The Abyss | Deschutes Brewery

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The AbyssThe Abyss
7,334 Ratings
The AbyssThe Abyss

Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery
Oregon, United States

Style: American Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.40%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
A deep, dark Imperial Stout, The Abyss has almost immeasurable depth and complexity. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors make it something not just to quaff, but contemplate.

As for the great “drink it now or let it age” debate, we stand clearly on the fence. Distinct and delicious on release, the flavors meld and fuse into an entirely different pleasure after a year or more in the cellar.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-24-2006

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Ratings: 7,334 |  Reviews: 2,023
Photo of Sammy
4/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared with Dave at the Brick Store Pub. Soapy head on dark chocolate colour. Yeast in a rich aroma, Bourbon is not as prominent as licorice, yeast, mollasses and chocolate. Taste is coffee,mostly. Roasting and charness and a bit of wood. Drying mouthfeel. Second bottle two months later, noticed soupy pea head of dark brown.And fuller body.

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%

Photo of acurtis
3.75/5  rDev -16.1%

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.55/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

the 13th highest rated beer on BA huh? cool! had the pleasure to try a 2009 vintage side by side with a 2010 (lucky me, i know). the 09 was slightly lacto infected and so off just a bit, but smooth and rich and decadent and one of a kind, but this review will be for the 2010 vintage. it pours an absolutely black abyssal color (hehe) with a fairly good size mocha head for a 2 year old beer on oak. doesnt let a lick of light through. smells insane. mental. especially as it warms here. smells really really dark malty roast. some espresso notes, fruity pipe tobacco, raisins, bourbon, old oak, and plenty of alcohol. wow. flavor is spicy up front, with notes of licorice and black pepper even. it mellows to a quick second of something sweet, but it isnt the molasses. i cant place it, and im drinking it too fast trying to figure it out, so for now suffice it to say a dark fruity sweetness, but just for a moment. maybe pruple grape even, like jolly ranchers, but not artificial. i just dont know. then comes the bourbon woody vibes. bigtime. the complexity here is through the roof. feel is deadset perfect. perfect. it starts sharp and strong, with a foamy rising expansion in the mouth thats like a whispy cloud passing quickly by. it feels so light because of this, airy even, but the body upon close assessment is not as heavy as you might think. scarily drinkable. it winds down with a very smooth alcohol burn, like a very fine glass of scotch at room temperature. aftertaste is espresso and oak and booze. im amazed how the carbonation still is active after 2 years and a some time on wood. mellow, but certain. overall im not sure this is the 13th best beer in the world, but i am confident its the best imperial stout ive ever had, and im not sure what i would change about it. the sex appeal here is massive. a wonderful bottle of beer, and i will look forward to my next. i will relent and say it is indeed worth the hype!

edit: just tasted 12, 14, 15, and 16 vintages all in the same tasting, and was really impressed with how different they all were. slight variations in barrel ageing, and the cellar time have yielded radically different beers. some with more of a licorice vibe, some red wine, others notes of anise and tobacco, pretty astounding really, and obviously an enjoyable experience. i will be on the one for now, one for later train with this one from here on out...

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Photo of jaydoc
4.29/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.84/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2010 reserve.

Pours an absolutely pitch black with a small 1 inch tan head that fades to a small film on the top of the beer. Spotty ring lacing around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, molasses, vanilla, licorice, and cinnamon. Absolutely delicious smelling. Tastes of dark roasted malt, bitter coffee, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Subtle hints of licorice and cinnamon on the finish. Very thick and creamy in the mouth. Drinkability is out of this world. A great beer to sit and sip on for a prolonged period of time. The ABV is well hidden in the taste but it sneaks up on you in the end. This is really a beer that you can only have one of at a time. Overall, a truly exceptional beer. I am glad I have a stockpile of these in my cellar.

