Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Highland Big Butte Smoked Porter - Highland Brewing

Not Rated.
Highland Big Butte Smoked PorterHighland Big Butte Smoked Porter

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
89
very good

30 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 30
Hads: 34
Avg: 4.05
pDev: 7.41%
Wants: 5
Gots: 0 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Highland Brewing
North Carolina, United States | website

Style | ABV
American Porter | 7.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: atsprings on 09-19-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Reviews: 30 | Hads: 34
Photo of atsprings
4.62/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Flying Saucer served in a standard pint glass a nice opaque black with a decent light tan head. Aroma is smoke with hints of chocolate and brown malt. The taste is a wonderful amount of smoke and bitter chocolate with hints of coffee, absolutely delicious. The beer is medium bodied and an enjoyable sipper. This one exceeded the high expectations I had for it, dare I say, the best beer I've had from Highland yet, PLEASE make this a regular release.

 461 characters

Photo of cvstrickland
4.47/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alex Buerckholtz's 2009 Highland Cup winning homebrew, courtesy of Highland Brewing:

I got to taste this one at the brewery during the 2009 Tasgall Ale rollout, and got a chance to meet both Homebrewer Alex and Highland's Brewmaster John, whose collective crewdogs and cooperative efforts combined to produce this fine German smoked malt and Fuggles-infused porter on a scale large enough to bring it to more than just a lucky few. Those guys were all so cool and the beer was so damned good that I just had to grab a few bottles on the way home.

The label tells the tale of how this beer came to be, sports a 7% ABV , and indicates that Big Butte will cellar nicely and improve over time. I have a few bottles I'm saving for sometime later, but the chilled 22-ounce bomber in front of me is not one of them. I select my Delirium tulip, and after letting the bottle temper a bit I pop the top.

Big Butte pours light-sucking mahogany-tinted garnet in color with a finger and a half of creamy pale beige foam atop. From the first hiss of the crown a persistent waft of pleasantly acrid smoke swirls around the brown bottle before also claiming the airspace above the wee drinking vessel. The cap of foam deflates into a sticky sheet and leaves a ragged film of lacing plastered onto the sidewalls of my glass.

The clean, dry, smoky aroma is laced with dark roasty notes, leaning first toward bittersweet chocolate before veering into the French-roasted realm of Juan Valdez. If I had to hold the smell-descriptor to two words, I'd call it, "Smoky Mocha". As the brew warms a bit, a cooling whiff of Bourbony vanilla caramels gains purchase. After much huffing, swirling, and eventually getting a shot of foam up the snoot, I arrive at the landmark conclusion that the brew smells pretty damn good the whole time you drink it, but snorting it... no.

The taste is richly dark and malty with a sprinkle of burning sugar , a dusting of herbal spice, and a pervasive edge of dryly tangy smoke. The flavors are so familiar... I'm thinking of my grandmother's inimitable homemade lard biscuits, a day old, split open, smeared with real butter and pan-toasted dark and crispy in an iron skillet before being smothered in savory chocolate gravy and plated with crisp fried hickory bacon. Mmm-mmm! An earthy-dry splash of cooled black coffee perfects the days-of-yore breakfast idea only moments before the persistent smokiness smacks against my internal smoke alarm, the detector shocking me back from my 20th Century revelry. [Granny! The biscuits are burning!] This is a great-tasting beer. And a little smoky, did I mention?

The drink is medium-fullish in body with a mild fluffing of fine carbonation that fits it just perfectly. An extremely easy drinker that I'm sure would go great with Western NC-style "barbecue". Outstanding.

