A pleasant side effect of all this craft beer cellaring is the rise of the vertical tasting.
For the uninitiated, vertical tastings comprise of the same beer brewed in different years sampled at the same time so you can try to discern the changes that have occurred over the course of cellaring.
Small as my personal cellar is I do have a few beers aging that have different bottling dates including one of my personal favourites The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery.
Though I doubt any self-respecting beer geek has not tried this beer just in case, The Abyss is a malt-forward, molasses heavy, rich and viscous Russian Imperial Stout that weighs in at a non-too-shabby 11.6% ABV.
For our version of a vertical throw down the hubby and I compared a 2009 and a 2012 bottling.
Pours deep black brown with lots of mocha coloured head on the pour then a light skim and ring. Smells very liquory with almost a wine like nose. First few sips are rich and malty but also a bit harsh with a twinge of metallic or astringency that I did not expect from this beer. A full bodied beer. Hubby got an almost sour quality on the nose. Could be a bad bottle, bad storage or a bad year. Not the Abyss I know and love anyway.
In appearance the 2012 is pretty much identical to the 2009 perhaps with a bit more head on the initial pour. Liquory on the nose with lots of liquorice. First few sips are full-bodied with roasted malt and some alcohol. This beer is nice and warming as you drink. There is some bitterness on the finish. This bottle was far better than the 2009 but not nearly as good as The Abyss on tap at the brewery this winter.
If you had asked me before this taste test, which version would taste best I would have said the 2009 no contest. Typically I found found my cellared beers more mellow, better balanced and slightly stronger than the un-aged counterparts. In this case it was just the opposite so if you have some bottles stashed away don’t be afraid to pull them out sooner than later…;