Anyone who reads this bloglet for longer than a post or two knows that I am a Stout Guy – in both senses of that word. I’m the jackass sitting on the outdoor deck at Full Sail, drinking an Imperial Stout in 100-degree weather…and loving it.
I’ve never grasped the thing of drinking light, insubstantial beers in summer. To me, Stouts are quite refreshing, even if they are not – my recent experience at a small brewery in Astoria, OR, to the contrary – properly served so cold that nearby Coors cans become confused and turn blue. On my birthday weekend, during what passes for blazing heat in Washington (it was 82 degrees), I sat blissfully on my patio and sipped a 2011 bottle of The Abyss. Can’t even imagine a better beer for the weather.
So, with that knowledge in mind, better than 100 readers have contacted me in the past and asked what my favorite Stout would be. I’ve ducked this, frankly, because there is no one answer. On most of the given days, The Abyss would be IT, with a capital both letters. Some days, it would be Parabola or Hunahpu’s or Cavatica or Serpent’s Stout or the current under-the-radar miracle, River North Brewing’s “Avarice”. They are miles from being identical. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, when you ask (enough times), I answer…
I’m still ducking, to be honest. Instead, I’m tossing it back to you. Below is a list of the nation’s best Stouts. I haven’t sub-divided them into basic vs. Imperial/Double, mainly because a shocking number of people don’t get the difference. I also kept it to the baseline: Great Divide “Yeti” comes in – I think, at last count – about a dozen variations. We’re not separating the variations out because they all proceed from the base beer and you cannot take a bad Stout (or anything else) and make it great by sticking it in a whiskey barrel or dumping in coffee grounds. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still Walkin’ Bacon.
I did not, as opposed to the first list posted here, allow for write-ins. I sourced this list from all of the beer rating sites I could find, my own tastings, and the massive response to all of them. I tried to be complete, so this is what you have to vote on. If you believe passionately that I missed one, post a comment, so that everybody can read it and maybe try it. If you’re conflicted, vote for a couple. The poll is set up for multiple votes. (I’m not voting because I’d have to vote for all of ’em.) Only a percentage of this blog is written by me. Comments frequently contain information just as good as you read in my scribblings.
So, here we go…America’s Best Stout. Let’s Git Bizzy and find it!
Sarcasm is hard to do well, especially in writing. I was not trying to be sarcastic though, which makes your response feel like an attack. As a long time reader and big fan of your work, this kind of stings.
I want to exclude The Abyss from comparisons of any kind precisely because **I agree with you.** I agree that it’s a remarkable, singular achievement and intended to say so in my comment. I first had The Abyss in 2009 as a random pour at the Naked City Taphouse on Greenwood. This was the first truly transcendent food/drink experience I’ve ever had. I went home, googled it, up comes Pour Fool, and I’ve been a follower of yours ever since. Every year I look forward to your Abyss column and have about 15 precious bottles in my collection going back to 2010. I don’t live in the PNW anymore so every bottle is an event, a memory of many happy years in Seattle and a reminder of what people can achieve at the very top of their game. Year after amazing year.
I propose we try this again. Yes my comment was hyperbolic, but read it literally, not sarcastically. For me, The Abyss is an internal reference point for pretty much every material object I experience. Is something good? Maybe, but is it Abyss good? This is the game I play in my mind and few things ever rise to that level of accomplishment. That’s why it’s hard to think about the best of anything when happily, I already know what’s the best and can take my joyful time experiencing everything else without that pressure. And so these exercises are fun, really, really fun, because they turn into lists I carry around on the offhand chance I can find that interesting bottle the Pour Fool wrote about. Let’s keep that going.
Greg: I’m a little hair-triggered on the subject of The Abyss and Deschutes in general. I’ve gotten at least 250 emails, over the years, from people basically saying that I work for Deschutes and that’s why I write about their beers so much. The actual reasons are simple: 1) I really love Deschutes beers and have since my first sip of Jubelale, back in 1992, and 2) they were the first brewery to start sending me review samples. I apologize for dumping the pent-up backlog of irritation all over your one response. It wasn’t fair and I can only plead frustration with a subject I’ve explained, in the blog and in emails, about 200 times. Yeah,let’s start this over. If you notice, I did take The Abyss out of the Best of The Northwest annual beer round-up that is coming again in about two months. It is now listed in the Emeritus list at the end. In a post about Stouts, however, it HAD TO be included. I’ll TRY to throttle back on the Abyss love a bit.
Can we retire The Abyss from these kinds of amusing distractions? It would make a lot of things easier for me, emotionally, if we could have an understanding that we are talking about everything else and it is assumed that The Abyss is such a lofty and permanent fixture on the Mount Olympus of human achievement that it need not be mentioned out loud. Except of course for your yearly love letter. That’s always a good time.
Or, you could just shrug and say, “Well, he’s writing about The Abyss again” and just click on to other things. I mention The Abyss a lot because it’s a genuine Achievement in American brewing. If I encountered a blog wherein the author had an ongoing love affair with something the way I do with The Abyss, one of the items on my list of what to write in response would NOT be to suggest that the author, who presumably owns the blog as I do this one, change the way he or she writes the blog. But that’s just me. I look at my bookmarks and find that, by actual count, I have 126 different beer-related blogs I can visit. I’d just try another one and come back to that one when he/she is not dealing with the thing I find so amazingly annoying…and I especially wouldn’t try to correct the person when the subject of the post is EXACTLY what The Abyss is. IF there was ever a time, aside from my annual review of the new release, to mention it, a poll of America’s Best Stout would seem to be that perfect spot.
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