 2,830 characters

Photo of brentk56
4.42/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a espresso brown color with a roacky tan cap that leaves a fair amount of lacing behind

Smell: While you can tell this is a smoked beer, there is an unexpected amount of plum and blackberry in the aroma; the smoke is subtle and more like hickory smoked BBQ than the typical ash bomb; sweetened coffee underneath, as well

Taste: Biscuits and dark fruit, up front, with the plum and blackberry flavors joined by the BBQ smoke at mid-palate; some caramel in the profile, up front, as well; after the swallow, the sweetened coffee flavors join in, along with some milk chocolate; the smoke re-asserts itself in the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: One of the best beers to come out of Highland, this one had relatively little publicity but will not be forgotten for some time

 838 characters

Photo of cnjohn19
4.4/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

enjoyed this with my stepdad who drove in from KY...been saving it for his visit...

pours an unpenetrating black with a rich light brown foam...brilliant to look at from a distance...smells of strong smokey richness, an apparent malty backbone...getting a scotch smell and hint of coffee...

wow...absolutely splendid...bold, rich, smokey (of course) and an awesome aftertaste...you won't get this your first taste but give it a minute...

this one stands out to me as one of the best porters i've tasted...cheers to the homebrewer for this one...

 548 characters

Photo of beer2day
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours near black, but really just a very, very dark brown. 1-finger of dark cream head sits atop the glass. Faint retention, but still a thin sheen of head at the very end. Laces well.

Just a hint of smoke greets the nose. More bitter chocolate with sweet caramel underneath.

Very dark and rich taste. Bitter hit followed by a slightly smoky transition into a nice roasted, fired malt middle. Finishes with a nice burnt flair of bitters. As dark a porter as I can remember having in quite a while.

Excellent body for the porter style. Really more stout-like.

Very easy to drink. No hint of alcohol.

 602 characters

Photo of dirtylou
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on-tap. flying saucer charlotte

cell-phone notes

appearance: served in a standard pint - dark mahogany body, light tan cream lace

smell: smoked meat - specifically sausage, dark chocolate, dark roasted malts

taste: asked the bartender what she thought of this one and she said it tasted liked smoked sausage. this probably turns off most but i was all over this one and she was fairly accurate...roasty, chocolatey, and very smoky - check this one out for sure

mouthfeel: medium-heavy, creamy and smoked out

drinkability: pretty good, all things considered

 562 characters

Photo of blackie
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: tight, creamy mocha head recedes to a nice layer atop the mahogany, nearly black colored beer

s: a full caramel back carries big roasts and extra dark chocolate, supporting an aroma of richly smoked, fruity meats - nice balance on this end, very well executed

m: soft, light-medium carbonation on a medium body

t: this is what a smoked porter is all about - big meaty smoke well entwined with a roasty body, rich toffee, and very dark chocolate, the drier finish pulls out more woody, charcoal flavors, dusty cocoa, and burnt barley, finishing with a lingering flavor of campfire and mild bitterness

d: no issues here - great beer

bomber from Peace Street Market, Raleigh

 679 characters

Photo of farrago
4.32/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

About a half finger head of dark tan color, thin foam interspersed by many larger bubbles, very good sheet of lacing. You want to call the liquid very, very dark brown but it's more or less opaquely black. The nose is indeed smoky, loads of roasted coffee, then caramel, butterscotch and nutmeg spice, the cherry, plum fruit has a lighter apricot streak, granola cereal and grains fit in seamlessly, very full nostril presence helps it linger for a long time. Full-bodied, for its density moves at a good pace and doesn't bog down. The smokiness here comes close to evoking pork rinds and fried pig. Here the coffee more bitter and has less support from toffee or butterscotch, more bitter dark chocolate. The carbonation is rough and tumble but the right kind of turbulence. The cherry, blueberry, apricot, apple fruit speaks clearly, of few words. The smokiness is hard to wash out of your mouth. Not sure how much one could pound in one sitting but it's good stuff for the style.

 982 characters

Photo of NCSUdo
4.28/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle

A: Deep brown/black body under a good sized off white head. Good lace and retention.

S: Nice aroma, very balanced. Toasted and roasted maltiness, caramel and toffee through out, with some hints of chocolate. At first, I wasn't quite getting the smoke, but eventually it came through as "meaty" type smoke.

T: Again, nice and balanced. Smoke comes through more in the taste department. Malt is mixed with smoke up front, before giving way to a cream like sweetness and then a pretty decent bitter punch, that seems part hop/part smoke/part dark chocolate induced. A bit of burnt caramel clings to the palate as well, and the slightest hint of alcohol. Good stuff.

M/D: Full bodied, smooth, carbonation is just right. Good drinkability. Really solid, well balanced porter.

