Back in 2015 when Deschutes announced it was releasing variants of their famed imperial stout I was immediately on the hunt.

After weeks of checking in with local bottle shops and secret spots I came to the sad realization that the bottles were not being sent to my area and that it was going to take some work to get them. In the end I was successful in my mission, but when the announcement was made that variants were coming in 2016 I took no chances. I called in favors and had a friend grab bottles from the source in Bend, Ore. and send them my way.

Deschutes Brandy Barrel-Aged The Abyss bottle

Little did I know that Deschutes stepped up their production levels and that bottles would soon appear on my local shelves.   Go figure. Either way I was stoked to get my hands on a few bottles of each.

My last review was of the Scotch barrel-aged version and today I am busting open the brandy barrel variant. Generally, I let the standard The Abyss sit for a few years before opening,1 it but with the variants my patience is thin so I am cracking my first bottle.

Deschutes Brandy Barrel-Aged The Abyss

As expected it pours jet black with a chocolate milk-colored head. After a vigorous pour I get a couple fingers of head in my Teku glass that stay around for longer than expected. A few anxious whiffs of the glass bring a nose that is very reminiscent of regular The Abyss: molasses, raisins and figs, oak, cocoa and a faint hint of coffee. The Scotch version had a big fudgy brownie batter character where the chocolate note on this version is more of a bitter baking chocolate or powdered cocoa. The brandy starts to come through in the finish along with a heavy oak character. The tannins from the barrel combined with the 64 IBUs really push the bitterness that lingers forever in the finish.

Deschutes Brandy Barrel-Aged The Abyss
BREWERY: Deschutes Brewery
LOCATION: Bend, Ore.
STYLE: Imperial stout
ABV: 13.3 percent
IBU: 64
PRICE: $25
RELEASE DATE: November 2016
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
Overall, I enjoyed the beer but I would rate it well behind the Scotch version as well as the cognac release from last year. The cognac version from last year was a year and a half old when I drank it which most likely contributed to some of the differences. Both the Scotch and cognac barrels treatments had a much bigger influence that turned a really good beer to a fantastic one where the brandy barrel seemed to add brandy and oak notes to the standard The Abyss while accentuating the bitter finish. I have a couple more bottles that I will stash away for a few years to see how it develops. If it follows the path of the classic release it should emerge from my cellar much better in a few years. If you find both of this years variants on the shelf and only $25 in your pocket grab the Scotch version.
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