The beer that began this infatuation was Pipeworks' Abduction Imperial Stout, which I sampled at Goose Island's Stout Fest in March 2010. At the time, I wrote that Abduction "has a long, complex profile that covers an amazing range of the flavors that a stout can have: hoppy and sweet up front, toasty and molasses-rich in the finish, with a tangle of notes in between that remind me of honey roasted peanuts, burnt toffee, and Kansas City barbecue."
Pipeworks has been bottling beer since early 2012, and last week—more than two and a half years after my only encounter with it—Abduction finally reached store shelves. On Thursday I picked up a couple 22-ounce bottles of the first batch at the Binny's in River North, which got ten cases.
I've been waiting to drink this again for so long that I know I have to be careful not to let my fond and almost certainly unreliable memories (Abduction was my last beer of many at that festival) prejudice me against what's in my glass right now.
The loose, fluffy cappuccino-colored head recedes quickly, and the beer itself is nearly black and all but completely opaque. The strongest aroma is cocoa, followed by black chicory coffee, burnt cedar, toasted dark rye bread, pine needles, and something floral I can't quite pin down.
This is what Abduction looks like in a glass. The extra bottles are so you can't see my ugly kitchen.
Abduction contains 10.5 percent alcohol, but you can't tell from tasting it, only from working your way through a bottle and then trying to walk a straight line—the flavor is so intense that the alcohol is imperceptible, though the beer lacks the mouth-coating, almost syrupy body of stronger stouts like Three Floyds' Dark Lord or Goose Island's Bourbon County.
I remember Pipeworks' old website saying that Abduction was brewed with piloncillo sugar and orange peel, but there's nothing on the bottle label to indicate that—and my browser doesn't agree with their new site, so I can't see what if anything the brewery is claiming today. (I e-mailed Oslon and Lewis to ask, but didn't hear back in time.)
The sweetness I wrote about is not much in evidence, though I'm persuaded I can taste a bit of piloncillo, an unrefined Mexican sugar made by evaporating sugarcane juice. Toffee and Kansas City barbecue flash by up front, like I remember, under rich dark chocolate and a powerfully tenacious layer of grapefruit-rind bitterness and ferociously roasted malts (it's not evil that makes this beer so black). I also get pine resin, molasses, and a little zing of bright fruitiness—could that be the orange peel?
I'm pretty sure that's a cartoon version of Pipeworks brewer Beejay Oslon on the label.
Abduction is lively and delicious, but hardly gentle—its flavors, especially the burnt and bitter ones, are brutal and aggressive, as though it's daring you to enjoy it. I can still taste it ten minutes after my last sip. Here's a tip: It improves dramatically as it warms to room temperature. This isn't a right-out-of-the-fridge beer at all. It's clearly intended, in the tradition of extreme brewing, to separate the adults from the juveniles. Or I suppose the people who think it's reasonable to spend 11 dollars on a big bottle of beer from the people who think that's asinine.
I haven't talked about metal yet, I know, but I'm not done. If you'll permit the somewhat silly conceit of "pairing" a beer with a song, I'd like to suggest Triptykon's "The Prolonging," from Eparistera Daimones.
Like Abduction, it's bitter, black, and bottomless in its depth. And it goes on and on.