Any craft beer geek has to respect Deschutes Brewery. They’ve been around since 1988, and produce the biggest selling domestically-produced dark beer, Black Butte Porter. To be sure, Deschutes has had a noticeable decline in quality as they’ve drastically increased their production in recent years, but that seems inevitable with any expanding brewery.
Still, Deschutes produces some very good special edition brews. So, when I first saw Black Butte XXV on the shelves about a year ago, I had to pick one up. This is their 25th Anniversary commemorative, and a celebration of their biggest seller.
In looking at the label, I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, the Black Butte XXV is literally twice the strength of normal Black Butte Porter (11.3% ABV). Second, almost alone among breweries, Deschutes will include a “best AFTER” date for beers that it suggests you cellar. In this case, the “best after” date is 06/10/2014.
Also, the beer was brewed with cocoa nibs, figs, dates, and blackcurrants, and part of it was aged in bourbon barrels.
On pouring, Black Butte XXV is black as Louie Gohmert’s heart, with a very small head (again like Gohmert), and short-lived lacing. Not surprising for a beer of its strength.
The aroma is a mild chocolate and vanilla (from the bourbon barrels), with a basic underlying coffee/roasty smell.
The taste is complex and multi-layered, and changes with temperature.
When colder, Black Butte XXV is all baking chocolate, with subtle dark fruits forming a base note. The individual fig, date and blackcurrant seem to simply meld together, along with the same notes one might find on their own in a porter without actual fruit added. The alcohol at colder temps is almost undetectable.
On warming, Black Butte XXV is a completely different beast. While the cocoa and fruit are still present, vanilla is more prominent, along with a huge blast of bourbon, and a virtual assault on the throat by the alcohol burn.
The finish is long, boozy, and redolent of the cocoa again.
Black Butte XXV has the potential to cellar and develop into a truly amazing beer. However, I believe that Deschutes underestimated the “best after” date, and should’ve pushed it out another year or so. In short, if you manage to find any of this still on the shelves or in the cooler anywhere, buy it, and don’t open it for at least another year, maybe more.
Suggested pairings would be beef or lamb dishes with rich, hearty sauces, or with desserts such as crème brulee, English sticky toffee pudding, or flour-less chocolate cake.
That’s Tom Becham.
What, you want to know more?
He lives in California.
Is that enough?
Gee, you’re demanding.
OK he’s a great writer who has contributed many times to PGA. And he lives in Oxnard.
Thanks for OXING.