Deep Wood 2023, Part 1 | Revolution Brewing
Barrel-aged season has begun. While that concept has become outdated with barrel-aged beer being released every week of the year, their typical concentration occurs during the last 3 months of the year (and continues through the first 3 months of the year). A long time ago, the season started with Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout and ended with Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout (now KBS). While a hard ending release doesn’t really happen anymore – it trails off – a starting point, at least in my mind, comes in the form of Revolution’s Deep Wood. And that always means Deth’s Tar and some of its variants.
Ever since moving to cans, Deth’s Tar, Café Deth and a fruited Deth are the first Deep Wood of the season released. Then Revolution tested out releasing some beers over the summer, usually one or two variant takes on a standard (usually Café Deth and Straight Jacket). In 2021 they blew the doors off that, releasing 3 Deep Wood beers at once and including one of their most sought after beers in the lineup (V.S.O.J. Batch 2). Now summer Deep Wood releases are the norm at Revolution.
But I always look forward to the Deth’s Tar release as it begins the insanity of barrel-aged beer season and releases (Cruz Blanca’s Luchadors is hot on its heels). As always, the first release features Deth’s Tar and Café Deth. The last of the release – the fruited variant – features the first fruited one to be released three times and follows the absolutely impeccable 2020 release of it. I am of course talking about Deth by Cherries and I’m over the moon to try it yet again.
Deth’s Tar | 14.8%
Much like the cold weather, Deth’s Tar returns. A yearly release since 2013, Deth’s Tar stirs the Deep Wood pot, being the beer with the most variants released over its lifespan. There are down years, up years, and outstanding years (2020 stands out to me). You generally know what you’re getting with Deth’s Tar but every vintage features its own wrinkles and quirks.
Deth’s Tar pours a caramel-brown cola color but sits in the glass black. Some red highlights form along the end of the beer. A half finger of khaki head appears for a few seconds but then disappears. Alcohol stains the glass and significant legs show up. Aromatically, bitter baker’s chocolate, roast, dark fruits (very cherry-like), bourbon, and vanilla. Basically a standard Deth’s Tar nose experience with possibly a bit more baker’s chocolate than typical.
That baker’s chocolate really shines on the palate. Between that and a roast character, this year’s Deth’s Tar features some lovely bitter qualities that other vintages lack. Some sweet chocolate sneaks in there as well, as does a significant wood and vanilla character. The burn from the barrel lets you know it’s a big beer while a chewy finish supports that notion. That bourbon heat even hits the sides of the tongue at the end of the sip giving it an interesting counterpoint to the chewiness. Any of the dark fruits one the aroma disappear on the palate.
While all of this makes the beer sound like a beefy one, it drinks remarkably easily, with a medium mouthfeel that lets some flavors rest while everything else moves out. The chocolate and bourbon hang around most and make it so that Deth’s Tar just doesn’t totally evaporate from the tongue. A fine vintage of Deth’s Tar that doesn’t quite hit the highs of the 2020 vintage but also doesn’t go low with some of the earlier canned vintages. Purchase or consume with confidence.
Café Deth | 14.8%
Much like its base, Café Deth first hit shelves in 2015 and hasn’t missed a year since then. Consistent every year, it hits a high note when some vanilla notes sneak into the beer giving it a coffee cream note (2019). As always, the coffee comes from Dark Matter and year’s vintage features a blend of four different ones.
Café Deth pours the same as Deth’s Tar – as it should. Caramel-cola brown that sits in the glass black with some red highlight and miss-it-if-you-blink khaki head. The alcohol stains the glass much the same as Deth’s Tar but the legs don’t exist at all. As soon as you pop open the can a rush of coffee fills the room. No need to nose the glass on this one. Actually sniffing it up close reveals a light roast character along with chocolate and vanilla notes. Compared to the Deth’s Tar, the dark fruit and bourbon notes aren’t present. The coffee aroma, while big, isn’t all-encompassing.
Do not go into Café Deth expecting a coffee bomb. The coffee definitely shines but it does most of its work at the end of the sip, leaving all the bitter coffee notes for the finish. The base Deth’s Tar really shines on this one with prevalent chocolate and vanilla notes. While some bourbon heat pops up it’s nowhere near Deth’s Tar. So you’re basically getting a Deth’s Tar with some coffee roast on the finish which is what you wanted, right?
Café Deth features the same mouthfeel as Deth’s Tar but the coffee stays behind and lingers on this one. Because it’s a lighter roast and there’s less bourbon burn it lends itself to an easier drinking experience. I drank both Deth’s Tar and Café Deth on the same night and the Café can disappeared while about half a can of Deth’s Tar remained. Don’t go in expecting Supermassive Café Deth and you’ll easily enjoy it. This easily features the most of the base while still incorporating the coffee. My can disappeared and yours will too.
Deth by Cherries | 14.3%
Every year Revolution releases a fruited variant of Deth’s Tar. Most start out tap-only at a Deep Wood release party before being packaged for a mass release. Currants, vanilla, coconut, and raspberries started out that way. Those tap-only versions always slay (especially the Primal Coconut Deth!) and then something happens when it’s scaled up. Unfortunately that usually means the fruited Deth finishes every year near the bottom of the Deep Wood rankings as a whole. With one exception.
That exception being 2020 Deth by Cherries. Not only did that unbelievable beer jump Deth’s Tar and Cafe Deth, it also laid waste to Straight Jacket, Ryeway to Heaven and Apple Brandy Ryeway, finishing neck-and-neck with the soon-to-be-released-again DB V.S.O.D. 2020 was the year of the Deep Wood stout and Deth by Cherries showed up that year. In a absolute rarity I bought multiple 4-packs of 2020 Cherries so I could have it whenever I wanted to. Still have a can or two of it!
Deth by Cherries pours just like the other two Deth’s but this one features a slightly more persistent head. Like 30 seconds before it vanishes. The alcohol stain and legs are similar to Deth’s Tar. It could be the power of suggestion but the red highlights seem more prevalent.
Similar to Café Deth, you can immediately tell something’s been added to Deth’s Tar. Tart and sweet cherries rush to your nostrils first, followed by some chocolate notes. Small pockets of vanilla and bourbon make aromatic appearances along with a whiff of bourbon burn as well. No surprises on the aroma.
Naturally the first thing you taste on Deth by Cherries are cherries – specifically tart cherries. They show up first and don’t leave until the sip party ceases. Some of the chocolatey Deth’s Tar base shows up in the middle with some bourbon burn arriving at the end. The tart cherries overpower the base a little bit too much but it by no means bludgeons it like previous fruited Deth variants have. While not as evenly split as the 2020 vintage, the base beer still exerts some flavor force over your tongue.
Deth by Cherries features that same medium mouthfeel as the other Deths but those tart cherries stay behind, adding a unique quality to the base beer much like Café Deth does. While it doesn’t achieve the heights of that 2020 vintage, it certainly ranks very high among the fruited variants, if not right behind 2020 Deth by Cherries. If you’re not a fan of cherries in beer this one’s probably not for you. For those that like it or are ambivalent to it, proceed with a 4-pack.
Revolution will release Deth’s Tar, Café Deth, and Deth by Cherries Friday, October 20, 2023 at their Kedzie taproom. Pre-orders can be found here. Deth’s Tar costs $25 per 4-pack, Café Deth runs $30 per 4-pack, while Deth by Cherries sets you back $40 per 4-pack. No limit soldiers mount up as there are no limits on any of the new releases!