Black Butte XXI - Deschutes Brewery

Not Rated.
Black Butte XXIBlack Butte XXI

Educational use only; do not reuse.

569 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 569
Reviews: 374
rAvg: 4.39
pDev: 7.74%
Wants: 214
Gots: 144 | FT: 10
Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery visit their website
Oregon, United States

Style | ABV
American Porter |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: squaremile on 07-03-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Released June 2009.

Similar recipe and strength to Black Butte XX (2008), "enhanced by adding some Theo's Chocolate cocoa nibs from Seattle, dry-hopping it with 100 pounds of Bellatazza's locally roasted coffee, and then aging a portion of it in Stranahan's Colorado whiskey barrels."
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Ratings: 569 | Reviews: 374
Reviews by ThreeWiseMen:
Photo of ThreeWiseMen
4.8/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Two separate reviews are included below: the first by Wiseman Nick on April 17, 2010; the second by Wiseman Justin on February 24, 2010. Overall scores are averaged.


Sampled this last night at a BA gathering. The following review is based on notes taken at that time.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance: A short, foamy, light brown, cap sits atop a pitch black body. Looks far darker and thicker than any porter I've seen. The head is really impressive for a barrel-aged beer - drags a ton of lacing, too! All in all, this looks fantastic. (5.0)

Smell: Cayenne pepper, dark chocolate, and bourbon. This totally reminds me of Great Divide's Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, which also exhibits a lot of cayenne. Caramel is there too. I love it! (4.5)

Taste: Caramel, cayenne, dark chocolate, cream, and spicy, bitter, and floral hops. Oh yeah, all of those flavors are accented by mellow bourbon. This is a great mix! (4.5)

Mouthfeel: Peppery, prickly, and softly carbonated. Warm and dry, but not overly so. Very robust for a porter, and very creamy for a barrel-aged beer. Impressive. (5.0)

Drinkability: If this were a little cheaper, I'd drink it all the time. As it is, I still purchase this once or twice a month. Highly recommended! (5.0)


Wiseman Justin Reporting:

Opened this bad boy due to a rough seven days.

Appearance: Pours black, with a nice thick milk chocolate colored head. Very foamy, the head stays around for a long while as I type away on the keyboard. (4.5)

Smell: Well I'm about two feet away and I can already get the hints of whats to come: Bourbon. You can smell it from two feet away. When your nose is closer to the cup you get a strong smell of chocolate. My nose also picks up some cherries. I'm not sure if I got used to the way it smelled but the longer I tried to smell this beer the harder it got. All I can tell you is bourbon + chocolate = delicious smell. As you drink this beer and go back for some more smells to see if you missed anything you get it: Burnt chocolate.. that's what's going on. It's not complex in any way, but what it does it does well. (4.0)

Taste: The style says "american porter" but I'm going to go with imperial porter. Everything you might not like about a porter is gone. This is probably one of the best porter's i've ever had. It's full bodied and delicious. I get strong flavors of chocolate, wood, bourbon, and smoke. Truly delicious. Tried this side by side with The Abyss 2009 (deschutes imperial stout...) Their porter is better than their imperial stout. In what world is a porter better than an imperial stout? (5.0)

Mouthfeel: Thick and full bodied, smooth, refreshing... I love the way this porter feels. Simply put this leaves my mouth happy. The alcohol adds a 'warming' feeling and it is in ever way a good feeling. The beer has smoothed out a lot since the last time I drank it. I'm missing the raw wild alcohol component a little bit. (4.5)

Drinkability: You know how it goes with these bigger beers. I can tell you whenever I split one of these I want more. I'm drinking this one all to myself and I'll probably wish I had more. (4.5)

Note: If you drink this beer you might be tempted to rate it next to great beers like Old Rasputin. Then you remember... this is a porter not a stout. As a porter it does not get much better than this.

More User Reviews:
Photo of weatherdog
4.12/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into three tulip glasses at a recent tasting

It pours a deep pitch viscous black with a small mocha head.

The aroma is very roasty with some strong coffee and chocolate notes. The bourbon aging is evident with some subtle oak and bourbon smells but it isn't overpowering which I'm attributing to only having 20% of the beer aged in bourbon barrels. I'm actually enjoying how subtle the barrel aging is on this beer. It lets the porter character show itself without being overrun by overpowering bourbon flavors.

