Home > Food > Psychology & the Taste Buds: Abyss 2009

Psychology & the Taste Buds: Abyss 2009

7th Feb 11 (Mon) Leave a comment Go to comments

SO, in late 2009, I jumped on the “damn, I like this tasty beer” bandwagon and bought a case of Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss 2009.  I had it in 2008 and liked it; so why not!?  The price wasn’t something to sneeze at, but it essentially became the start of my now bustling beer cellar.  The Abyss is an Imperial Stout, clocking in at 11% abv – brewed with licorice and molasses with 1/3 of the beer aged in oak barrels.  It’s quite a treat, and it comes out once a year in black wax dipped 22oz bombers.

It’s also in limited quantity, hence my impulse purchase of an entire case being not all that irrational.  A beer barrel (BBL) is 31 gallons (roughly 2 full kegs)…

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)

Well, fast forward to Thanksgiving 2010, I cracked a 2009 Abyss open, and wow… I did not like it.  I shared it amongst friends; so we managed to kill the bottle.  We had plenty of beer on hand that day (various homebrews as well as growlers of Block 15’s La Ferme de Demons & Gilgamesh’s Mamba); so I didn’t make a big deal of it.

Then I had another Abyss 2009 around Christmas.  I drank about 8-12 ounces of it and hated it… I did the unthinkable.  I poured about half a bottle down the drain.  When you’re expecting a creamy & dense licorice & molasses bold stout on your lips, the taste that was coming from the glass was simply unpalatable.

The 2007, 2008 & 2010 Abyss vintages were / are phenomenal and hit the mark based on what you’d expect from a partially oak-aged imperial licorice & molasses stout.  What went wrong with 2009’s vintage?

Jan 31, 2011… the brewery announced that they found the culprit… a wild yeast called Brettanomyces (aka “Brett”) was found in some of their oak barrels (this also affected the 2009 Mirror Mirror release).  Brettanomyces varieties (Bruxellensis, Lambicus & Anomolus), as well as other wild yeasts like Pediococcus or Lactobacillus are sometimes used on purpose in beer.  In fact, I have a double red ale going now that just finished a fermentation with Wyeast’s Roeselare #3763 – which is a souring yeast blend with a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, two Brett strains, a Lacto culture, and a Pedio culture.

As with many things beer, I’m blaming my friend Aaron for my introduction and head-over-heels love of sour beers.  Last summer he was on a sour kick that baffled me, then he introduced me to some sours, and then Cascade Brewing in Portland opened up a pub.  Now… every time I go up there, I have to hit up their Barrel House in SE Portland.  I went to a brewer’s dinner last fall (menu) that was out of this world amazing.  They are the “House of Sour Beer,” but even Cascade trys to stay away from Brett, as it has a way of taking over everything.  They had some beer get infected, rolled it out to the barrel house and then destroyed the barrel(s) involved afterwards.

Brett is a wily devil, and its impact on the 2009 Abyss is likely bad news for many people.  Well, now that I know what is giving off the “bad flavor”… here is where I’m going to see if psychology and perception are gonna make this more than half a case left of “infected” 2009 Abyss turn into a treasure.

February 6, 2011… I decided to crack open another bottle.

First taste? Oh, yeah, it’s definitely infected.

But… now I like it.

Explain that! Not even five weeks ago, I had some of the very same infected beer, and I dumped more than half the bottle.  Now, I have it… tastes probably identical, but since I was expecting a soured Brett-y beer, I am totally digging it.

Oh, Brain, you have pwned me again.

Happy psychology experiment on Deschutes’ accident.  Well, at least I have some more left to enjoy over the coming years.  For future releases, they will be flash pasteurizing their oak-aged beers – to kill any wild yeast strains prior to blending.  2009 Abyss & Mirror Mirror may be bad for some, but they also may be a special treat for others.  I’d suggest not sending them back to the brewery for a refund.  Find someone out there who will trade you for it.  Rather than seeing it get dumped, put it to use… in a sour fiend’s mouth. :)

~Dan – np: MogwaiSpecial Moves

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