Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vintage Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts — Deschutes vs. Full Sail

2006 Deschutes Brewing
The Abyss
(Stout brewed with licorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels.)
ABV 11%

2006 Full Sail Brewing
Black Gold Imperial Stout
(Malt beverage aged in oak bourbon barrels.)
ABV 10.5%

Last night in honor of my dad's birthday I broke out some special beers that have been aging in my cellar. Similar to wine, some beers can benefit from aging, especially beers that are higher in alcohol like barley wines and imperial stouts. When cellared properly (constant temperature, preferably something in the mid 50s) the hop character in beer tends to fade while new and interesting flavors start to develop, giving the beer more complexity than it had upon first release. I was a bit nervous about this battle since both beers were great when they were fresh. Would they be any better after 5 years sitting in the bottle? The answer was a definite "yes." Both beers were fantastic.

The Abyss was an amazingly complex beer with rich fruity chocolate notes and a nice anise kick. There was really no hop presence at all. The Full Sail smelled very sweet and boozy and the flavor followed suit. The bourbon character was so intense it almost tasted like someone had poured a shot of bourbon into the bottle. If you like bourbon, you'll love the Black Gold. While we all really enjoyed it, most of us agreed that we'd be hard pressed to drink an entire bottle. It was very sweet and intense and tasted like it had more alcohol than The Abyss despite the fact that it had slightly less.

The final verdict had three of us voting for The Abyss while the birthday boy was alone in his dedication to the Black Gold. Again though, both were amazing and held up extremely well after their time in the cellar so don't hesitate to stash some of your good stuff away. Your patience will likely be rewarded.

Winner by majority decision: 2006 The Abyss


  1. No toy in the picture? You're slipping, Gibson! ;)


  2. Good catch Russ! It wasn't originally meant to be a Bottle Battle, but the next day I decided to post something anyway.

  3. Wow....that is an epic battle.

    For the record, I'm sure Dean would have no problem downing that entire bottle of Black Gold.

  4. I like Black Gold (actually prefer the Top Sail bourbon-aged Imperial Porter), but holy cow, this is not a fair fight!

    That's brave of you to keep Abyss for five years, I don't think I even have any 08's left.

  5. Hey Bill,

    Yeah, I was a bit worried that I might have waited too long. So much beer to drink, so little time!