Black Butte XXI | Deschutes Brewery

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Black Butte XXIBlack Butte XXI
Black Butte XXIBlack Butte XXI

Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery
Oregon, United States

Style: American Imperial Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
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."

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 377 | Ratings: 580
Photo of craytonic
3.08/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pour is a nearly opaque black/brown with some red edges. Decently large head, no real lacing.

Smell: Burnt coffee and chocolate, very faint bourbon, oak, and vanilla. This one is roasted and charred, perhaps a bit too much. Coffee / coffee beans that have been in the pot a bit too long.

Taste: I can hear the accountant and the brewer arguing. Lets put it all in bourbon barrels, it will be delicious. No, you must cut some corners and use only 20% in bourbon barrels! Sickening, and this beer suffers due to it. Big burnt coffee and chocolate, roasted malt. Very faint oak, bourbon and vanilla. Put it all in barrels.

Mouthfeel: Big / full beer as expected, a bit astringent.

Drinkability: Didn't finish the glass, much less the bottle. Meh same as last year's batch. Another "big" beer. Yawn.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
3.16/5  rDev -28%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22oz. waxed and capped bomber poured into a Darkness snifter. Love the regular Black Butte some I'm really looking forward to this one.

A: Gentle pour yields a .5 finger semi-coarse light mocha head with poor retention that dissipates into a cluster of bubbles clinging to one side of the glass. Beer is an opaque black that nevertheless reveals bubbles floating to the top. Lacing is thick and layered with nice legs and great stick.

S: Nose is slightly strange. Burnt liquorice, roasted malt, sweet soy sauce, spoiled prunes, chocolate, and carob. Subtle overall with an off-scent here and there.

T: Opens roasted liquorice, chocolate, roasted malt, burnt cocoa. An awkward burnt fruit and peat taste takes over towards the middle. Liquorice is prominent and becomes very very sweet and roasty. Slight hop bitterness towards the end. Finish is a filmy chocolate and liquorice with a sweet, ashy malt aftertaste.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation. Slightly rough edges on this one but it smoothes out as it warms. Oily and filmy on the palate and going down. Finish is subtle but aftertaste sticks hard and doesn't go away.

D: Overall, I'm a bit disappointed by this one. The regular Black Butte porter is such an amazingly rich, yet subtle and drinkable brew that I thought this would be amazing. Alas, something must've happened along the way to impart a rather weird taste that turns me off even though I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I'll give this another try and would love to come across an aged bottle but as is, BBXXI is average at best.

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Photo of bulletrain76
3.26/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22oz bottle, XXI. I really hope that this one smooths out with a little age. Super dark brown with a beige head. The aroma has a green vegetal coffee note with some sticky caramelized sugars and some darker roasted grain. There is is some light wood and chocolate as well, but the coffee seems to be dominating that aroma in a less than stellar fashion. Bitter coffee, alcohol, and sticky-sweet malt in the flavor. Reasonably well balanced between the three, but a bit messy. The body is sticky, yet not a rich as I was hoping for how big this is. It seems like I am picking out a lot of fault in this, but it is still a pleasant drink, though nothing amazing. I'm definitely letting my other bottle age at least a year to hopefully clear up that vegetal coffee and alcohol.

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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.

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Photo of ccrida
3.31/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bomber that I've aged for about 4 months, poured into my large St. Feuillien goblet, Black Butte XXI is black with a creamy little tan head that leaves light, scattered lace.

Smell is very astringent and charcoal like, and frankly, very off-putting at first. I LOVED XX like know other, and really was looking forward to this. But the smell is foreboding. I assume it's extreme coffee grounds, but it's got a twiggy wood like aroma or something, like a dusty (but not mildewy) old attic.

Taste is, thankfully, better more in-line with what I expected. But this is still quite a bit different from last year, it's not as sweet and porter like, with way more coffee and chocolate. There's a bitter bakers chocolate bite that I could do with out, and overall, it's just not my speed. Last years was perfect, and I feel like they pushed it to far. I'm glad I sat on them a few months at least before trying it. I have a few more, and will give them a good 2 more years to start integrating and rounding out.

