Abraxas (2021) | Perennial Artisan Ales
Abraxas and I have a nice little history together. I tried it for the first time and subsequently purchased bottles way back in 2012, the same day of the first Revolution Deep Wood release of Very Mad Cow and the Friday of FoBAB. I headed over to West Lakeview Liquors, picked up two bottles and thoroughly enjoyed it. Around the same time the following year, I stopped at Local Option for their Abraxas tap takeover, featuring Abraxas, Coffee Abraxas and Vanilla Abraxas. All were great and the event was a blast. I also attended the first Abraxas Day at Perennial. (I also scored a pair of bottles at the Greektown Walgreens – Whalegreens – back in the day. The same one that had bottles of Cantillon Fou’foune.)
Between word getting out about it and the barrel-aged version winning Best in Show Runner Up at FoBAB 2014, bottles became a thing. Lines running through the store at Binny’s, instant sell-outs and other such occurrences led to bottles being hard to come by. And then the rest of the brewing world caught up to Abraxas (and Hunahpu’s), with Mexican chocolate beers (and barrel-aged beers) being released fairly regularly. Abraxas started sitting on the shelf for some time. I saw bottles of Abraxas at Beer on the Wall and decided to relive my glory days.
Abraxas has the standard Mexican chocolate adjuncts – ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. Abraxas pours a pitch black with two fingers of khaki head. The head wisps away at a constant clip eventually reducing to nothing. Some oil remains on the glass when you swirl it around, but nothing too extravagant. Usually some brown or red highlights become visible when held to the light – Abraxas has none.
Of the four listed adjuncts, cinnamon clocks in at the least. Like it didn’t even write it down. The ancho chili peppers did show up but I could be conflating the two. So they Voltroned to create a nice tingly nose sensation. The chocolate comes off as a bitter baker’s chocolate as opposed to a sweet one. Vanilla shows up and isn’t overdone, adding some balance to the tingly bitter. The last thing I smelled I don’t remember being on any other Abraxas I’ve had – bready notes. Those bready grain notes combined with the chocolate and vanilla to give off a chocolate bread aroma that I dig a lot. Interesting aroma and something to keep me on my toes!
From what I remember, Abraxas had massive bottle/batch variation. I’ve had some that were chocolate-forward, while some were decidedly chili/cinnamon forward. I’d put this one in the chocolate-forward camp, but not in the creamy, sweet, Nestle Quik-style way. Bitter chocolate rules the day on the 2021 Abraxas. The vanilla provides support for the bitterness, while the chili peppers and cinnamon add a subtle kick to the proceedings. That bitterness keeps me coming back for more.
The fact that Abraxas hides the 11.5% really well doesn’t help my sobriety. You could easily drink a bomber of this if you felt like it. The medium mouthfeel assists as well, making Abraxas not a heavy-handed chore to drink. That bitterness from the chocolate does linger, which is a welcome surprise in this world of saccharine sugar water.
At the very least I would say Abraxas remains as good as previous vintages. Batch variation aside, I love the bitter chocolate aroma and taste as well as that bready aroma. The vanilla isn’t over done and that’s a big plus. I do wish there was a bit more cinnamon coming through, but if I ask for more than it may be too much, so I’m fine with it as is. Definitely tasty enough to warrant a purchase.
My biggest complaints rest with the packaging. Abraxas still comes in 750 mL bottles. That was fine back in 2012, but this is 2022. Why not 16 ounce cans or 12 ounce bottles? Throwing down $25 for a bomber of beer is a big ask, especially for an 11.5% ABV bigun. So is it worth the purchase? If you’re going to share it with others, yes. If you’re curious how it is after all these years, ok. Just for drinking on a random night? I’d sooner go with a canned option like Revolution’s Deep Woods (barrel-aged, but still). If Perennial put these in 16 ounces cans next year, I’d definitely buy it. But as currently constituted, it’s a tough ask.