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Photo of Texasfan549
4.48/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Photo of kjkinsey
5/5  rDev +11.9%

Photo of GRG1313
3.75/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2008 Reserve; Pours black with thick coffee and dark chocolate nose. Huge dark coffee/dark chocolate/rich roasted malt flavors and characteristics. Interesting light bitter hop in the mid palate. Strong coffee and dark chocolate finish. This ale is very well made and with pleasant burnt espresso and dark chocolate flavors with big coffee/chocolate finish with hints of bitter hops. (This review was done in 2009)

REVISITED May 22, 2009 with a 2009 Reserve a few months after the tasting that gave rise to previous comments. Suffice it to say that bottle here tasted was huge with chocolate/coffee-espresso/licorice character and flavors and with a creamy mouthfeel and character lacking in the previous bottle. I'm a stout lover and this may have been one of the nicest stout experiences I've had since I tried the 2003 Imperial Russian Stout that Stone broke out at it's 2009 Winterstorm (best stout I've ever tasted). This one is my number one "available" stout. Try it!

REVISTED December 14, 2013 with 2013 Reserve. Beer has gotten significantly more hopped and has lost much of it's mouthfeel and intense flavor. Still a very nice and well made beer but my over all rating has now gone from a 4.7+ (under the old rating scores) to a 3.75; still very good but not "outstanding." This was once a standard by which others could be judged. No more; the world has caught up with and surpassed Abyss. JMO

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Photo of Knapp85
4.27/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2010: This poured out as a deep jet black oily looking brew, it forms a nice even sized brown head on top. The lacing is scattered and and has a light amount of retention. The smell of this beer is loaded with dark malts and some herbal notes. In the mix there is also a good amount of barrel aged aromas coming off of this one as well. The taste was really nice, sweet bourbon-like notes with some fresh oak in there too, there is also plenty of smoked and chocolate flavors in there. The mouthfeel is thick and oily, very smooth and highly drinkable. Overall I was hoping to get more of the Licorice flavors from it but regardless it's a killer brew. Very enjoyable.

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Photo of spycow
5/5  rDev +11.9%

Photo of djrn2
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

Photo of nmann08
4.75/5  rDev +6.3%

Photo of metter98
4.4/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is absolutely jet black in color. It poured with a thin dark tan head that died down, leaving delicate lacing covering the surface and a collar of large bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: Moderately strong aromas of dark, roasted malts are present in the nose along with notes of oak from the barrel aging.
T: The taste starts out with lots of flavors of roasted malts and is accompanied by complimentary notes of bourbon, cherries, dark fruits, molasses and oak flavors. The roasted malt flavors linger from start to finish. The cherries become a little stronger as the beer warms up.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied and slightly dry on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: As a mixture of blends, this beer is extremely well balanced and doesn't have any one dominant flavor. The taste is very complex.

Note: 2013 Reserve

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Photo of Taphouse_Traveler
4.15/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of oriolesfan4
4.26/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of t0rin0
4.18/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 edition, 22oz bottle. Grabbed this a month ago and decided to drink it the other night with some friends. I really enjoyed it but I wish I had bought 2 bottles as this beer really needs to sit a few years.

It looked awsome when poured into the pint glass. It was incredibly dark with no light coming through. The head was dark brown heading on black and was very thick and sticky. Great retention and lacing. I let it sit for about 10 minutes to warm up as it was too cold and the head didn't budge. This beer truly begs the question "It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black"

The smell was strong of fresh oak. I beleive the oak used was fresh and hence my comment on this could stand to age for a few years. It had that strong peat smell that you would get in a young scotch. Also there was tons of wonderful black raosted malts and some dark sweet chocolate coming out of the glass at me. Even the foam smelled of RIS. The aroma of this beer was wonderfully strong and inviting, just young. No alcohol on the nose.

The taste was almost as good as the smell but the strong oak presence wasn't quite balanced as well as it could be by the malt. My estimate is 3 more years in the closet and this beer would get all 5's in a review. The rich roasted flavors and the nice sweet chocolate blended together well. There was some alcohol in the taste which did get more pronounced as the temperature rose but the oak also came out with the heat. So despite 11% abv it was still tolerable.

Very thick and viscous and wonderfully drinkable. It will catch up with you though so be sure to enjoy it with someone or make it your only drink of the night. Remember, that even though the bottle is $10 or $11, buy a couple to age.