 787 characters

Photo of carolinahophead
4.27/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is the winning recipe from the recent Homebrew contest in Asheville NC.
The appearance is a dark coffee color with a nice foam head when poured. Has a terrific smell of a expresso liquer and dark roasted malt. Exotic spices are present as well.The taste is very different from other porters as this is where the smoke comes through in a good way. Mouthfeel is light in body but full with noticeable acidity and bitterness. Be careful with this one; it's a great beer to age . Save for a hearty meal or an after dinner treat.

 529 characters

Photo of RomaniIteDomum
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours like black frothy goodness with a nice one finger tan head.

There is a lot of roasted smell in this beer. It has a very tasty aroma.

The taste follows the nose with a little added sweetness. Unlike most smoked porters I don't taste that fake chemical bacon taste akin to dog treats. The smoke is more subtle and natural tasting.

The feel is nice and creamy with a nice body.

Pretty damn drinkable. One bomber is enough, but I wish I had a second for future drinking.

 476 characters

Photo of craytonic
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black/mocha body with ruby highlights on the edges. Nice head and carbonation.

Smell: Nice malt, caramel, and a faint smokiness. I like that the smoke is not overpowering, as if it is the beer begins to taste more like liquid beef jerky (think Alaskan brewing co. smoked porter)

Taste: Mild roasted malts, caramel, faint woody smokiness, coffee and chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full, creamy. ABV is not noticeable.

Drinkability: Delicious and easily drinkable. Probably my favorite smoked porter, and one of my top porters. I don't understand the insistence that it taste like a chimney. It is called a "smoked porter" on the label, not an "over-smoked" porter or "ashtray" porter.

 698 characters

Photo of sholland119
4.23/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Pours a lovely dark brown with just a hint of light at the bottom. A thin pool of off white head leaves some nice lacing.

S-Medium levels of wood smoke and a bit of bacon goodness.

T-While the nose is maybe a bit underdone, the taste is really nice. Rich chocolate malt in the front, some very nicely balanced smokiness and a nice roasty hop bite in the finish.

M- Very nice richness, medium bodied and a really long lingering roasted malt.

D-Two for two on smoked porters tonight, with this following Ng Smoke on the Porter. This is quite delicious, lighter on smoke. longer on flavor and body.

HV

 605 characters

Photo of Kegatron
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle into several sample glasses. Thanks to Deuane for busting this one out.

Pours black, with a little bit of ruby coming out along the bottom, and a frothy 1/2 finger of creamy chocolate mocha head. This stays rich when swirled, leaving back some nice looking spotty swathes of lacing. The aroma is chocolate, roast, coffee, and light toffee coming out first, with some more subtle meaty smoke coming out behind it. Really nice evenness
here, between the roast, smoke, and sweet character, giving this a pleasant feel in the nose.

The taste has a silky sweet base of roasted chocolate and caramel sweetness to it. Crunchy coffee comes into play in the middle part, followed by the smoked malts that slink into the back part of the profile. Really well done finish on this, which sees that smokey meat character lingering along with coffee notes for a dry and roasty feel. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with an extremely smooth and creamy feel to it. I can't actually believe that this is 7% ABV, as it handles like so much less than that. Very nice!

This is a very nicely done Smoked Porter of restraint, allowing the other flavors to really shine as well. Just a killer feel and drinkibility for the size on this to. I'd love to see this added as a fall seasonal every year.

 1,294 characters

Photo of Bung
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. Deep brown/black pour, not excessively thick. Dark tan head. Roasted malt, chocolate and hints of peat and smoke in the aroma. Taste has the roast malt, hint of coffee, slightly acidic. Chocolate and charcoal accent this very nicely. Medium body, not quite creamy. Little lingering bitters, dark chocolate, bbq smokeyness in the finish. Slightly dry finish. Warming of course, brings this one to life a bit more as well. Drinkability is pretty high, not difficult to drink. Not sure if some time will improve this drastically, but it is still quite good now.