Mouthfeel is super creamy, full bodied, a bit dry on the finish.

Drinkability is OK, but frankly, it's too much coffee/chocolate/wood, and not enough strong porter. After loving last years so much, this one is a little disappointing. I'm hoping some serious cellar time will drop out the adjuncts and bring out the sweet dark malts.

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Photo of Wadsey
3.42/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Black Butte XXI

Served in DFH signature glass

A: Pours darkest of browns and, when backlit, the beer shows a deep amber glow. It is also clear. Head, retention, and effervescence play bit parts in appearance. 

S: Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, coffee liqueur, light vanilla compose smell. I will add molasses as I think this beer would pair well with barbecue beef. 

T: Sweet maltiness and then chocolate in its various and sundry forms. Mid-palate I hit a monolithic bitterness that is the offspring of chocolate, coffee and hops. The only thing that covers it is another drink.

M: Heavy body and medium carbonation. Powdery mouthfeel with some warming. Drying. 

O: Black Butte XXI had the right stats for cellaring, but it seems to have lost something in the interim. I recall it being more multifaceted and brighter.  

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Photo of Riccymon
3.43/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours from the bottle a deep, dark black with a half inch of short-lived brown head. Smell is... uninspiring. Toasty malt that I associate with porters-- yes, but bourbon, chocolate, and so on-- no. In fact, after a while I picked up little more than wet newspaper.

XXI tastes better than it smells with a good dose of coffee that is well-done-- not too acrid or better. There's some cocoa floating around, but it's on the light side. Finally, a moderate bourbon note (way more subtle than The Perfect Storm, for example) livens things up slightly. I expected way more boldness of flavor and was a little letdown. Mouthfeel is soft and warming, with a little fusel alcohol at the end of most sips.

I split the bomber with a friend, and the glassful I had from this bottle wasn't hard to drink, mostly because I found it less than bold.

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Photo of MadeInOregon
3.44/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

Like an obedient fan of Deschutes Brewery, I patiently saved my bottle of Black Butte XXI for 10 months until the "BEST AFTER" date. I was REALLY looking forward to trying this one since The Abyss and Mirror Mirror were so interesting. I was, however, a little disappointed. XXI is not bad, it's just not very spectacular and definitely not worth the price or the hype...

It pours a nice black with a frothy, tan head. There is lots of lacing but it doesn't look unlike a typical porter or stout.

The first taste to hit me was actually kinda weird: rotten wood. Wha? Yeah. Along with a little green onion thrown in there too. I'm not sure how better to describe that initial taste but there is definitely an unmistakeable and very strange sour spice on the front of the tongue. The coffee begins to push through after about 1 min., and becomes increasingly strong after more sips and as the beer warms to room temp. Eventually the weird flavors are completely dominated by the coffee+hops+chocolate. As it warms, XXI also gets much sweeter as the standard Black Butte Porter base begins to pop through.

There is no bourbon evident in the taste, only in the smell. The dominant aromas are coffee and over-ripe bananas, plus that weird oniony wood thing that is also in the taste. This beer has a very strange, very unique smell. While it is interesting, it is actually quite foul to me.

The mouthfeel is decent. There is major alcohol warming in the throat too, which is nice on a cool night.
Despite all the weirdness, drinking the XXI is actually very enjoyable and it is much more drinkable than The Abyss.

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Photo of jethrodium
3.47/5  rDev -21%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Beer Revolution. Pours a very dark brown with a small light tan head that dissipates quickly and leaves very little lacing on the glass. Aroma is huge dark, bitter chocolate. There is also some licorice and molasses as well as a bit of alcohol. The initial taste is sweet with dark chocolate going into some licorice and molasses. A little graham cracker as well. The finish is on the sweet side with a light bitterness and a decent amount of alcohol. Lightly astringent. Medium body. Low carbonation. The chocolate dominates almost all other flavors in this beer. The alcohol was also quite prominent considering the age on this beer. It was a solid beer, but I was expecting a little bit more.

