The presentation of Perennial’s Vanilla Bean Abraxas 2018 doesn’t stray far from its non-vanilla counterpart. The label features a black dripping effect background, a subtle deviation from the ruddy color of regular Abraxas. The label, adorned with the syndicated recipe, indicates the inclusion of ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, cinnamon sticks, and, of course, vanilla beans. Poured into a stemless snifter, this 750mL brew boasts a pitch-black hue reminiscent of used motor oil, offering no hint of light penetration. The formation of a ruddy to brown foam with outstanding retention adds a visual allure to this imperial stout.


Similar to other imperial stouts from Perennial, the aromatic profile of Vanilla Abraxas is dominated by a robust autumn spice blend. Cinnamon and nutmeg intertwine with notes of pumpernickel bread, creating an initial impression akin to a pumpkin porter. At this stage, the vanilla and ancho chilis remain elusive, contributing to a lack of distinctiveness in the aroma.


Upon sipping, it becomes evident that Vanilla Abraxas is a standout creation. The mouthfeel is luxuriously smooth, leaving a rich coating effect. Contrary to expectations, the spices take a back seat, allowing the primary flavor of melted buttery dark chocolate truffle to shine. The chili pepper heat, subdued to a 2/10 spice level, adds a subtle kick. The beer strikes a balance with a moderate sweetness rating of 5/10, counteracted by a robust roast, resulting in a bitterness level peaking at 8/10. The vanilla, though not overt, adds depth to the flavor, softening the overall experience.


The mouthfeel of Vanilla Abraxas contributes significantly to its appeal. Silky smooth with a delightful coating effect, it elevates the overall drinking experience. The addition of lactose, an element often overlooked in stouts, proves instrumental in achieving this delightful texture. In comparison to its barrel-aged counterparts like BA 17 and Maman, the absence of barrel aging is a notable positive, steering clear of sharp tannins and excessive booze.


Having experienced both the vanilla and non-vanilla versions side by side, the vanilla variant of Abraxas emerges as the preferred choice. The regular version tends to be spicier with a more pronounced ancho chili presence, accompanied by a hefty black licorice note. The vanilla addition not only tempers the alcohol presence but also imparts a softer and creamier mouthfeel. While the chili pepper heat may be milder in the vanilla variant, the overall enjoyment is heightened, making it a compelling choice for aficionados.

In conclusion, Perennial’s Vanilla Bean Abraxas 2018 lives up to its reputation as a showstopper. The absence of barrel aging and the inclusion of lactose contribute to its enjoyability, providing a well-rounded and sophisticated drinking experience. While it may not deliver an in-your-face Mexican hot chocolate experience, its perfect mouthfeel, mild heat, and exceptional fall spice flavors make it a standout in the imperial stout category.

Stay tuned for the review of this year’s Coffee Abraxas!