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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: 375
rAvg: 4.39
pDev: 7.74%
Wants: 210
Gots: 146 | FT: 11
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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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 569 | Reviews: 375
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 t0rin0
4/5  rDev -8.9%

Photo of spycow
4.5/5  rDev +2.5%

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.3/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to SamuelJackson45 for sending me this one!

Best after 10/17/10.

Pours an opaque black with a 1 inch dark tan head that settles to an oily film on the top of the beer. Thin rings and patterns of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, roasted coffee beans, chocolate milk, and some wood notes. Taste is of dark, rich chocolate syrup up front with a roasted malt and coffee bean presence on the aftertaste. I am not getting any of the barrel flavors, just some wood notes in the smell. This beer is smooth and creamy while still maintaining a carbonated feel. Overall, this is a great beer with a nice balance of flavors but the smell is a bit lacking. This is still a stellar beer!

Photo of djrn2
4.25/5  rDev -3.2%

Photo of zestar
4.25/5  rDev -3.2%

Photo of acurtis
4/5  rDev -8.9%

Photo of Texasfan549
4.75/5  rDev +8.2%

Photo of GRG1313
3.85/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours black in color with a decent tan head that quickly disappates.

Nose is all big black coffee, espresso and dark chocolate.

Mouth feel is medium and may get creamy with some age.

Taste and flavors are as promised by the nose - big full coffee and dark chocolate with some sweet espresso and espresso bean character. This porter, for me, is much more of a stout and all coffee and espresso and dark chocolate character.

Age will absolutely integrate the flavors and likely give a more creamy, integrated mouthfeel to the beer. In fairness, the bottle says "best after 10/17/10." I couldn't wait. However, some bottle age will improve this one all around and my score will likely go up. Still, I could live with drinking this one with some regularity as it is. Nice effort.

Photo of nmann08
3.75/5  rDev -14.6%

Photo of kjkinsey
4.5/5  rDev +2.5%

Photo of Thorpe429
3.87/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the brewery in August 2009.

A: Dark black with an espresso-colored head and a tiny bit of lacing.

S: Lots of coffee going on here with a little bit of chocolate and some hops.

T: Lots of the same but a little too overpowering at this point--it definitely needs some age on it and I'll certainly do a re-review after some time has passed on it.

M: Fairly thick, but quite a bit too dry.

D: Pretty good, but the taste definitely needs some time to mellow.

Photo of brentk56
4.32/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours an obsidian color with a rather modest head that declines to a ringlet and archipelago; spotty lacing

Smell: Chocolate and more chocolate; underneath there are hints of licorice, dark fruit and bourbon/vanilla

Taste: Opens with a twinge of hopleaf and then the chocolate overwhelms, builing through mid-palate when the licorice and and citrusy hops are reintroduced; after the swallow, the dark fruit and licorice add depth with the vanilla/bourbon adding complexity in the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: A very nice beer with a delightful chocolate taste that somehow falls slightly short of the standard I would expect for an anniversary ale - I might rate it higher in a different presentation

Photo of ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of SocalKicks
4.5/5  rDev +2.5%

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.45/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Polished mahogany with glimmers of burnt orange and brass along the bottom edge. The upper third of the glass is filled with an impressive chunk of caramel mousse colored foam that belies the ABV and the (partial) barrel aging. A good bit of lace sticks as well.

Theo's chocolate cocoa nibs are appreciated in the nose. As is the influence from 20% of the beer having been aged in Stranahan Colorado Whiskey barrels. One hundred pounds of Bellatazza's roasted coffee... not so much. It's a complex aroma and a damn good one.

Black Butte XX did not get a big flavor score from me, but I haven't gone back to re-read the review and determine why. Probably a shortage of malt. Black Butte XXI is a delicious Imperial porter that, although it's probably pretty similar in construction, earns the larger score with relative ease.

It isn't a malt bomb, but it's still explosive in the flavor department. Each sip (okay, gulp) delivers torrents of bittersweet chocolate blended with coffee-with-cream, vanilla beans, caramelized sugar and toasted oak. Maybe even a hint of smoke (which is probably just my imagination). It turns out that aging only 20% was the right way to go.

Warming, as it usually does with great beer, delivers even more boldness and depth. A fair amount of sweetness is perfectly countered by a decent amount of bitterness to the tune of 55 IBUs. This seasonal offering isn't The Abyss (what is?), but it's incredible beer all the same.

This is one of those cases where my big beer mouthfeel preferences come into play. It's smooth enough, but it's lightly chewy rather than moderately chewy. Sorry, but a great score requires greatness.

Here's hoping that Deschutes continues to release Black Butte XX+ year after year after year. Changes are okay, but they had better be minor ones. It's best not to mess with something this good.

