Almost no lacing. Pours heavy and thick.

Smell: Deeply roasted with touches of char. Mild licorice root as in black licorice. Sweetness lingers. Burnt malts and some roasted malts. Overcooked malts. Touch of caramel sweetness buried in there. Touches of wood with a mild vanilla edge. Just a faint edge of bourbon and booze.

Taste: Riddled with char and burnt malts. Sweetness is solid And helps pull some of the bitter burnt edges. Wet leather and a solid hit of tobacco leaf. Bitter cocoa and some dark chocolate. So much cocoa. Sweetness builds as the beer warms, but so does everything else. Loaded with leather.

Mouthfeel: Full body without being syrupy. Almost no carbonation to speak of. Smooth and solid. A drying touch.

Overall: Age benefits this beer. That doesn't mean it's anything less than stellar when it's young. Great depth and balance. Not as beefy as others in the class.

Photo of Pfeifer
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Abyss
On tap at the Toronado release event and from the bottle poured into 16 oz wine glass.
A - Jet black as expected. The foam is surprisingly dark. Inch of head that thins to about 1/4 inch. Amazing lacing.
S - Alcohol, coffee, molasses, oak and bourbon. In that order
T - Fantastic. Chocolate nay cocoa. Coffee and molasses (not surprisingly). The way the tastes are layered make the beer. While not quite as complex or layered as the FWXIII. Coffee, caramel, chocolate with a hint of oak.
M - Thick, syrupy, minimal carbonation, warming but not hot.
D - Surprisingly so but depends on my mood. Definitely wouldn't drink more than two

Photo of brihenry
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted this 2009 vintage. It was great, no problems as reported by some.

It poured a thick, dark, black with a brown head about a half inch with soft, tiny bubbles. There was not much aroma, just a slight sweet sugar with some roast.

The flavor was dominated by licorice up front followed by a deep roast, almost burnt marshmallow. It finished with a sweet licorice.

The mouth feel was nice with the small, tight carbonation that was silky, not too heavy or thick. I also noticed some delicate bread-toast malt flavor, and a very faint piney hop at the end.

Overall, this was a special treat, a very complex beer.

Photo of rowingbrewer
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this beer at my friends christmas eve party 2009 vintage. friend had received it in a trade, and due to the chance of infection chose to drink it sooner rather than later

Excellent completely black pour with a brown head that quickly recedes, nice legs on it.

you can smell molassas, dark malts a hint of licorice and a general sweetness to it that tries to cover up the boozy scent but doesnt quite do it

malt and molassas up front with a nice boozy taste that is not overpowereing. very heavy mouthfeel that is a good thing though.

drinkability is good, but would have to share this beer with someone due to abv and how thick it feels

would definitely like to get a few more abyss and age them out a little more and see how they benefit from it.

Photo of watchnerd
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first tasting of the legendary The Abyss. And, to be honest, I'm a bit let down. To be fair to the beer, I think it's a victim of its own hype and rarity. My expectations were undoubtedly too high. Yes, it's a damn fine Imperial Stout. Yes, it's a great example of what an Imperial Stout should be, from the color, to the aroma, to the taste.

But is it really in a class by itself, definitively better than other style leaders like Old Rasputin, Mikkeller Black Hole, or Big Bear Black Stout? No, it's not. Oh, sure, one could debate which one was slightly better than the other, but they're all basically in the same league. And, at least here in the Bay Area, Old Rasputin and Big Bear Black Stout are far easier to find, as well.

So while I'll happily admit that The Abyss is a fine Imperial Stout that can be compared to the best in category, the mania is overblown. If you run across some, definitely try it. And if you don't, and have another leading Imperial Stout that is easily obtainable, that's okay, too.

Photo of Overlord
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5


Been opening up a few treasures over the last few days.

Beautiful, beautiful pour. Black with cascading leathery foam and a perfect amount of bubbles capping off an inch or two dark tan head. Just gorgeous.

Smell, and taste, is more complex than one expects. The two beers this most reminds me of are the Stone RIS (but with hops), and the Storm King (with more coffee, and a much more complex flavor).

Bitter coffee, espresso-like, and some roasted chocolate ... but not as much as you would think. Heavy pine/grapefruit hop content, roasted fruit, and some wood-sy flavors such as oak. The basic stout/caramel/toffee/roasted-ness is very understated and balances superbly. The bottle says molasses, but it tastes more like aged, semi-sweet rum. Yummy. Mouthfeel is appropriately thick and chewy.

