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Into the Abyss 

A note on Imperial Stouts

Rich, black and bold, the 2013 Abyss is back.

Last Friday, Deschutes Brewery released its much-heralded Imperial Stout, a groundbreaking 11 percent ABV, 86 IBU brew that has won a number of awards and boasts a perfect 100 "world class" ranking on But, the beer that Deschutes has brewed for years didn't come easy. According to a recent video Deschutes released in celebration of the 2013 edition, founder and CEO Gary Fish had to push and prod his staff into making the barrel-aged, molasses-heavy beverage.

"I told 'em, look, I'll take the responsibility for it, but I want you to make it using your knowledge and skill," Fish said. "An Imperial Stout that's at least 10 percent alcohol, that has cherry bark and blackstrap molasses in it. And I want it to be as extreme as you think you can push it." (Drinking it now is fine, but brewers recommend storing it for months or even years. You won't be sorry.)

They made. We love it. And, apparently, so does the rest of the world. Winter is the best time for boozy Imperial Stouts. Here are three others, all worthy of royalty (and available locally at fine bottle shops):

Tough Love Banished Imperial Stout, Crux Fermentation Project (11.5%, 70 IBUs)

This 11.5 percent silky, slightly oaky Russian Imperial Stout beer will be re-released in December and included in a gift pack of sorts, along with other Crux winners, Banished DoubleCross, Banished Flanders Red, and Oud Fruitcake. The aforementioned beers went into barrels 12 months ago and should be available soon.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, North Coast Brewing Co. (9%, 75 IBUs)

This Nor-Cal brewery nailed—an intensely rich beer with a fantastic label of conniving Rasputin himself. Russian wording wraps underneath the aged picture. It translates: "A sincere friend is not born instantly." So true.

Ten FIDY Imperial Stout, Oskar Blues Brewing (10.5%, 98 IBUs)

More chocolaty than the beers above, this Colorado concoction (which, bonus!, comes in a can) is a hefty put hair-on-your-chest type of beer. Like most Imperial Stouts, the Ten FIDY is heavy on the hops, as well as roasted malts and barley. Try it after dinner with a salted chocolate dessert.

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