As I type this, I’m in the midst of the Star Wars Day marathon on TBS. This year May 4 is even more meaningful because 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. Lucasfilm held a special commemoration of the occasion earlier this year at their annual Star Wars Celebration. George Lucas joined a panel of Star Wars luminaries, hosted a tribute to Carrie Fisher, and treated us to an impromptu performance by the maestro himself, John Williams.
As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I love any excuse to celebrate the best sci-fi space opera in the history of film. Usually I’d whip up a batch of Wookiee Cookies, order a pizza, and have a few good beers while I enjoyed the movies with my kids. This year is a little different. Just a few days after gallbladder removal surgery, pizza and cookies are out of the question. I really shouldn’t be drinking beer either, but for you, dear reader, I’ll accept the inevitable intestinal fallout.
So, in honor of May the Fourth, I’ve busted out my Chewbacca mug, and a super-strong beer fit for a Wookiee. The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon is a big, beefy dark beer. Aged in brandy barrels for 12 months, this imperial stout has the strength and depth of flavor that a Wookiee would love. It’s brewed with blackstrap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, and whole vanilla beans.
With all those ingredients, a beer like this could easily become an ice cream sundae mess, not a real beer. In the end, though, it all melds together into a smoky, punchy, rich drink. You taste the smokiness in the roasted barley, the dark black and chocolate malts, and even some of the Millennium, nugget, Stygian, and German northern hops. It all melds together into one beautiful beer.
Unrivaled Strength and Tenacity
The barrel-aging trend is one of the hottest in beer right now. Dark beers, IPAs, just about anything can be aged in bourbon, wine, or some sort of other wooden barrel. The Abyss is one of those beers. Aged for 12 months in brandy barrels, this is a beer that does aging right. In that galaxy far, far away, the strength and tenacity of a Wookiee is unrivaled, and so is the flavor of this beer.
Even if you’re only a casual fan of Star Wars, you know Chewbacca. The “walking carpet,” as Princess Leia calls him, is the ultimate in giant, furry sidekicks. Han Solo’s partner in crime, Chewbacca was one of the original Star Wars characters we all fell in love with in 1977. It’s hard not to love a giant teddy bear. Well, a teddy bear that can rip your arms out of their sockets if he loses at Djarik.
The Abyss has this smoky flavor that’s tough to put your finger on. It’s almost like a really fine cigar. This is a beer that doesn’t need to be served ice cold. In fact as it warms up a little from your fridge, the cherry notes begin to shine. Different levels of flavors, like the different colors of a Wookiee’s coat, emerge as you drink this beer. It’s a journey. From one end of the beer galaxy to the other, The Abyss makes your tastebuds experience more than just your standard beer.
Take Care with Barrel-Aged Beer
Many barrel-aged beers have the problem that the barrel ruins the flavor of the beer. Plenty of bourbon-aged beers taste too much like bourbon and not enough like beer. It’s an easy mistake to make. When you think about it, bourbon, whiskey, red wine, and brandy all have strong flavors, and aging your beer in a barrel full of these flavors is an easy way to overpower the flavors of your beer. The folks at Deschutes get it right with The Abyss, though. Brandy is part of the flavor for sure, but the imperial stout beneath it isn’t lost. It’s a beer aged in brandy, not a brandy-dominated beer.
This may not be an easy-to-find beer. It’s a limited release and I think even more limited than the bourbon-aged version they have floating around the market. If you can find it, though, you should get it. I would check stores with a thicker beer inventory than just a run of the mill grocery store. My wife happened to find it at Central Market, the H-E-B answer to Whole Foods, a store you can only find in a few major Texas cities. That said, I’m sure if you’re in a city with a good beer selection you can track down this beer, and you should.
The Abyss from Deschutes is the kind of beer Chewbacca would drink if he were watching a Star Wars marathon on May the Fourth. So next year when you’re looking for something to drink while binging on Star Wars, grab one of these. Oh, and be sure to watch “Rogue One” before you watch “A New Hope.” It makes a huge difference, and illustrates just how much of a genius Gareth Edwards is. Cheers!