2008 edition purchased at Hollingshead's a week ago. 22oz bottle.
A - 4.5 S - 4.0 T - 3.0 M - 3.5 D - 3.0

It was nice to try this beer again after a year and even though I've had this years vintage on 2 occasions prior to tonight, I hadn't actually given it enough attention to take good notes on. I'll say this: this beer is a huge let down after last years.

Pours the same as the other vintages, pitch black, nice dark brown foam, good retention, good lacing. Both lacing and retention could have been better but nothing to complain about. Looks very nice indeed.

This years vintage is much heavier on the roasted malt and thats evident in the aroma. Coffee and chocolate with a harshness that I remember from the 2007 that comes from the oak and booze. A little harshness (basically synonymous with freshness) is alright in a big stout in my opinion. No real complaints here either except the overdone coffee qualities.

Flavor is interesting. Maybe my palate has changed considerably but I remember the 2007's flavors blending a bit better. The coffee flavor dominates but is completely seperate from the chocolate, the oak (fresh oak), and the booze. I guess thats what aging is for. Also, very dry and bitter, too harsh to enjoy thoroughly.

Being dry is usually a good indicator that the body is going to be thin and this is no exception. Not thin in an absolute sense but thinner and less viscous than the 2007. Low/med carbonation, just right. Over all the beer is nice, but again a let down.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.39/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

22oz black wax sealed bottle. The Abyss is a brew which has narrowly escaped me on a few past occasions, but thanks to the kindness of the good doktorzee, I now have in my possession the 2013 Reserve version - a frontal lobotomy, as it were. It's about a month until the ironically specified 'best after' date, but I think that they'll understand - my mother passed on early this morning, and so many things about this offering resonate in our shared world. This one's for her, full stop.

Into my Tamarack Brewing (such nice gentlemen!) shaker pint glass this falls, appearing nothing less than a veritable titular incarnation in its 'colour' (absolutely no light filters through this nightshade in June, awwww), with a slim handful of puffy, roiling, and creamy chocolate milk head, which leaves a solid paint job of Dofino Havarti cheese lace around the glass as it slowly backs down.

It smells of dark chocolate ensconced dehydrated cherries , bready caramel malt, salted toffee, dried black licorice, raw dark demerara sugar, woody vanilla, and herbal, leafy, and slightly grassy hops. The taste is big, richly sweet chocolate, edgy, vegetal, and almost smoked-seeming molasses, plain toasted oak, a hint of red wine lees, warmed Rice Krispie squares vanilla, a bit of wet ash, Nordic licorice, bing cherry bushes in bloom, an ethereal (the best kind) bourbon barrel essence, and somewhat bitter leafy, earthy, and dead grassy hops - the big alcohol is but a gentle touch, when you are bracing for a well-deserved smack upside the head.

The carbonation is actually fairly active, in a neat little frothy manner, the body medium-full in weight, the cocoa character smoothness firmly pushing the issue in the face of the gritty, muddled blend of woody, boozy, and hoppy neighbourhood kids. It finishes more off-dry than I had been anticipating - the aforementioned bitter players compelling the chocolate sweetness to unravel even further.

Well, the hype around the Abyss might be just that, hype, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a heady, soul-steadying, and, um, 'complicated' Imperial Stout, one engendered by its outright drinkability (before the after, eh?), and further enabled by the expertly integrated, north of 10 points ABV. Like the special person of my heart and mind, this is strong, American, unapologetic, and duly faded to black. R.I.P., with much love.

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Photo of oline73
4.68/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had this on-tap at the black friday event at Capone's. Poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Pours black with a half finger of tan head. There is some very nice lacing and a good amount of retention.

Smell: Cocoa and roast with mild coffee. Sweet smells of molasses and some dark fruit.

Taste: Unbelievably smooth. Roasty cocoa and coffee notes up front. Quite sweet, mild dark fruit notes. Very smooth.

Mouthfeel: The body is thick with tingly carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: This beer is just awesome! Lives up to the hype. Very smooth, sweet, and roasty. I will definitely have more in the future.