The taste mirrors a lot of the nose with a strong but not overdone roasted coffee flavors. The bourbon influence is present but restrained and my comments above about the barrel aging are the same I feel about the flavor. The taste is less exciting than the nose though with really only coffee and subtle oak aging notes. A good taste but neither complex or mind-blowing.

The mouthfeel is on the thin side and the alcohol can be felt. Drinkability was decent but I can see some more aging improving this beer.

Photo of Beaver13
3.31/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle, best after 10/17/10 (oh well!). Pours a dark brown with a creamy tan head that retains well and laces the glass.

The aroma is sweet roasted chocolate, tar, black licorice, and coffee. A little too heavy on the black licorice and tar for me.

The flavor is sweet sugary lactic chocolate balanced by a big tarry roasted bitterness and black licorice with a little coffee. The finish has a good deal of bitterness. As it warms, the sweetness comes out and becomes a bit overwhelming. Also notes of bourbony dark fruits appear as well. It's very bold but not at all smooth - a bit too brash for me. The mouthfeel is fairly full with creamy carbonation.

Overall, it's a bit too harsh especially with the black licorice and tar and then the heavy sweetness. It would be interesting to try again after the best after date to see if it mellows out.

Photo of BuckeyeSlim
4.25/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

For being over five years old, the appearance holds up pretty well, with a short khaki-brown head disappearing to fine lace quickly. In the glass, it's an oily black hole which no light can penetrate.

Soft, but complex nose of medium roast coffee, 50% semi-sweet chocolate, and dark, dried fruit like raisins set against a faint trace of wood and whiskey. Rich, dark caramels as it warms.

The taste is where the aging really pays off. The ABV is very mellow, hiding in the background of the taste. The malts are definitely roasted, but not at all bitter. Hints of dark, bitter chocolate contrast with an almost-burnt caramel sweetness that finds traces of a whiskey shot in the finish. This could be cold Irish coffee.

Definitely a sipping beer. The structure is so thoroughly blended and softened, it might be a tad long in the tooth, but it's still a very delicious approach to a specialty porter.

Photo of Mora2000
4.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted at thirdeye11's birthday party.

Beer pours black wiht a tan head. The aroma is chocolate and roasted malt. For some reason, I also got a cayenne pepper aroma, even though no one else in the group was getting it. The flavor is chocolate, roasted malt and the same cayenne pepper I was getting in the aroma. There is also some some hop bitterness. Medium mouthfeel.

Not sure what the cause of the cayenne was since it looks like others are not getting it. Maybe my palate and nose were playing tricks on me but it was predominant in both the flavor and aroma, and it actually went very well with the other flavors of the beer.

Photo of bsp77
4.55/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Serving glass: Poured from bomber into Snifter.

Appearance: Very dark chestnut brown with moderate tan head and some nice lacing.

Smell: Rich molasses, dark fruit, caramelized sugar and vanilla, with just hints of chocolate, coffee and oak.

Taste: Molasses, caramel, and heavily roasted malt core with nice layers of chocolate, coffee, vanilla and an overall oakiness. The chocolate becomes much more apparent as it warms. Fantastic complexity.

Feel: Ultra smooth, rich and creamy with low carbonation. Simply luxurious feel.

Drinkability: Just a great beer. Very complex and easy to sip. A chocolate lover's dream. Sad I will never get to have XXII out here in Minnesota.

Photo of magictrokini
4.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yes, yes, I know it says not to drink this for another year, but that's why I bought more than one. Pours jet black with a thick, foamy brown head that stays there. Fat lacing on the glass that doesn't wash out with each swig. Heavy molasses, dark chocolate, roasted malt, and whiskey-oak nose. Expected vanilla and toffee compliments with the barrelling. Viscous moithfeel, hearty, and a long, bitter finish. Beautiful chocolate and molasses taste. Some chocolate-chip cookie malt flavor with the bold bourdon backing. Very happy there was none of that espresso/black coffee component as it would have overpowered the subtle simplicty of this beer. Sometimes less is more. Can't wait to hit this again in a year.

Photo of kingcrowing
4.08/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into a tulip.

Pours a nice dark black, With a small light brown head. Nose is coffee, chocolate and sweet malt.