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
4.5/5  rDev +2.5%

Photo of mikesgroove
4.63/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thrilled to be able to try this one finally. I was a huge fan of the last edition so the chance to have it again was something I just had to jump at. Served chilled and poured into a pint glass, this one was consumed on 09/01/2009.
Huge pour here and damn perfect I have to say. Dark as night with a huge tan head that crept up over the top of the glass after reaching a height of three inches. Settling down very slowly it left tons of lacing up and down the sides of the glass, thick, and coating, this one looked like a monster right off the bat. The aroma was equally as big, rich chocolate and bourbon notes slip seamlessly around a shell of molasses and baked brown sugar. Decadent and dessert like in every sense of the word and hard to envision this as anything other then a big stout. Very sip is like black gold. Rich full feel, and near perfect carbonation compliment everything so well. Chocolate and coffee notes lead the way with a rich boozy bourbon feel kicking at the back of the throat. Sweet molasses notes coming in next, just dissolving over the tongue and really pushing the envelope on the flavor. Touches of licorice and a moderately dry finish smooth it out very well, while nearly all the ABV is well masked behind huge flavor.
Overall just as I would have though, superb. This was a beast to work through but every sip seemed to get better then the one before it. I am very happy to have a couple of these to see what some time can put on them.

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

I've had a couple of these over the past year or two, but decided to open one up today for the football games.

A: The pour is pretty much as black as you can get with a surprisingly large head that is tan in color (ends up dying down to a thin layer).

S: Smells of chocolate, bourbon, and roast for the most part. A lot of roasted malt, actually. There is some vanilla and oak, and surprisingly, some dark fruit notes of cherry and raisin. A fading, but still present, coffee aroma is there in the background.

T: The coffee is more noticeable on the palate for whatever reason. There is a very strong roasted malt flavor, slightly ashy, with quite a bit of bitter dark chocolate. Some vanilla and oak. A definite dark fruit character is noted here, too, and again seems to be cherry and raisin.

M: The boy is medium to full with a moderate carbonation level.

D: It's definitely a big beer so I don't know if I would drink the whole bottle by myself with any regularity, but this is a damn good beer.

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

Appearance: This beer pours pitch black into my snifter. Absolutely no highlights here, it's just black. The mocha-colored head leaves little lace as it descends, eventually settling into a quarter-inch cap.

Smell: Even though this is a blend with only 20% aged in bourbon barrels, that signature caramel and vanilla bourbon aroma is the first thing I noticed. More coffee-forward than the Black Butte XX, but still nicely balanced by dark malts and a touch of barrel.

Taste & mouthfeel: The whole bourbon barrel coffee beer thing has been done before, and quite well, so I was interested to see how this one would stack up. I'm happy to say that it stacks up quite well, though that doesn't surprise me coming from Deschutes. Balance is where this beer truly excels - the coffee, chocolate and bourbon flavors all have equal presence. Alcohol is noticeable here, more so than it was with The Abyss when that first came out, though I think this will mellow with age. Semi-sweet initially, the finish brings out more of the coffee flavor along with an ample hop bitterness.

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

Appearance: Slips out a dark brown, near black body with an initially frothed, though thinning, tan-colored head.

Smell: Strong, greatly roasty nose with notes of fine espresso and less-than-fine instant coffee in the fore followed by a touch of dark chocolate fudge and molasses and lastly some bourbon-soaked oak wood.

Taste: Roasted dark malts heavily brushed with blackstrap molasses and fudge brownie batter. Moderate sweetness. Enter in a rip-roarin' jolt of chilled espresso that really dominates the taste at this stage. Piquant spicy oak character with some sips of quality, top-shelf bourbon. Bold, predominately roasty bitterness. Warming, roasty finishes with further tastes of dark chocolate and oak wood.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied. Medium carbonation. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Packed with flavor but still a treat to sip and savor. Though I feel I'm in the minority here, I feel as though I preferred the XX with its slackened coffee character. That said, I still wholeheartedly recommended this one.

Photo of zeff80
4.49/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a small, light brown colored head of foam. It left minimal lacing.

S - It smelled of chocolate and cocoa with roasted malt notes. There were mild toffee aromas.

T - It tasted of chocolate and black licorice. It had a peppery hop spice.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale that packs a warm alcohol punch.

D - Great beer. It is probably the best porter than I've ever had.

Photo of TMoney2591
4.03/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Half Acre shaker pint glass.

Big thanks to JMBSH for this bottle!

After wrapping up our bottling session, we break into this heralded gem. It pours a straight black-brown topped by a finger of light-ish ecru foam. The nose comprises toffee, bourbon, oak, vanilla, and roasted malts. Mike has ordered me to note here that he loves this smell. Yeah. The taste holds notes of roasted malts, coffee, whiskey, oak, toffee, and dark greens. The body is a stolid medium with a moderate carbonation. Overall, a very nice porter, but I feel the bourbon overwhelms the rest of the flavors (which I find odd, considering only 20% was aged in the barrels...). This, coupled with a surprisingly prickly carbonation held this back for me, but it was still enjoyable.

Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev -8.9%

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.