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Photo of kojevergas
4.03/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Brown glass bomber with waxed pressure cap served into a Gouden Carolus goblet in high altitude Castle Rock, Colorado. Reviewed live. I had this on tap recently, less than a month ago - and I liked it. Let's see how she holds up when I have a higher volume and more time. Purchased at an off-license adjacent a Whole Foods in Colorado. Cost was 10.99 USD.

A: Pours a half finger head of tan colour, good cream, good thickness, and decent retention considering the ABV. Colour is a solid nontransparent black.

Sm: Rich chocolate, caramel, nuts, wonderful cream, vanilla, toffee, and light roast. Rich and decadent. Exquisite. A moderate strength aroma. Definitely a pleasant and inviting one. I can't wait to sip this.

T: Exquisite rich cream on the open, with a consistent chocolate tone throughout. Creamy and brilliant. The roast is a bit understated, but nevertheless enjoyable. It's quite cocoa-y. No coffee is present, except in perchance the finish, where it adds yet another layer of complexity. Exquisitely balanced. The caramel is just about perfect for the flavour profile - not over or understated. The nuts from the aroma never seem to make an entrance, but I think this is a good thing. Some vanilla. Heavy toffee. The alcohol doesn't come through. Most prominent - let me emphasize - is the richness of the flavours, predominantly chocolate and cream. It's really damn good.

When I look for them, I find the oak and bark notes, but they're rather subtle - which was definitely the right approach.

I don't detect molasses or licorice. Just sayin'.

Mf: Delicately smooth and incredibly delightful. Quite creamy - to its benefit - and wet. Near perfect. Not too thick or too thin.

Dr: Very drinkable for the ABV (and even the style). It's a notch above even most beers in the style. They went the distance for this one.


I've copied my original on-draught review below; it was removed from the site during the duplicate serving type review. My current 4.28 rating reflects the bottle review above, not this tap review, but I thought the additional notes might be of use. The review was dated 12/11/11, but I can't remember exactly when I actually took the notes.

Served on-draught into a 5 oz sampler glass in Orange, California. This was the 2011 vintage. Expectations were wildy high due to its reputation. Reviewed from notes. I don't recall the price.

A: Pours a half finger tan colour head of nice cream and good thickness. The retention is bad - attributable no doubt to the high ABV. Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Chocolate, toffee, coffee, nuts, cream, and caramel. A mild strength aroma.

T: Chocolate/toffee form the flavour base alongside the subtle roasted malt foundation, with coffee and caramel atop and about. Fantastically milky - which I didn't expect. Perhaps cream is a better descriptor, but it isn't so in the Bailey's sense. Very complex without compromising its balance. Quite rich. Wonderful. Built very well. Bravo.

Mf: Smooth, creamy, and wet. Suits the flavour quite well. Not too thick or thin.

Dr: Highly drinkable; very rich and complex. I wish it were more available. It's marvellous on tap. I'd have it again.


12.22.14: Truncated notes for a 2011 vintage: the cherry bark makes it unique. Still a hell of a beer.


11.02.15: Brief impressions for a 2014 vintage (Best before 8 days from now):

Pours a gorgeous silky head of tan colour. Retention is superb. Body is a predictable black.

Aroma brings the cherry bark to the fore, with subtle hints of caramel and chocolate. There's no overt oak or vanilla, and this is nowhere near as complex as I remember.

Taste brings decadent cherry bark, rich dry chocolate/cacao nibs, a hint of licorice/anise (not a flavour I adore), and cream. No oak or vanilla really comes through, but I do get a hint of port/dessert red wine. It's balanced, sure, with an aptly subtly dry and coarse mouthfeel, past vintages have been far more intricate and subtly executed. Still, the cherry bark is amazing, and this is well-balanced. Texture is creamy, but could be softer. Carbonation is perfect.

This isn't my favourite vintage, and I do think this beer has gone steadily downhill since about 2010, but it's well worth trying even at its high price point. Formerly, this was the one beer I'd always buy multiple bottles of every year. Now, I think I'll be scaling back.