Taste is nice and smooth and creamy with a very strong mocha flavor to it. It's very rich and a bit sweet. Really easy drinking for the abv.

Photo of jamesm7485
4.92/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Still sitting on 5 bottles of xx but from my memory this pours a shade lighter with some burgundy color in it. I initially served mine a tad too cold but as it warmed up the head retained much better. It smells like when i used to work in a coffee shop my freshman year of college and we roasted our own beans every sunday. Heavy espresso tones and some chocolate in the taste, very slight bourbon taste as well. Very smooth not as much as abyss but different beers. Very drinkable presuming you enjoy coffee despite its abv

Photo of ehammond1
4.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On Tap

K&B Wine Cellars
San Diego, CA

Black, oily, thick, and rich. Extremely thin brown head which dissipates almost immediately. Low carbonation.

Not much aroma immediately, but more and more arrive as the beer warms: milk chocolate, caramel, and sea salt.

Taste is smooth and easy: chocolate, coffee, and caramel notes. The alcohol is almost lost, especially considering the beer is 11% ABV. I would never know.

Velvet and smooth mouthfeel.

I could drink this all night, glass after glass, which is shocking at it's ABV.

Photo of boatshoes
4.27/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber courtesy of Dyan in a recent trade, thanks! Managed to get ahold of a couple other bottles as well, so I thought I'd try one fresh before aging the others.

Appearance- Pours the usual deep, opaque black I'm used to for the style. About of half finger of brown head that dies fairly quickly to a thin layer over the surface of the beer. Lots of lacing as I drink as well.

Smell- Mmm, lots of burnt coffee and roasted malt. A touch of bitter chocolate and vanilla as well. Each smell comes out pretty prominently for me into a nice nose.

Taste- Lots of roasted malt with less burnt coffee than in the nose, but still present. Vanilla and bourbon even stronger in the taste, though the chocolate is less present. Some alcohol burn on the way down. All the flavors are excellent, and I expect they would meld and round out even better with some aging. Will have to do another review in a year or so.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Mouthfeel a bit disappointingly thin, but still somewhat chewy. However, it doesn't kill the drinkability, which remains quite good for a heavy beer. I expect the mouthfeel might round out with more time as well.

Overall, quite tasty fresh, and I image will be much better with some age. Get ahold of some of these if you can, they're quite a treat!

Photo of ohmybock
3.98/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I had the pleasure of being out again in the PDX area recently and had sooo many great beers. One of the ones that stood out was BB XXI. Honestly, I wasn't totally sure what to expect from this new BB special brew. I had the BB XX last year and loved it, but for some reason I just didn't expect as much from this year's special BB release. Thankfully, I found the BB XXI to be a wonderful brew. It has an inviting aroma of boozy, slight vanilla-y/caramelly malts. The aroma is good, but it's not like it's the best thing I've ever smelled in a beer. The taste, however, is really good. For those that don't like too much chocolate, coffee, or barrel-aged character in their brew, than this is for you. I'm usually not a fan of in-your-face barrel/oak/bourbon/etc brews. Thankfully, the barrel character in this brew is very subtle. This taste of this beer is amazing in its balance. I get a bit of the boozy/barrel-character up front, followed quickly by some authentic chocolate, and just a touch of coffee. Honestly, the palate seems kind of thin for a brew of its strength. This is very good right now, but I think it's still way too young at this point. I bet it will be phenomenal in a year or more. Heck, don't take my word for it. The bottles say best *after* 10/17/2010. By then I imagine the booziness will have died down, there will be a better integration of all the flavors, and there will probably be a richer/drier chocolate character. Argh...I wish I had a beer cellar where I could age a case of BBXXI for the next year along with some Abyss 09.

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.63/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown pour, very slick, tan head. Aroma was chocolate, whiskey.

Got a strange aftertaste reininiscient of dog food from one of the two bottles I've had. I dunno, still have one left, but massive bottle variation seems to be my experience here.

Coffee flavor may be responsible, it tasted like it had disappeared or mutated from previous pours of this. Thought the alcohol was too pronounced. Bitter. Needs more cocao, chocolate, less whiskey.

I'll come back and adjust this one after having the 3rd bottle, but at this point, this one is so far below XX and XXII.

Photo of glid02
4.22/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by Jeremy - thanks!