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Photo of JAXSON
3.51/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle. Pours a dark espresso with a mocha head. Bubbles were a bit extreme on the pour. Nose is a lot of roast, a light whiff of bourbon, but mostly coffee grounds, a touch metallic and thin. Kind of messy nose. Nice creamy feel in the mouth, again a lot of roast, coffee grounds really come out on the finish, and aren't terribly attractive. Reminded me a bit of Parabola at first, which isn't a good thing, but I think this is actually put together a bit better. Not great though.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.53/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It's time for a little fun, and get this, the bomber is double waxed! Now I know this will be good. On to the beer:

The lace and head are creamy, the body is black as oil, and the had retention is good. Bitter, astringent coffee in the aroma. A little vegetable briefly. Wood.

I'm getting a lot of coffee flavor in this beer. Bourbon soaked wood plays second fiddle to this big coffee tasting beer. You don't really taste the alcohol, but as it starts to go down your thorat, it begins its warming burn. The body doesn't scream 11% ABV; it seems more medium bodied than full bodied. Drinks fine for its size.

That's too bad. The beer isn't really soaking into my palate as much as I hoped. The coffee and wood outshine the malt by a longshot. Maybe I shoudn't have been listening to "Steal My Sunshine" earlier tonight. That's not a joke, I really was.

By no means this is a bad tasting beer, but a rather unbalanced one. A better showing by the malt would do wonders for me. Here's hoping Black Butte XXII provides a better experience.

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Photo of weazal
3.55/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

S: Purely coffee beans. Like walking into a good coffee shop. Aroma is moderate, but pleasant.

T: Potent! Upfront bold coffee flavor and bitterness. Softens out halfway through only to have the bitterness renewed at the end, throughout the finish. Pleasant tingly carbonation through out which adds a bit of texture.

A flavorfully overwhelming, kick-in-the-face kind of drink on par with brutal IPAs in terms of intensity. The predominant bitterness however, reduces it's drinkability.

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Photo of rayjay
3.61/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep brown porter with dark sugary sticky lacing. Pours a nice creamy head with great cascading carbonation, similar to Abyss.

As for aroma, initially it's a dead ringer for Tabasco sauce. As it warms, coffee and bourbon come out, as well as lots of dark carmel notes and some lager-like DMS. Alcohol is present with some higher alcohols adding theirs potent fumes.

Deep flavors with a rich complexity. More playing on the tabasco notes, as the coffee and bourbon flavors, as well as the roasted barley-less darks grains, seem to morph into it; there is an overall mild numbing spicyness. Also more play on the lager-like DMS notes. Delicate bourbon almost gets overpowered by the strong porter body. Very similar to a Baltic porter. Very dry finish, almost too dry.

Good lively carbonation makes the mouthfeel easy to handle for such a large and sticky beer. Not to viscous but pretty filling.

Good drinkability, but it's not the most interesting beer so that dampered things a bit. Many say they like this better than Abyss, but to me Abyss is the clear winner.

Recommended, but only if you have the $$ to burn ($13 a bottle). I think it could use some cellar time to morph into something a little more awesome first as recommended on the bottle (I went ahead and drank it anyway because I though Mirror Mirror was ready fresh). Cheers!

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Photo of mulder1010
3.62/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bought in October 2009 in Tucson, AZ best after date of 10/17/10

Poured into a snifter

A-- Poured a dark brown and settled black with just a few hints of amber here and there. Small light brown head, stayed through drinking the beer.

S-- Big initial nose of roasted coffee and milk chocolate. Hints of vanilla as well. With more air nose became more of coffee and chocolate.

T-- Dirty, grity, and earthy coffee, chocolate, vanilla and touches of oak. Reminded me of old coffee. Thought KBS but without the bourbon notes that KBS has. Much more about rich coffee and chocolate.

