Deth’s Tar 2021 | Revolution Brewing
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Leaves are changing colors. Some days (not all) are a bit chilly. There’s less sunlight during the day. Must be time for Revolution’s Deep Wood beers!
Revolution really nailed it this past year with their Deep Wood releases. The online ordering and pickup process might be the best in the city, they crowlered off their party-specific one-offs and sold them online, and, oh yeah, they released what could arguably be the best Deep Wood lineup ever. And it all starts with the barrel-aged oatmeal stout, Deth’s Tar.
Something completely wacky happened last year. The base, regular, non-adjuncted Deth’s Tar – which Revolution makes a shit ton of – actually sold out at the brewery. Not eventually. Like during online preordering and before the variants – one of which was the taproom-only-release of Maple Deth. That’s unheard of.
As with all of their planned fall Deep Wood releases, it starts with the stouts. This year two stalwarts return – Deth’s Tar and Café Deth – while the third release – Deth by Raspberries – comes canned for the first time.
DETH’S TAR | 14.8%
The last two years of Deth’s Tar have been something special. We can argue back and forth as to which one is superior, but it’s pretty much agreed upon that the 2019 and 2020 vintages of Deth’s Tar are the best two Revolution has ever released. Usually relegated to second fiddle, Deth’s Tar now has to be held in high regard along with Revolution’s Straight Jacket and Ryeway to Heaven.
Revolution is also doing two new things with Deth’s Tar this year. For the first time since moving to 12 ounce cans, Deth’s Tar will be available in another format – the 19.2 ounce stovepipe can. Revolution will also be changing the artwork on the entire Deep Wood cans next year, but the art on the stovepipe can for this year’s offers a preview of what’s to come. Definitely an upgrade, but I will miss the old can art. Holding 19.2 ounces of barrel-aged stout in a stovepipe can – as opposed to a bomber – is ridiculous for all the right reasons.
Both this year’s Deth’s Tar and Café Deth represent the most ambitious blend Revolution has ever done. Of about 1500 barrels in their collection, barrel master Marty Scott and crew used about 333 barrels for the blend, comprising 12 unique batches of stout and 12 different barrel varieties (Willet and Heaven Hill bourbon and rye were mentioned among others).
Deth’s Tar pours black with some brown and red highlights. A finger of head forms but quickly vanishes, much like soda. Moving it about results in some glass staining, but not so much as to change the color. A nice little alcohol streak and not much else.
To say the aroma on Deth’s Tar was complex would be an understatement. Bourbon, chocolate and vanilla come first, followed by notes of caramel, licorice, oak, and some raisin. Heck, I probably missed a few aromas there. Some alcohol tingles the nostrils to let you know you’re drinking a big barrel-aged beer but it never goes too far. With all the components involved in this blend, it’s no surprise there’s this much going on.
Much of the aroma also features in the sip. Most importantly Deth’s Tar stays smooth while having a small little bourbon kick at the end. Notes of chocolate and vanilla star, while oak, char caramel and a little roast support. If you dig deep enough, a slight s’mores note bubbles up, with a slight graham flavor melding with the chocolate and vanilla. Like many of Revolution’s recent Deep Wood beers, the alcohol is well-hidden. The carbonation rests right in the middle – enough to have some of the multitude of flavors hang around a bit, but not enough to make it thick and syrupy. Things move.
Revolution really knocked it out of the park with the last two vintages of Deth’s Tar, with the 2019 vintage being my favorite. While the 2021 version isn’t my favorite, it definitely is in the discussion and could be some people’s favorite. Revolution continues its streak of delicious and solid Deth’s Tars.
CAFÉ DETH | 14.8%
The first variant of Deth’s Tar ever released, Café Deth is that old friend you get to see every year. They’re always there for a good time and you’ll definitely be back the following year. Even on off years (which haven’t been many) , Café Deth still delivers. This year’s release features Dark Matter coffee.
Café Deth pours black with some lovely brown and red highlights. A finger of brown head tops the beer. Big soapy bubbles pop away until the head in short order vanishes. A layer of film appears to rest atop the beer.