Pours black with a one-finger light brown head. The head recedes into a wispy layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of moderately roasted malts with large amounts of dark chocolate, vanilla, and hints of coconut.

Tastes similar to how it smells, though not as robust. Smooth roasted malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by moderate amounts of dark and lighter chocolate flavors. Slight amounts of vanilla come into play midway through the sip, fading out into a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with smooth carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall I was expecting more than I got from this beer, but to be fair I was expecting a lot. A bit more body would go a long way. Still, a very good beer that's well worth a shot.

Photo of watermelonman
4.47/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I wanted another bottle of XX but I settled for this. Once open, I realize that nothing about this bottle is settling.

This poured to a dark, near black color with hints of mahogany and minimal head. Lace is next to nothing. It looks decent, but the awesome comes with the taste and smell.

Light enough in body to stay drinkable, the cocoa and coffee oozes from this beer in large quantity. The finish brings vanilla that grows more significant as the finish lingers. Barely enough residual sugar to remind me of dark fruits, while a blended boozy hot serves to remind one of the content without getting in the way.


Photo of mdaschaf
4.42/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes. Thanks to Paul for this bottle.

A: Pours a very deep brown, practically black with a small mocha colored head with decent retention and spotty lacing.

S: A surprising amount of pepper comes through, probably the best pepper aroma I have experienced in a beer before. In with the pepper is a good bit of chocolate and darker malt.

T: The peppers come through again here, but a little lighter. It melds with chocolate and a little roasty malt very nicely. There is a little bit of toffee and caramel near the end, and then the finish brings back a bit of spice.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation. Easy drinking, and rather smooth.

O: A pleasant surprise. Really enjoyed this beer, my favorite of any beer I have had with peppers being that prominent. Would be interested to see how it drinks in a year or two.

Photo of GilGarp
4.57/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz. brown bottle topped with black wax over the cap.

Served cool in a chalice, this beer has a very dark brown color but light does shine through on the pour. It has creamy off-white head that doesn't reach towering heights but lingers nicely.

Great aroma of roasted malts, bourbon, and vanilla. Some chocolate and coffee with a bit of red pepper spice.

The taste it outstanding in with huge flavors of coffee, chocolate, and bourbon. The initial sweetness of the malts turns to strong bitter cocoa powder and dark roast coffee. It finishes with a peaty, smokey, bourbon flavor that has a hint of brown sugar to mellow it all out.

Mouthfeel is huge in body with a thick and creamy tongue-coating sensation. The alcohol is fairly well hidden for the size of this beer but the warming gives it away after a few sips.

It seems like exactly what the brewers were trying for on this one when you read the online description. Big and roasty with coffee, chocolate, and bourbon. All of these flavors come forward without fighting for outright supremacy. Excellent... I'm looking forward to having one a year from now!

Photo of Stigs
4.3/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, acquired via a trade with fellow BA'er JohnGalt1...served in a DFH oversized snifter

A - about a solid fingers worth of dark tan/cappuccino colored foam dwindles quickly to a very thin layer and ring around the glass. the beer is almost pitch black.

S - stale french roasted coffee, tons of oak and wood, cinnamon, earthy hops, vanilla, chocolate...could go on and on. beautiful and complex, robust yet subtle...treat for the nose.

T - dark roasted malts along with bourbon that comes out of nowhere right off the bat...dark roasted coffee kicks in along with some lighter malts, caramel, brown sugar, finishes with some deep earthy hops. oakyness comes out more and more as it warms.

M - thick and creamy, subtle there alcohol in here? wonderfully hidden and sneaky. drinks like a high end RIS.

D - so much going on here, all around. almost perfect texture for a big porter...definitely the biggest one I've ever had. have a couple more of these on the way, love to see how it is with a bit of age on it. outstanding beer.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.57/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Massive thanks to msubulldog25 for sending this my way. Sure, I COULD cellar it for five years, but screw it...couldn't wait any longer. (And happy 21st birthday to Deschutes--they can legally drink now!)

This Butte is pretty much a beaut...ebony in color with a toasted-gold/tan head. The head dissipates pretty quickly, being all 11% and everything.

The nose is fantastic. Dark raisin, date, dark chocolate and dark roast coffee bean up front, and underneath a bit of marshmallow sweetness. Infusing everything is a gentle wave of alcohol heat. If it tastes half as good as it smells...

