It should almost come as no surprise that the most read review of 2016 was for one of the most anticipated beers we have in STL, Perennial's Abraxas. The review was posted the morning of the release and even though people were going to purchase the beer regardless (it's Abraxas.....c'mon) we knew they'd want to see how this year's version tasted.
One more thanks to the crew at Perennial for giving us the opportunity to try this one just a bit early.
An Imperial Stout brewed with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. Pouring deep brown with a thick head, this beer has a complex body with a delicious lingering roastiness. Abraxas is brewed with unique ingredients intended to challenge and excite the palate. It may be enjoyed right away or allowed to age in the bottle. Vertical tastings are encouraged. Perennial Artisan Ales is a small batch craft brewery dedicated to producing unique, premium beers. Our beers are brewed with the experimental, seasoned craft beer drinker in mind.
When Perennial was kind enough to let us get a bottle of Abraxas a little early, we knew we had to do something special. A lot of you out there probably have a bottle of last year's Abraxas on hand (and maybe a few from years prior also). For this reason we decided to break out one of our 2015 bottles and drink them side by side. Reviewing them this way will show how beers like this change in flavor over time when properly stored. We had a lot of fun drinking both these beers and want to extend a huge thank you to the folks at Perennial. They didn't need to create more buzz around this beer since it has a life of its own, but they were willing to let us post this review to further promote the STL beer scene.
Below are our thoughts on a side-by-side tasting of 2015 and 2016 Perennial Abraxas.
The first notes you pick up are sweet caramel, brown sugar and dark chocolate. You definitely get some of the ancho chili pepper aromas coming through but they're not the main focus. If you search hard enough, the cinnamon is there but it's not easy to find. There is some alcohol perceptible also but it doesn't distract from the other aromas. The biggest piece of this one is definitely the chocolate and it is huge.
This is a very big difference between the 2015. In this year's version, the cinnamon is what comes out first and the chocolate is right behind it. Compared to last year's version, that's to be expected as some of the additions like the cinnamon and chili peppers will die off over time. There's not nearly as much caramel in this one compared to last year which shows how these malts change over time. The chili peppers are much more present and there isn't as much booziness in this one compared to the 2015.
The 2015 pours a viscous, black, opaque beer with a dense, brown head made up of tight bubbles.
This beer looks like a carbon copy of 2015 with a slightly larger head. It's viscous, it's black and its brown head sits just a quarter inch above the beer while the 2015 sat directly on top of it.
The cinnamon comes out nicely in the flavor so while that was missing in the aroma it's definitely still there. The chili pepper is something you're able to taste but it's lost a lot of its spice. The other fun part of this one is that some sweet caramel and subtle vanilla that work well together creating a brown sugar or even maple syrup flavor that is extremely enjoyable. When you swallow the beer, the spice from the pepper actually does come out a little bit which cuts through some of that sweetness.
The cinnamon is HUGE. It's definitely the first thing you get when you take a sip and it sticks around your tongue the entire time you drink it. The pepper is big and flavorful and the spice is much more pronounced on the front of your tongue, not just when you swallow. The ancho chilis also help to cut through some of the sweetness of this big, beer. The chocolate is sweet and dark and while it's delicious and bright, it's not as prevalent as the 2015. There is also some roasted character from the malts which help contrast those big chocolate notes. The largest piece that's missing in the fresh version is some of that big caramel. You also get some nice vanilla in this year's while it's much less perceptible on the 2015. The flavor on this one is just BIG.
The carbonation is below medium and the body is extremely full. It coats your tongue and is extremely smooth.
The carbonation is medium+ and the body is full. The carbonation makes a lot of those cinnamon and chili flavors pop. It is bright in your mouth while still staying full and big bodied.
Damn. There's no wrong way to drink an Abraxas. Perennial knows, and even encourages the proper aging of this beer so you can see for yourself how it changes over time. At the end of the day, it comes down to preference. If you enjoy the bright, cinnamon and chili flavors with some slight roastiness, drink this year's sooner than later. If you like those flavors to be more subdued which lends to a slightly sweeter beer, then wait until next year to crack it open. Personally, these were right on par with each other for my personal preference. Forced to make a decision, I might choose the aged version because that caramel/brown sugar flavor was delicious. The allotment (if you got one) includes two regular Abraxas and one Coffee Abraxas so you can drink one regular now and hold the other one until next year to drink side by side with 2017 to judge for yourself.