One of my new favorite beers.


Photo of QuentinCompson
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

big boy bottle into Chimay chalice

A - 2 finger head into melted Whopperish film; black brown opaqueness; great lace

S - Dark malts, caramel, alcohol, wood, chocolate, yeast

T-M - Super thick malt into surprisingly high level of hopdom - really nice, well balanced - toffee, alcohol, caramel, oaky, barkish

D - Super drinkable stout if your in that frame of mind. Filling and robust. Nice beer.

Photo of seaoflament
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

So I’m finally diving into the Abyss tonight. I’ve heard and read much about this beer and I finally get to try a fresh bottle, any vintage at all. Thanks to Joey for reserving a bottle for me ;o)

The 2007 Reserve is a blend of 33% of oak and oak bourbon barrels. Served at around cellar temp.

The color really is like looking into an Abyss, dark molasses, and heavily roasted coffee been colored syrup in a glass. A thick two inch head of foam trickles down slowly to the Abyss. There’s some lacing and very good retention.

Aroma is quite complex, but I pick up right away some coffee, molasses, oak wood, musty barrels, and roasted malts. There is also a heavy presence of woodsy licorice, earthy hop notes, dark fruits like figs, dried prunes, and raisins. Then a third layer reveals some cocoa, milk chocolate, hints of chocolate covered cherries, and vanilla beans. Some vinous aromas and green grapes as well.

Wow, the taste is just like the aroma and then some. Chocolate cereal, chocolate malts, oak, cocoa, dark fruits and a bit of alcohol. The finish has a dry chocolate, and roasted barley bitterness feel.

Mouthfeel is really creamy with a little fizzy carbonation to keep it from being too thick. This definitely is a heavy beer, and a meal in itself.

The Abyss is a good beer, a very good sipping beer, but I think it can get even better with age and that is one thing I am looking forward to. The flavors seem a little rough and grainy but I’m sure these will settle within a couple months.

Photo of Ynot2
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opened a bottle of 2009 and was half expecting the sour smell. The smell did not hit me so I felt a little relief.

The pour into a small snifter was black with a finger of tan head.

The smell was a mix of licorice and Bourbon.

The taste settled down pretty quick and remained about the same after about five minutes of warming. More smoked coffee flavors than anything else. No burn to speak of.

Mouth is creamy and full.

An easy drinking stout.

Photo of CrazyCarl
4.23/5  rDev -6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I assume it will be better with aging. Good now though. Looking forward to great.

Photo of allforbetterbeer
4.22/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage poured into a Swiss wine snifter. I don't know how I have made it this far without trying this beer. First beer of 2012, which barring unforeseen disaster will most likely be one of the best years of my life so far. Cheers!

Pours pure black- darker than used engine oil. When I hold his up to the bright sun there are no highlights revealed. I mean this is totally black. The pour produces two fingers of doughy dark brown compact head that coats the glass. Looks awesome!

The nose is one of the most complex of any dark beer I have smelled in quite some time. A touch of smoke overlays a duo of roasty malt and hops. A further hoppiness pairs with tannic notes of woody oak. A slight touch of vanilla is probably due to the added vanilla and not bourbon barrel (only 6% of the beer in this bottles ever saw the inside of one) but then who know? Maybe it was a young set of barrels.

Well this beer is complex. I guess I will start with the basic stout flavors, which are present in this beer but there is so much happening on top of them that I have to think about it to isolate them. Hops are here in plentiful quantities and they pair with the roast of the dark malts in the typical big stout fashion. The most prominent non-traditional stout flavor is a pronounced woodiness. It almost reminds me of roasted chicory, or an over-oaked stout stout I brewed once. Anyway, this flavor almost dominates, but doesn't eclipse everything else. I do taste both licorice and a tiny bit of vanilla, which are both tasty. So I wonder if that particular woody flavor is the cherry bark?

The mouthfeel is rather dry and viscous, but not as thick and chewy as something like Bourbon County Stout. I think it is quite good, and I imagine that it is exactly what the brewers at Deschutes intended. Carbonation feels fairly low.

Conclusion: As expected, this is an awesome beer. It has so much flavor that it is walking the line between complex and muddled. I like it quite a bit, but find myself straying back the the purist mindset of doing little to a beer save for aging it in oak. However, this beer is doing something awesome and should be tried by anybody who has an interest in American beer or big dark beers of any sort.

The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery
100 out of 100 based on 5,936 ratings.