M-- Gritty and earthy in front, more creamy in back. Bits of thinness in the mid and back of palate. Well hidden alcohol for the size of the beer. Once it opened up more did get notes of whiskey in the finish. Medium feel and low carbonation.

O-- Not bad but not great. Liked it more and more as I drank on. Well hidden alcohol. More about coffee and chocolate with this. No wow factor to this really, even with age. Seems to have mellowed out well but maybe too much.

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

A: Thin head, only one finger on a good pour, tan with various bubbles and only a little texture. Pretty black body, hard to see any active carbonation. That head fades fast, but leaves a little active carbonation. All in all, I'm not that impressed.

S: Fills the air with a sweet sugar and molasses mixture at first. A deeper inspection reveals rampant choco-coffee notes. Sweet ones though. Very strong. The coffee is really evident in this beer's aroma. Overpowering even. Yes, it's a coffee added beer, but in the aroma, it may be too much. I really get not much else but the coffee.

T: Yep, still coffee in the mouth. And I'm really not diggin it. I get no cocoa, no bourbon, just coffee porter really. I gave it a few minutes, and I still feel the same. I really feel you could take a glass of coffee, dump in some Black Butte, and get the same result.

M: Dry, which works great for coffee but for a porter, should be smoother, slightly.

D: I don't like coffee, and this is sucking for me, For a coffee drinker, they should drink this fast.

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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.

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Photo of Kadonny
3.65/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bomber bottle into a snifter glass.

A: A thick jet black syrupy liquid with very minimal light brown head. No glass lacing.

S: Sweet chocolate, some coffee and roastiness. Caramel and toffee notes with maybe a hint of vanilla.

T: Wow, this is sweet. I'm sure it sweetened up over the years. Initial flavors start off with the sweet chocolate flavors, sweet cocoa, coffee, slight vanilla, toffee, caramel coupled with the heavy roasted malt flavors. Not getting much barrel aging flavors other than some slight vanilla. Finish stays sweet and turns cloying with some alcohol.

M: Creamy, full, coating, sweet with decent alcohol. Just too sweet to enjoy IMO.

O: I was not getting this beer really. I thought it was too sweet to enjoy and it could have used some hops or other earthy tones to help cut the sweetness.

Overall I was disappointed in this beer. I had high hopes for this beer especially with the whiskey barrels, but I left wanting more. I'm not sure why very little of the woody/earthy tones did not come out that would have no doubt cut the sweetness. Still, I understand how limited this beer was so I was still glad to try it.

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Photo of emmasdad
3.73/5  rDev -15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours from the bottle a deep, nebulous black, initially topped off with about an inch of rich mocha foam which shortly settles into a thin collar studded with random bubbles. Huge nose on this one, lots of freshly brewed espresso, bourbon, dark chocolate, dates and black pepper. Coffee is dominant on the palate here, along with a little cocoa, roasted malt, oak and vanilla. Finishes a little bit bitter, with some pronounced alcohol heat. The time in the bottle has done this one well. A very nice 21st birthday beer for a criminally underrated brewery.

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Photo of sisuspeed
3.75/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Finally cracked this guy after waiting for the best after date. Poured into a Hill Farmstead tasting glass at cellar temperature. Forms a thin tan head on top of a black body with a few patches of lacing here and there.

The nose is filled with dark roasted malt, somewhat faded (but still strong) coffee beans, hint of chocolate and whisky soaked wood. The whisky pulls out the alcohol a little bit and is more on the sweet side than the peaty side.

Flavor is a mixture of smooth roastiness, faded coffee and some whisky. A little bit chocolate comes through and maybe a touch of vanilla. A lot of good components here, but the beer seems to fall kind of flat. The individual flavors are just kind of muddled together instead of being well integrated like other aged beers.

Mouthfeel had plenty of carbonation and was fairly smooth with some alcohol warmth. The body however seemed to be too light for this kind of beer. Not watery, but still too thin.

