Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deschutes Black Butte XXI

Type: Imperial Porter
Origin: Bend, OR
Price: I don't know (see below)
ABV: 11.0%

I suppose I could've included this in the BeerPlow, but I didn't actually acquire it while I was in Portland. I've actually had it in the cellar for quite some time, probably upwards of eight months or more. I have no recollection of how I came to own it, hence not knowing the price and by extension the NSP. All I know is one day it was in my fridge. I'm hoping it means that there's a beer-conjuring leprechaun living in the vegetable drawer.

First off, again with the wax top, Deschutes? I'm not sure which had a more crumbly top, this one or the Stoic, but I think I have to give the edge to the Stoic. Anyway, the beer. This is a special release (their 21st birthday reserve), brewed with cocoa nibs (from the DR, apparently) and coffee (from Ethiopia), with part of it aged in bourbon barrels. Right out of the bottle, you smell all three of the components mentioned in spades- bitter dark chocolate and coffee and sweet bourbon, all combined with a bunch of dark malt. They all have a big orgy to produce a rich maple/molasses aroma. I don't notice much in terms of hops, but that's not surprising given the intensity of everything else.

Holy shitbags is this a flavor overload. It has an incredibly thick mouthfeel, almost like taking a swig of maple or chocolate syrup. The coffee and chocolate hit pretty hard up front and then transition to a decent bitterness as the hops come in. But that doesn't last very long, because finish is exceptionally sweet, almost cloying, and it runs roughshod over everything else. It's pretty difficult to tell that this is 11%, except for the buzz you feel coming on almost immediately. And despite the strength of both flavor and alcohol, at least in the beginning it's surprisingly easy to put down, which can be chalked up to a fairly light body. But as I waded my way through more of the bottle, that changed.

All of the flavors in this are complementary, but they're also pretty similar. So in the end, they all converge, and you end up with more or less just sweetness. On the finish, it actually ends up being pretty one-note. The sweetness is so strong that it actually makes it tough to keep coming back to it, not unlike a cup of coffee with too much sugar. I initially thought it needed a bigger hop kick than the current 55 IBU to provide a counterpoint, but you know, putting shitloads of hops in sweet imperial IPAs doesn't work, and this is even sweeter, so I'm not so sure.
In the end, I actually struggled to finish the bottle (don't worry, I powered through). I'm glad this made its way into my fridge just so I could try it. But I don't think I'll be in a hurry to go after future incarnations. I guess this is a first- a Deschutes beer in which I was disappointed. Oh well, can't win 'em all.


  1. Did it have a "best after" date, like the Abyss does?

  2. It may have, don't recall. I had it for at least six months, though...do they usually ask you to delay for that long?

  3. It definitely sounds like it needed more time. All those flavors start to mellow out with age, especially if they didn't filter the beer (yeasties help the process). It's very much like wine with too much tannins, aging helps the extreme flavors drop out as the compounds break down.

    1. I might have to rescind my comment about redemption if you keep it up.

  4. I should mention that the XXI was released in June 2009. So it was in the bottle for a good 2.5 years. Sure, it wouldn't have hurt it to go longer, but that ain't bad.

    1. The abyss label is only about a year after bottling so if it didn't mature in that long it's probably just not that good. Can't find the xxl bottle though.