The best Imperial stout ever created is made in Bend, Oregon, by a brewery called Deschutes.
a·byss/əˈbis/ – Noun – A deep or seemingly bottomless chasm
The Abyss is an incredible beer with impressive depth and complexity. We could go into its rich notes of licorice, molasses, and blended hints of oak, bourbon, and wine, but I’ll let you do that on your own. The Abyss is not one only one of the best barrel-aged Imperial Stouts available, but it is also my very first Imperial Stout. I remember when I picked up my first bottle from Wally’s Wines 3 years ago. My friend Kathryn, who works at Wally’s Wines, pointed me down the rabbit hole when I asked her about Imperial Stouts. Being new to craft beer, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Opening the bottle was an effort. As amazing as wax looks on the outside, it is equally difficult to remove. The first thing I noticed aside from the viscosity of the liquid as it made its way out of the bottle was the coffee colored foam. I had never seen beer foam so dark before. It smelled incredible, and there was almost too much going on for my tiny brain to handle. The bourbon barrels were evident, the alcohol percentage made sense, and the roastiness that imparts that signature black as night coffee-ness made just breathing in the fumes of this beer an eye opener.
The taste, I wasn’t ready for it. With so many flavors, it took me some effort to get into. As soon as my tastebuds adjusted to shear complexity of everything that was going on in my mouth, I understood its namesake: it is indeed a bottomless chasm, and it’s one I look forward to base jumping into each and every year.
Okay, enough of the flowery Beer Advocate/Rate Beer crap. Does anyone even read that stuff anyway? I reiterate, The Abyss is the best Imperial Stout ever made. It represents my craft beer infancy, and when I drink it, I’m not only drinking an imperial stout, I’m reliving the excitement of getting into craft beer. I’m sure I’ll have tons of people that want to argue about the Abyss, but the fact of the matter is that our tastebuds and the baggage we bring to each and every beer we drink are incredibly personal things. While we can try to relate through words, giant hand gestures, and that awkward drunken “I love you man,” the taste that we are experiencing can never be fully explained. This idea can likely be associated to beer bars, breweries, and sports teams in that loyalty is generated through repeated experiences.
In a recent article we talked about Daniel Drennon’s exclamation that “Beachwood BBQ is the best beer bar in LA.” His subjective statement that Beachwood is the best is backed up by objective evidence: great tap list, educated staff, craft beer loving owners, solid brewery, and delicious food. “The Best” is really a subjective term that is backed up by an objective list of traits. “The Top” is probably more accurate, but still isn’t broad enough. As long as a beer or establishment meets all the requirements for a subjective title like “the best,” then it’s subsequently given that title.
We are all experts in our own minds. While we may share similarities with the people around us, we cannot dictate what others like. No matter how many times I try to get my wife to try natto, she just isn’t going to like it. Maybe one day she will, but that’s her journey. I’m not really sure why we are always looking for “the best” in everything. I think it comes from a reluctance to take a chance, as we don’t want to waste our time. We want others to tell us what’s good so that we don’t have to be responsible for making the wrong decision. The reality is that because we are all different, someone’s best might be someone else’s worst. Therefore, people should really use the word favorite in place of best because that’s what it is.
We as craft beer lovers, geeks, nerds, and aficionados have the duty to communicate to others “the love of craft beer.” With the flux of amazing beer coming out of not only California, but the rest of the world, we have a lot of work to do. Push forward and promote people that are doing the right thing, have the right idea, and care about their products.
*Hi Def Logo photos courtesy of Deschutesbrewery.com, B&W photo courtesy of donidexter,