The flavor is pure delight. Pretty much everything detected in the nose explodes and wows the tongue to death. The dark fruit is more deeply embedded, while the chocolate is insanely gooey and the coffee, while bitter, asserts itself without being at all sharp or harsh. In fact, it's rather smooth. Wood is only a light touch to add depth, which I appreciate very much (only 20% was aged in bourbon barrels, according to label). Marshmallow/sweet-cream balances all this out at perfect level. Alcohol is frighteningly well-incorporated, considering it's 11%. Coffee is the dominant flavor in the finish, although gobs of chocolate creep up right behind it. It's freaking tasty, and that's a total understatement.

Utterly smooth in the mouth and as it goes down. Lighter than expected, but coats the mouth just enough to make you feel its presence. Rounded and full yet somehow buoyant.

This is another winner from Deschutes. Primo, primo stuff. I'd love to taste this beyond the "Best After" 10/17/10 date, but couldn't hold out. I have no regrets.

Photo of Magpie14
4.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: as the name implies, black. Well, I should say, for the most part it is black. Some soft orange brown shades exist in the snifter. A delicate swirling of foam sits atop with a thin bubbly ring hugging the glass. Not much lace and no biggie, this thing is gonna pack a punch. However, I did notice a few microscopic mocha blobs adhering to the walls

S: the smell was difficult to pull out at the bar. But from what the nose allowed was staunch coffee and chocolate. Both seemed like ringers as far as the nose is concerned

T: it has a crumbly dry cocoa/chocolate character with dried flaky oats. Running next to this is a hearty java presence that teeters on deep roasted (just about smoky) tastes. Some vanilla and dark fruit textures are surfacing. Bitterness wrings the tongue nicely with a touch of coffee bean acidity. Coffee seems to win the overall battle on the palate after numerous gulps and sips and yet, I find a light balance to exist

My first few sips made me think of no bake cookies, as crazy as that sounds, it is true

M: pretty dreamy. Very smooth with velvety textures and a notch or two over the usual porter girth. No alcohol fumes either

D: I don't mind this at all. Coffee lovers should give it a try and porter fans alike. Another vice from Deschutes

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
3.95/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep impenetrable black with a nice tan head that retains pretty well and leaves ok lacing.

Nose is full of chocolate and some roasted malt. A twinge of coffee makes its presence known but certainly doesn't dominate or overcome other flavors. Almost a tootsie rollish aroma.

Taste is pretty similar to the smell. Chocolatey, roasted malt, coffee presence. Still pretty hot, seems hotter than last years, but for the most part it is pretty damn similar. Some vanilla and minimal wood. Maybe a touch more coffee here, but still really not a dominant aspect of the profile.

Mouthfeel is quite nice here. A good solid viscosity lends good body to a big thick flavorful brew.

Drinkability, at this time, is good but struggles a bit. This beer is still pretty hot. I realize this is a partly barrel aged brew, but still seems like it is hotter fresh than last years was.

Overall this is really pretty damn similar to last years offering. A fine imperial porter, and one that certainly has an interesting cast of ingredients. I see some real promise in this when it gets some more age on it (as the original seems to be aging well), and loses some of that heat. Again though, certainly a good beer, and great example of the style. Glad to see deschutes cranking out some more good ones in the reserve series.

Photo of Sammy
4.15/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Isn't this what we call imperial porter? Thickish pouring and bodied black coffee liquer, rich and alcohol more or less hidden. Well integrated, the coffee and chocolate and roast.Bourbon in the secondary well managed and adding to the complexity. The richness is carried by the aroma. A great drink, and then a great nap.

Photo of augustgarage
4.56/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a waxed and capped 22oz bomber into my Dogfish Head shaped pint glass. Best after October 17th, 2010 (can't believe I waited this long!).

Bistre body, thoroughly opaque with a finger of sand (colored) foam which is dense and fluffy, receding slowly to a burbling skin. Even delicate lacing leaves a few arcs behind. No real legs which is surprising given the ABV.

The aromatics come bursting out of the bottle the moment you break the seal. Wave after wave of vanilla, tobacco, caramel, fresh vienna roast coffee, bubblegum, chocolate, bourbon...lush and promising.