 565 characters

Photo of drunkboxer1
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours almost a solid black. Thin white colored head. Smells heavily of roasted grains with a bit of smokiness behind it. Tastes pretty much the same but just more in you face. The smoked malt kinda shines through on this one, unlike a few other smoked porters I've had. It's good that it does, I think, that way you know you're having something different. A little bit reminiscent of smoked meats, but not glaringly so as in a few rauchbiers that I've had. Overall, I like it a lot and it's a really good example of the style.

 526 characters

Photo of marvin213
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

It's a dark porter that could easily pass for a stout. Even the head is brown and thick--almost creamy. Swirling evidences lacing like wine legs, and the brew's look doesn't change. The top's almost like an eyeball as the hoppy foam hits the edges while an almost circular patch spots the center. In between is black American porter. It's an impressive-looking beverage.

The nose is a burnt, roasted, smoked malt. The smell offers layers of complexity as the roasty smokiness fails to hide lingerings of chocolate in the background. The Fuggle hops do add a grass-like earthiness. It smells like a lil' chocolate's been added to my Lay's mesquite barbecue chips.

I taste even more smoke than I smell. I'd call it a rauchbier without blinking an eye. The malts (which I couldn't distinguish as German without reading the bottle) make a potentially biting smokiness much more palatable. I verge in to mouthfeel because the seemingly perfect carbonation really meshes what's a great assortment of flavors. This is really a unique brew, and it's complex enough (roasted, malty smokiness combined with a chocolate grassy earthiness) that it changes significantly with temperature and, I'd imagine, with age. It's just a cool liquid to swish as if it were mouthwash. Although these aren't my favorite ingredients for a beverage, I'd offer that they're thrown together right nice in this Big Butte bottle o' beer.

There are certainly many porters more drinkable than this one. That's probably owed largely to the fact that few porters are as flavorful as this one. It's absolutely appropriate as a beer to take outside to flame up the grill, to sip as you throw on the ribs, to enjoy as you wash down the sauce, and to savor just after you've turned off the heat. As with most smoked beers, however, the occasion and cuisine are relatively limited.

 1,844 characters

Photo of JISurfer
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got this one from the back room at Brawley's in Charlotte. I'm a fan of HBC and smoked porters, so I jumped on it when I saw this one. I noticed that it was only released in NC, which makes it cool that I could get it. Had a thick tan head that stayed around for a little while, then went into a thin lacing. The smell had a slight smoked meat mixed with heavy malts smell to it. The tasted definitely got better, the closer to room temp it got. It wasn't bad when it was cold, but it was much better as it warmed. It really helped bring out the smoked malt and meat flavors. Glad I picked this one up as it's definitely worth grabbing if you can. Once again, HBC puts out another great product.

 695 characters

Photo of indiapaleale
4.1/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pour - super dark brown, nice and smooth and rich looking in the glass. The head on this is toffee colored and sits nicely upon a dark sea.

Aroma - slightly vinous, earthy, caramel, light smoke along with some cherry. Not a smoke bomb in the nose, just a very nice smelling porter.

Taste - sweet maltiness with some of the vinous tanginess as well. Its a bit thin in body but as this warms it becomes bolder and richer. The smokiness takes a backseat for the first several sips of this beer before it begins to creep out. About halfway through this glass I really begin to experience just how well the flavors in this beer mesh.

Overall - a great, very drinkable smoked porter. This is very nicely balanced with the smoke flavor contributing just enough. I wish I had a fireplace or another bottle of this beer that I could crack open around a campfire this spring.

Would I buy more of it? - yes, if I lived in North Carolina I would. Great smoked porters are not so easy to find.

 991 characters

Photo of merlin48
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber pours an opaque dark mahogany body with a small, but lasting, creamy tan head. Patchy lacing is left on the glass.

Good porter aroma has some nuttiness, dark fruits(mostly plums), and dark roasty malt notes of coffee and dark chocolate. Just a hint of smokiness, initially.

Light medium to medium body is thinner than expected but just fine for style. Medium carbonation.

Taste opens with sweetish dark fruits(plums again). Dark roasty malt notes take front and center, with coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Campfire smoke emerges nicely as it warms. No hint of alcohol, despite the 7% abv. Earthy hop bitterness provides a nice balance to the dark fruity sweetness.