12/31/15 2014 vintage:

Love the cherry bark as always, and the raw chocolate character is wonderful.

High B

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.56/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Where many, and more "Russian" imperial stouts try to whelm the palate with complexity and variation in taste, Deschutes take a more somber, more "American" type of attitude when it comes to the style. Its classic American-ized taste makes in drier, less fruity and less spicy taste. Yet it makes the beer better? Here's why...

The pitch black concoction pours like 30 weight motor oil as it layers into the snifter. Seeming like the beer wouldn't develop a head, several more seconds are needed to appreciate the coffee-like creme that slowly forms on top of the stout. Not known for significant lace, the beer is caught somewhere between becoming a frothy, heady beer and a still, brandy-like appearance.

The nose melts the senses as the aroma of strong espresso, cocoa, and burnt toffee seduces the olfactory senses at every turn. Roasted walnut, light campfire, near-bourbon alcohols and savory sherry notes of aging come to live as the aromas search for complexity and the beer warms to release its pleasantries.

Flavors are even bolder as the beer builds and its power is felt- giving an intense espresso-rich, bitter chocolate early taste while bourbon-like vanilla melds into the caramel malt taste. The complexities are rich and varying and do offer only a glimpse into berry, plumb, and fig flavor, if only for a second. Walnut oils and coffee oils seem to give the beer its bitter balance even though we know they are hop-derived.

It's ultra-thick and weighted feel offers a creamy buffer, especially with its deeply embedded carbonation. Finishing very warm, lightly tangy, and thinned by alcohol, the its lingering finish satisfies the sweet tooth with dessert-like satisfaction.

Even without the high rate of complexity, the simple richness of Abyss lives up to its name- offering up a one-dimensional dialogue of roast and sweet while only glimpses of complexity decorate the periphery. But its such a succulent and delicious taste that those complexities are simply not needed.

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Photo of WillieThreebiers
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%

Photo of emerge077
4.46/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Generously shared by Jay23, review from notes.

Purely opaque, obsidian black, glimmering in the light. Slow cascading tan foam, it's surface has a creamy texture. Puffy concentric rings of sticky lace hang on the walls of the glass.

Ashy tobacco, woody oak in the nose. Not much sweetness, it could use a little chocolate to balance. It would get a 4.25 if possible.

Big smoke presence, dry roasty malts, chocolate, licorice, and dry tobacco leaves hanging aloft in a Kentucky barn. Earthy char with very well integrated notes of oak. Not picking up huge amounts of bourbon, reflecting the partially bourbon-aged blending. This is most welcome, and lends itself well to an impossibly silky mouthfeel, without harsh spirits crowding in.

Feel is creamy and robust, without getting syrupy. Nice dry finish. 11% was completely hidden, this was a fantastic Imperial Stout, glad I had the chance to try it.

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Photo of superspak
4.35/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1400th review! 22 ounce bottle into snifter; 2011 vintage, best after 8/4/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1 finger dense dark tan head with great retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lasts. Nice dense soapy lacing clings on the glass; looks awesome. Aromas of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, cherry, oak, light char, coffee, cocoa, molasses, caramel, toffee, vanilla, licorice, toast, and roasted earthiness. Incredible aromas with big complexity of dark malt, oak, and barrel character; and extremely balanced. Taste of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, molasses, light char, cherry, oak, toast, toffee, vanilla, cocoa, licorice, light smoke, and roasted earthiness. Lingering notes of dark chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, molasses, light char, cocoa, oak, licorice, light smoke, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Fantastic depth and complexity of dark malt flavors with the barrel character and flavor additions; with a fantastic overall balance of all flavors; and zero cloying sweetness after the finish. Medium carbonation and very full bodied; with a very creamy, slick, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is extremely well hidden with only a small warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a fantastic blended imperial stout! Huge depth and complexity of flavors with incredible balance; and very smooth to sip on. An extremely enjoyable offering to sip on slowly.

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The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery
Beer rating: 4.47 out of 5 with 7,334 ratings