Handling Exceptions in Absinthe

The Issue

There are a lot of guides available for handling error tuples in Absinthe but next to zero for exceptions.

This is important because there are always unforseen issues which might raise an exception and return a response that will not conform to the graphql response/error spec. This can be especially problematic when GraphQL clients like apollo automatically batch requests, and an exception in one query will crash the whole BEAM web process causing all queries to fail.

Existing Approaches

My first thought was to wrap the resolvers in a try/rescue block using middleware and the only two links I came across, also suggested a similar approach:

  • Elixir Forum: How to use Absinthe.MiddleWare to catch exception?

    • @benwilson512 recommends replacing the Resolution middleware with a custom one that executes the resolver in a try block

    • This would not handle exceptions in other middleware (but maybe that’s how it should be)

  • Blog Post: Handling Elixir Exceptions in Absinthe using Middleware

    • Tries to do the same thing, but doesn’t follow the Absinthe.Middleware behaviour spec

    • Instead wraps all existing middleware in anonymous functions

    • We also lose insight into the enabled middleware and their configs when inspecting them because of this

My Solution

My approach is a bit inspired from the blog post, but I’ve tried to follow the behaviour and use middleware tuple spec instead of anonymous functions:

Middleware Definition:

defmodule MyApp.ExceptionMiddleware do
  @behaviour Absinthe.Middleware
  @default_error {:error, :internal_server_error}
  @default_config []

  @spec wrap(Absinthe.Middleware.spec()) :: Absinthe.Middleware.spec()
  def wrap(middleware_spec) do
    {__MODULE__, [handle: middleware_spec]}

  @impl true
  def call(resolution, handle: middleware_spec) do
    execute(middleware_spec, resolution)
    error ->
      Sentry.capture_exception(error, __STACKTRACE__)
      Absinthe.Resolution.put_result(resolution, @default_error)

  # Handle all the ways middleware can be defined

  defp execute({{module, function}, config}, resolution) do
    apply(module, function, [resolution, config])

  defp execute({module, config}, resolution) do
    apply(module, :call, [resolution, config])

  defp execute(module, resolution) when is_atom(module) do
    apply(module, :call, [resolution, @default_config])

  defp execute(fun, resolution) when is_function(fun, 2) do
    fun.(resolution, @default_config)

Applying it in Schema:

The wrap/1 method is called on all query/mutation middleware

def middleware(middleware, _field, %{identifier: type}) when type in [:query, :mutation] do
  Enum.map(middleware, &ExceptionMiddleware.wrap/1)


Which converts them to this:

  {ExceptionMiddleware, handle: {AuthMiddleware, [access: :admin]}},
  {ExceptionMiddleware, handle: {{Resolution, :call}, &some_resolver/3}},
  {ExceptionMiddleware, handle: {Subscription, []}},
  {ExceptionMiddleware, handle: &anon_middleware/2},


I’m still not fully confident in my approach because this feels a bit hacky and a misuse of absinthe’s middleware. So, I’m interested in getting answers to a couple of questions:

  • What other possible approaches are there? Is using Absinthe middleware the right choice after all?
  • If so, does it make sense to wrap all middleware or just replace the Absinthe.Resolution middleware?
  • And what’s the canonical way of doing that?

Posted in parallel with this Stackoverflow Question.