Nicely executed and very enjoyable.

 714 characters

Photo of Durge
4/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An extremely opaque dark colored liquid with a modest light tan ring of head and nice lacing. The aroma brings a very tart chocolate burnt pumpkin blend, unique and enjoyable. My taste buds pick up on the smoke and plenty more tart coffee bitterness. There's not a lot more to be said, a touch of creamy chocolate in a mid-bodied plus brew with a delicate carbonation. It's reasonably drinkable for the style but the theme here is pretty much all tart with a modest smoke overtone. Very tasty and an agreable porter option.

 523 characters

Photo of CWiggins
3.95/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Sarah M. for the sample!

My first experience with a true rauchbier put me off any beer that has "smoked" in its name! I have learned that the American version of smoked beers doesn't bear any resemblance to that authentic German concoction, but I still fear that first taste.

Highland's Big Butte Smoked Porter pours a dark black with a decent, but short-lived, tan head. This was surprisingly leaner than most porters I've head; it just didn't pour as thick. Dark roasted malts and smoke are certainly discernible in the aroma, and a touch of sugary sweetness is carried along as well. The flavor is full of those roasted malts, along with a mildly smokey character that really makes itself known during the finish and aftertaste. There is a nice, mild sweet (nearly fruity) essence on the front and main body, and the slightly bitter, smokey, coffee-ish aftertaste is true delight.

This one's a bit thinner than many American porters I've sampled. That certainly makes it more "drinkable," however, the alcohol (at 7% ABV) may sneak up on you, so be careful!

 1,073 characters

Photo of thagr81us
3.93/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served from bottle into a Spaten Optimator dimpled mug. Poured a massively dark brown with a half finger beige head that subsided to a minimal amount very quickly. Maintained phenomenal lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, roasted malt, dark fruit, milk chocolate, and smoke. The flavor was of sweet malt, roasted malt, dark fruit, subtle dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and smoke. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation, almost velvety. Overall this was a fairly good brew. I was really surprised at how well the flavor turned out on this brew based on the first impression from the aroma going on here. The aroma wasn’t bad, but I did find it to be rather weak unfortunately. Still quite easy to drink and enjoyable. Definitely worth trying if you get the opportunity.

 821 characters

Photo of bmanning
3.92/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle picked up at Sam's in Durham, NC.
Pours dark brown with tiny brown head that quickly vanishes.
Aromas of burnt toast, coffee, molasses, hint of smoke.
The first thing I notice as I taste this beer is that it's very sweet for a smoked porter - tastes kind of like a smoked milk porter if there is such a thing. The smokiness comes in on the light side, and with such a huge roasted malt backbone I would have liked to taste more of the smoke. Nice flavor profile though of caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and hint of coffee.
Overall I think this is a different but good representation of a smoked porter - good job Highland!

 632 characters

Photo of therica
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Brewed once for the 2009 Highland Cup contest where it placed best of show in March 2009, available only in North Carolina, purchased in Surf City NC in September 2009, consumed and rated April 2010.

Let this warm to 50F plus if you hope to find much of quality in this porter.

A= near-black, little head, hardly any rimming or lacing.

S= rather unexpectedly light nose for a porter at 45F, some smoked wood scent, some mild hops florals, roasted malts evident, chocolate in the first whiff but that disappeared quickly. At 50F+ some caramel became evident as well as the smoky traits.

T= very dry and astringent, chalky molasses, burnt malts and raisins evident, a bit too carbonated which is surprising since there was little head et al. Not quite balanced in my opinion but interesting. Some dark chocolate here and there. I'm not getting the smoked effecs, just burnt and dry at any temperature. Light caramel after it was nearly warmed.

M= dry and astringent with burnt molasses, light syrup.

D= drinkable for a query but I don't know that I'd buy an extra bottle, maybe share a bottle with some friends for samples. Try Smuttynose Baltic Porter and you'll forget this stuff ever existed. There are just too many better porters out there especially at this $5.99 price (Sept 2009).

 1,292 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Highland Big Butte Smoked Porter from Highland Brewing
89 out of 100 based on 30 ratings.