Revolution Deep Wood 2020 (Part 1)
You can check out our other beer reviews here. A big thanks to Revolution for the samples!
Revolution’s Deep Wood finally returns! While Thundertaker can be considered the first release, the release of Deth’s Tar (and variants) typically signals the beginning of both Deep Wood 2020 and stout season. As with all years canned, this release features the base Deth’s Tar and the caffeinated Café Deth and a new, never before canned variant of Maple Deth.
On any social media feed that I’ve seen Revolution has touted that this iteration of Deth’s Tar as “the greatest ever.” Well yeah, they’re supposed to say that. I will say that all three of these Tars all look the same. Two fingers of khaki head that methodically flutters away until no head remains. A thick pour, but not of the motor oil variety as well as the same black color throughout with highlights of red and brown along the edges. But that’s where the similarities end.
Deth’s Tar | 14.8%
One of the two remaining constants in the Deep Wood lineup (the other being Straight Jacket), Deth’s Tar has slowly been getting better and better with each new release. My personal two favorites are the first release in 2013 (4 different barrel blend) and last year’s unbelievably delicious take. (We were all set to do a podcast comparing similar beers from the Bourbon County and Deep Wood lineups last year, but the pandemic got in the way. 2019 Deth’s Tar vs. 2019 BCBS was the one matchup that I was looking forward to. It was going to be close.)
This year’s Deth’s Tar definitely ranks in the upper echelon of vintages. Licorice, chocolate, vanilla and oak assault your nose while a certain fusel alcohol remains as an undercurrent. Some raisins and other dark fruits exist beneath that top layer of aroma as well. Some might even compare it to a sweet dessert wine.
That chocolate note does dominate when sipping Deth’s Tar, almost to the point of brownie batter. Notes of vanilla and mint also come along for the ride. Way in the back are some dark cherries and raisins to round out the beer. The biggest difference with last year’s vintage come in the bitterness and alcohol burn present. That bitterness shows up at the end and comes out more as a chocolate bitterness than a hop one. The alcohol burn does not approach some of the Deep Wood heights of a few years ago, but it is more noticeable than last year’s.
Is this vintage of Deth’s Tar excellent? Yes. Is it “the greatest ever”? I’d still put last year’s ahead of it, but this one is definitely worth both your time and purchase. And considering you’re getting 48 ounces of quality barrel-aged stout for $25, it’s like you’re stealing from Revolution.
Café Deth | 14.8%
Last year’s Cafe Deth ranked as one of the best barrel-aged coffee stouts I’ve ever had. So a very tall order to top it. Upon opening the can, returns are immediately promising as the entire room smells like a coffee shop (or what I think a coffee shop smells like because I’ve rarely been in one). So, yeah, coffee comes at you hard and fast, with a dark roast dominating. Chocolate and vanilla support the coffee bomb, and there are subtle notes of raisins and cherries to go along with some alcohol fumes.
Gotta be the coffee! Whereas last year’s Cafe Deth featured a medium roast and a very creamy character, this year’s has a dark roast and some bitterness. That bitterness must come from the base Deth Tar’s and it does add some character to the beer. The chocolate and vanilla support the roasty character nicely and the booze hides itself well. But the coffee is the star and dominates.
The 2020 Cafe Deth comes very close to last year’s excellent vintage but really doesn’t overtake it in my eyes. I prefer the creamy character and the medium roast from 2019, but man does this year’s come close. The dark roast doesn’t go too overboard to the “drinking coffee grounds” side and the bitterness is a nice touch. Buy now and drink now. Seriously.
Maple Deth | 12.8%
As always, the third release features a Deth variant. But, for the first time, it’s not a fruited variant. Maple Deth began as a draft-only variant at last year’s Deth’s Tar release party (remember those?) and was way too sweet. Thankfully Revolution listens to its drinkers and really dialed this one in. They somehow made a maple beer that isn’t too sweet.
Similar to the other Deth’s, Maple Deth has notes of chocolate, vanilla, some oak, raisins, prunes, and other dark fruits. Some alcohol tickles the nostrils as well. Unlike the others, Maple Deth brings an underlying maple sweetness to the proceedings as well as some caramel notes. The maple syrup does not dominate the aroma as I would have expected, but it accentuates the Deth’s Tar base nicely.
That aroma carries over almost perfectly to the beer. The maple supports the base beer perfectly – a nice current of maple sweetness that doesn’t dominate but does give it a little punch. An amazing feat by 2020 beer standards. It also retains that same bitterness while adding a touch of smokiness to go along with those lovely chocolate, vanilla and oak notes. A bit more of the Maple Deth stays on your tongue (thanks maple syrup!) but it abides by the same mouthfeel rules as the other Deth’s – medium carbonation that mostly leaves the tongue. In Maple Deth’s case, the bitterness and maple sweetness hang around and tongue party.
Leagues better than the overly sweet draft version from last year, Maple Deth shows what breweries can do with maple syrup when used in moderation (like Good Morning or early batches of Smells like Bean Spirit). People that like overly sweet, sticky stouts (like Hop Butcher’s Dark Black) probably won’t like this that much. I hope this is where maple syrup in beer goes, because I love it when that maple syrup provides that sweet, sweet backbone.
DETH BY COCKTAIL
“But why can’t I have my Deth’s Tar as a cocktail?” Well for those that don’t like barrel-aged stouts, here’s Deth by Cocktail, a cocktail using 2020 Deth’s Tar created by Craft Beer Cocktails. (You can follow on Twitter and Instagram.) An original creation with Deth’s Tar, tequila, chartreuse, lemon juice and bitters, it keeps the lovely chocolate notes of the beer while adding the earthy notes of tequila with some tartness and a citrus kick from the lemon juice and yellow chartreuse. Extremely tasty. Really don’t want to know the ABV!
Revolution will release Deth’s Tar, Café Deth and Maple Deth via preorder here for curbside pickup only the weekend of October 23, 2020. Deth’s Tar ($25) and Café Deth ($30) will be distributed and have no limit. Maple Deth ($40) is brewery-only with a three 4-pack limit.