A big dark roast and chocolate aroma greet the drinker upon sniffing. While not as potent or room-filling as Supermassive Café Deth, Café Deth still delivers an ample amount of coffee aroma. Beyond the roast chocolate, some nice bourbon, oak and vanilla greet you. There’s a certain creaminess coming off the beer as well but not as big as, say, Café Deth 2019. The dark roast coffee keeps the creaminess in check. Digging even deeper, some raisins or prunes come up. Café Deth delivers on its coffee promises.
The first sip of Café Deth reveals both its greatest asset and liability – it’s so smooth. The smoothness makes this 14.8% barrel-aged stout sessionable; I finished off the can so quickly I was disappointed. That smoothness supports a lovely coffee roast and chocolate character. It also helps that the coffee adds a nice finishing bitterness that makes you keep drinking. Some vanilla adds to the creaminess, but the roast blunts it from going full cream coffee. I’d liken it to a frappuccino (well my wife did).
While not the thickest stout out there, Café Deth does its job, with a nice medium body that accentuates its strengths. Bitter roast, chocolate and a nice little kick of bourbon burn hang around just enough for you to both enjoy the current sip and crave another one.
Revolution seems dedicated to Café Deth, but still don’t take it for granted. They might Bourbon County Coffee it and then you find out you miss it more than ever. Purchase with impunity. Café Deth remains the best and most consistent coffee barrel-aged stout Chicago has to offer.
DETH BY RASPBERRIES | 11%
While we always hope for the best with beers on the podcast, sometimes a clinker shows up. While that sucks, it makes rankings a little bit easier. The Deth’s Tar fruited variant usually drew that short straw. The fruit was there, but it never really melded all that well with the base beer. Plus, they were usually a little on the thin side.
Then Deth by Cherries 2020 showed up and carpet bombed the entire lineup. Like, neck and neck with Double Barrel V.S.O.D. good. I’ve bought 4-pack of that beer multiple times. I need it in my house at all times to provide that comfort and be able to sleep. It’s that good. And now Revolution’s releasing the first-time-canned Deth by Raspberries. Not only do I have to take notice, but I am stupidly excited to try it.
Deth by Raspberries pours black with about two fingers of brown head. That heads stays around for a while (compared to other barrel-aged things I’ve had) but eventually reduces to a thin layer atop the beer. Even on the pour I could tell this beer had something in it, as evidenced by the purple tint I could see. The highlights skew a purple as well, but more of a dark, jammy purple-color as opposed to a lighter one.
Jammy, jam jam jam! Deth by Raspberries hits you with a ton of raspberries in a jammy way. At first it’s awesome, but then you realize it takes away from the base beer aromas a bit. Some chocolate, oak and vanilla come up, but the raspberries remain front and center. I’d definitely like more of the Deth’s Tar base in the aroma.
Unfortunately, that overbearing raspberry note carries over to Deth by Raspberries’ taste. Tons and tons of tart raspberries and not much of the base Deth’s Tar at all. You can get hints of chocolate, oak, vanilla, maybe even some roast, but you’d be digging really deep and looking at only slight hints of it. A slight metallic note even showed up as I kept drinking it. I tried Deth by Raspberries both with some chill on it and at room temperature and the result was essentially the same.
Things move on Deth by Raspberries, with not a lot staying around on the tongue afterwards. Much like the beer, the tart raspberries hang around a bit and not much else. In many, many ways, Deth by Raspberries reminds me of the first three iterations of the fruited Deth beers (Cherries, Currants and Plums) with a big fruity kick and not much of the base beer.
So it appears that the 2020 Deth by Cherries was an aberration. It had an amazing balance between the sweet and tart cherries and the base Deth’s Tar beer, resulting in one of the most memorable fruit beers I’ve ever had. Deth by Raspberries takes a step back, bringing back the fruit forwardness that overwhelms everything else. Maybe if Revolution takes a second pass at it (like Deth by Cherries) they’ll nail it. Jammy fruit fans will eat this up; everyone else probably not.
Revolution will released Deth’s Tar, Café Deth and Deth by Raspberries on Friday, October 15, 2021. You can pre-purchase all three for pickup from Revolution’s web shop. Deth’s Tar is $25 per 4-pack/$12 per 19.2 ounce can, Café Deth is $35 per 4-pack and Deth by Raspberries is $40 per 4-pack. No limits apply to any of these releases.