Bittersweet chocolate, mildly astringent roast malt, light fruiy esters, coffee, chocolate malt, mild citrus-y malt lead into a deeper merging of bourbon barrel and the base porter elements. Coconut, tobacco, demerara rum, hazlenuts, and rich roasted malt compete at first, then synergize into an experience that transcends the individual flavors. The finish is a slow fade of all that came before, with faint char from the bourbon barrels bringing things to a conclusion by offsetting the moderate sweetness.

Velvety, full bodied, with perfect carbonation.

A stunning dessert beer, expertly matured to take on the best elements of bourbon barrels without overwhelming the base (which itself is possibly my favorite version of the style). Some may find it on the sweet side, but I wish I'd bought a case.

Photo of BeardedRiker
4.47/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this along with 2010 The Abyss. What a night...

The Black Butte is indeed black, completely opaque. The head forms creamy and tannish. She looks tasty.

This is one of those beers that you can smell across the room if it's opened. Dominant are the aromas of dark fruits like prunes and raisin that gives it a wine-like smell. Oakiness is also pretty strong, booze makes its case, and cocoa and roasted coffee make for a tantalizing smell.

The taste is very complex. It's insanely complex. It's not nearly as boozy as it smells. Like in the smell, the dark fruits are strongest and bring a sweetness along with molasses. It definitely has a bourbon flavor to it. Bitter and roasted coffee and cocoa round the taste out. Fantastic flavors. You want to drink more and more.

It's pretty slick because of the sweetness but the carbonation breaks it up a bit to make it creamy. It's not watery at all and for me that's a huge plus because for my preferences, I generally prefer stouts over porters pretty much every time because porters usually have less flavor and feel too light to me. With the Black Butte this is not the case at all. It's full-bodied but is a very drinkable beer.

Without a doubt, this is the best porter I've ever had.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.47/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Held to the light, Black Butte XXI remains an almost completely opaque black brown. The exception is the ring of reddish chestnut directly beneath the fading head of creamy dark tan above it. It fades to a wide collar within a minute, to be sure, and only tiny specks and streaks of lacing are left behind.

In the nose it's deeply roasty, almost charred, and chocolatey.
it expresses dark chocolate, but there's also a good bit of sugar and cocoa that delivers creamier milk chocolate. Chocolate-covered espresso beans come to mind as well, as there is a bit of coffee. It reminded me of rich, oily Kenya that's been left in the pot just a touch too long, but still hasn't become burnt and oxidized (yet!).

The flavor is rich - MASSIVE even - and the initial burst of dark, almost burnt coffee bean quickly turns to dark chocolate, dusty dark cocoa, and then fruit. It builds on the palate quickly though, and things change. Where I first found bright reddish fruit in the first two or three sips, I then started to find fig and darker skinned fruits subsequently as the malt lingered in my mouth and the bitterness grew. Soon fudge-like notes emerged, and leafy hop notes appeared. I think it's really too rich and full and complex though to give a kind of play-by-play because it will probably assault everyone just a little bit differently. The bitterness, however, should remain the same. It's rock-solid, and when teamed with the roastiness it acts as a dense anchor that holds the sweeter chocolatey notes down. Additionally, the alcohol lends a bit of spiciness and warmth once you've passed the quarter glass mark. As for the Bourbon barrel again, well I don't really find any Bourbon flavor except in the finish, although I'm guessing it's responsible for at least a touch of the heat. And oak? Well there's a bit of woody dryness that lingers in the mouth. It actually helps to dry it, along with the heat and the bitterness and the roast.

It's a massive beer, but it's also well-fermented out. The mouthfeel delivers a full body, and it's oily-slick and just slightly creamy until you let it warm to become foamy, and then BAM, it simply explodes in a big puff of froth!

As to drinkability, it's obviously too big and densely flavorful to offer repeat servings, but one is enough as it's so massive (it puts most Imperial Russian Stouts to shame). So then what about its desirability as a sipping beer? Well, it is a bit harsh and blocky. It's not round. It's more like Bourbon with its fiery edge. And I'll just go with that. If you enjoy sipping whiskey, you'll certainly enjoy sipping this.

Unique. Complex. Rich. Worth seeking out!

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Black Butte XXI from Deschutes Brewery
97 out of 100 based on 569 ratings.