Drinkability is good. I enjoyed sipping on this, but was kind of underwhelmed at the same time. With more and more barrel aged beers coming out these days, this one already seems outdone. Still a quality beer, but not worth seeking out unless it is easily obtainable.

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Photo of spoons
3.76/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber to a tulip. room temp.66.

This beer is black and has a good coffee colored head that fades to almost nothing after a few minutes.

The smell to me is a bit overwhelming. Lots of barreled twang in there. Almost sour. Definitely getting some chocolate. Alcohol burn as well.

The taste is a little too crisp at first. Followed by a full bitterness. After that chocolate is everywhere. It comes with the sweetness in the front and follows through with the bitterness in the back. Like a delicious extra dark chocolate bar.

If it werent for the almost sour nose on this it might be easy to drink, but that wasnt the case. It was actually not too easy to kill the bomber. I think I'll take a couple bottles to age and check again in a year.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.79/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Black in the middle dark brown to the edge. Tan head, 2/5". Aroma hit the chocolate, bourbon and oak notes.

Seen some bottle variation in these, sometimes the coffee seems to have changed to a weird acrid thing going for it that is also earthy and meaty. Alcohol can be substantial in the mouthfeel. My least favorite of the series until they came out with that pomegranite one.

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Photo of 2xHops
3.8/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I thought it was very interesting that I actually strongly preferred the 23rd anniversary bottle over this one. I found the flavor profile to be drastically different between the two.

The beer had a oily dark black appearance, and it's pretty typical of what you see in good porters.

The part about this beer that disappointed me the most was the taste. I could certainly taste the traditional porter profile along with some chocolate note. For me, the overpowering flavor was the burnt, roasting. I t did not taste as complex as I wanted. It did feed significantly different once you swished and swallowed.

I would bring it again if there's anything available left, only to have a vertical sampling. I just thought the 23rd Anniversary edition did a better job integrating all of the flavor profiles.

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Photo of Kirch
3.8/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Glass: New Belgium Globe
Aging Notes: Enjoy After 10/17/2010
Bang for the Buck (oz*%/$): 22*11/12 = 20.2

A: Inky dark, turbid. Lacey tan head, showing some roasted malt or maybe coffee.

S: Roasted malt, coffee, slight hot pepper, some malt.

T: A little one-dimensional on the coffee/hot pepper thang, but enjoyable. Extremely unique.

M: Lingering roasty-ness like coffee, a little oily. Carbonation pleasant. No alcohol heat.

O: This beer got me fucked up, despite strong efforts to mitigate its effects with water. Annoying for a beer session, nice for a friday after work. All the pieces put together are greater than the sum of the parts.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
3.83/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle split and poured into an imperial pint. 11% ABV, Best after 10/17/10 (well, there's more where that came from, so we tried it "fresh" to compare to aged.)

Thanks to Beerwolf77 for pulling another heavy hitter out of his stash.

A - Dark mahogany amber pokes out in highlights but it's primarily black. A tall tan head is lofty at first but drops fairly quickly to a thin layer and thin lace.

S - Wow. That's a surprising nose... The description mentions nothing about peppers used in the brewing process but the nose is full of chili powder. Low hints of chocolate and dry, dusty cocoa. A bit disappointing based on the expectation and description but again, we had it young. Age will tell here...

T - I can taste the crazy amount of chocolate and cocoa in this fully roasted malty porter. Coffee bean is present too but I'm still being distracted by the off flavor of chili powder that's all over the place.

M - Full-bodied and robust with a sharp flavor and mild spiciness to the finish. The spiciness is just throwing everything off too much here.

D - I can't wait to have an aged bottle of this to see how it's changed but right now I'm less than impressed based on what I've heard. I'm looking forward to what a year will do to this. I also don't understand why you'd release a beer before it's "good" Obviously from a business standpoint getting it out of storage is good, but it's frustrating nonetheless.

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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.

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Black Butte XXI from Deschutes Brewery
Beer rating: 4.39 out of 5 with 580 ratings