Black Butte XXI | Deschutes Brewery

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Black Butte XXIBlack Butte XXI

Brewed by:
Deschutes Brewery
Oregon, United States

Style: American 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."

Added by squaremile on 07-03-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Ratings: 580 |  Reviews: 377
Photo of craytonic
3.08/5  rDev -29.4%
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 Wasatch
4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My 2000th review
22oz. Bomber
Black Wax/Capped
Best After: 10/17/10

Poured into a chalice a black color, very nice carbonation, with an very nice dark tan creamy one-finger head, with some nice creamy sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, with lots of chocolate/toffee/coffee notes, some bourbon as well. The taste is sweet, malty, with lots of dark stuff, nice bourbon note. Full body, a easier sipper than the 11% ABV listed. Nice smooth/creamy brew. Very drinkable, an awesome brew for the occasion. Glad that we actually have it here in UT.

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Photo of Arceo
4.72/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This stuff is awesome, highly recommend it.
Smells strong of coffee, some chocolate too.
It has about everything there is to like about porters, with the alc boost and flavor profile of a desert.
Also highly drinkable, which could be dangerous too at 11%...

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Photo of WYVYRN527
4.65/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A friend of mine from California was kind enough to share this one with me.

A: Pours black as night with a creamy beige head that has ecxellent retention.

S: This one has a bit of everything going on. Vanilla, oak, coffee, chocolate, and some breadiness are most dominant.

T: Almost Identical to the aroma. Slight hint of vanilla and toasted oak, followed by some coffee and notes of cocoa. Hops are slightly present, giving the brew a nice dry finish.

M: This full bodied elixer coats the palate, and the finish has multiple stages that last for what seems like eons. The alcohol is is almost impossible to detect. There is no heat, despite it's high ABV.

D: Dangerous. If I didn't know this beer was 11%, I would probably try to consume it all night long.

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Photo of wknight167
4.4/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Apearance - Pours an opaque black with very little head that fades quickly.

Nose- Coffee, vanilla, oak, dark fruit, whiskey?

Palate- Chocolate,caramel, coffee, vanilla, sweet, dark fruit. A million things at once, but balanced. alcohol is present, but not offensive.

Mouthfeel- full bodied, but carbonation feels lively, adding to the drinkability

Drinkability- I would love to have another, but doing so would be a waste.

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Photo of nickfl
4.2/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - One finger of tan head on top of an opaque black body with some ruby highlights showing through. The foam settles slowly and leaves a thick coating of lace on the glass.

S - Notable chocolate malt and coffee. Fruity plum notes with caramel and some woody oak aroma.

T - Sweet, thick caramel malt up front with thick, bittersweet chocolate. Coffee appears in the middle with a dry bitterness and some nutty espresso notes. Finishes with some sweet, fruity alcohol notes and spicy pine hop flavor, as well as vanilla, black cherry, coffee and chocolate. Lingering chocolate covered coffee bean flavors with a hint of whiskey.

M - Thick, viscous body, moderate carbonation, and a somewhat sweet finish. Spicy alcohol that leaves some lingering warmth in the throat.

D - I am quite impressed that this beer manages to differentiate itself as a porter rather than an imperial stout with its emphasis on chocolate malt character over roast. Despite the chocolate nature of the malt, coffee dominates the overall flavor profile and it has quite a different, more espresso like character than that of roasted grain. The bourbon barrel aged portion seems to contribute relatively little to the overall impression of the beer, modifying the other flavors rather than standing out on its own. The label says best AFTER October 2010 (cute) and I am inclined to believe it. The alcohol is still a bit hot while the coffee and chocolate malt sweetness are bludgeoningly strong and lacking in subtlety; the flavors are bold, but seem like they could benefit from about a year to integrate. It is good now, but it probably does need some time to reach its peak.

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Photo of stoutfiend27
4.32/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bomber aquired in trade with genghis22 a while back...cracked this open last night to share with the guy that built our house who has become a good friend..poured into foothills 10oz glasses

a-black cola light penetration...little head but did have some nice toffee colored lacing..

s-coffee and a little bourbon up front...nice roasted grain bill...chocolate and hops found in the nose..

t-a tad boozy and bourbon up front...has some and vanilla and oak...can taste the slightest hops to hold it together...finishes on the chocolate,toffee and coffee side...heat and booze in the very end..

m-warms the mouth well....slick and oily...not as thick as i would have liked but i guess that to be expected with the barrel aging...little carb holds it together....

d-suffers a bit from the booze...but a bomber in one night is not too much...

overall a excellent brew..i still think this is young and green around the edges...glad i still have two bottles in the cellar to see what happens....

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.47/5  rDev +2.5%
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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Photo of BeachRez
4.6/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from bottle to wide glass.

A- Poured a very deep black color with a mild amber head. VERY SEXY!

S- The smell was of roasted malt and coffee. Somewhat of an alcohol aroma, but nothing overpowering.

T- I think this is very nice. I love to cocoa and coffee flavor. The alcohol is hidden to me. Just a really young tasting stout that I think is going to age so well.

M- This is smooth. This carbonation. Easy alcohol and pefect coffee/cocoa/malt flavor.

This is drinkable. I will probably drink a bottle very 6 months I like so much. Can't wait to see what happens to this in the next 2 years.

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Photo of SamN
3.9/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bomber purchased from Pringle's Wine & Spirits, wax sealed, poured into a dimpled stein.

A-Black as night in my glass, bubbly foamy head that dissipates quickly. Just a little ring of bubbles around the edge. Man, this is one dark beer.

S- Smells of rich malt and sweet booze, coffee, bourbon, spices, brown sugar. Fantastic smell, a little too spritzy and light smelling. Very sweet nose.

T- Oh man, that first sip is wonderful. Lots of bitterness, strong alcohol warmth, smokey tasting, great depth of flavor here. On the other hand, it's still a little immature tasting (I fear I opened this too soon); a soda-like quality, with a thick cloyingly sweet aftertaste. Bubbly and kind of spicy on the tongue. Yes, this beer is definitely too young; I can only imagine the smooth and massively flavorful liquid that must evolve over two or three years.

M- Highly carbonated, too much so for what is essentially an imperial porter; it gives it a spicy bite that overpowers the subtle tastes available in this beer. It is very full bodied.

D- Again, a highly capable beer that suffers from being entirely too damn young. I was advised to forgo the "Best by" date and drink immediately, but I am now regretting that decision. Now drinkability suffers because of bad advice.

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Photo of JWD
4.1/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up today at Total wine.

A- very dark, almost pitch black with a little light showing through. Looks fairly thick.

S- Dark chocolate, roasted coffee

T- Good, very nice imperial porter/light stout taste.

M- worst part of this brew, very light body and thin for such a big beer

D- good, the ABV is warming but i am drinking well before the drink after date of 10/2010

Overall i was impressed with all aspects of this minus the mouthfeel with was thinner than expected for such a big beer.

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Photo of DwnTwnBwn
4.45/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured into a snifter a black liquid, slight brown color under light near the edges, Khaki head falls to a rip around the glass, laces well.

S - The aroma is a big sweet roasted malt aroma, notes of coffee and chocolate, there is an alcohol presence.

T - There is a lot of roasted flavor to this beer. It starts off with a choc late dark fruit flavor then moves to a coffee finish. Very sweet. A touch of hops lingers at the very end. There is a slight hit of villain and oak.

M - A slightly less then full bodied beer. Good amount of carbonation. Not too cloying. Leaves the palette cwitha clean sweet malt.

D - This is a very good imperial Porter. It doesn't over power with any one taste. Its a good winter warmer, thought it was supposed to be a summer beer. Overall its impressive and I will be adding a few to the cellar for some time.

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Photo of GarrisWH
4.5/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours an opaque dark brown, bordering on black, with a creamy tan head that drops down rather quickly. Retains a thin cap throughout drinking and leaves some solid lacing.

S - Roasted, dark malts with cocoa and coffee coming through. There is also a hint of dark fruit as well as some oaky bourbon aromas in the background.

T - Very sweet, earthy, roasted malts up front with a pronounced coffee and dark chocolate character. There are also hints of oak, vanilla, cherries, and a little bit of smokiness. The finish brings a bit of heat from the alcohol as well as some hop dryness. Leaves a lingering coffee, "bourbon-ish" flavor in the aftertaste. A nice combination of flavors.

M - Full bodied with a smooth, creamy feel. Has a nice, crisp carbonation that helps even out the fullness.

D - A very interesting and complex brew. Alcohol is well hidden, but makes this one a definite sipper. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and look forward to cracking another one somewhere down the road to see how it ages.

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Photo of IRONRakkasan
4.2/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew had been resting in my fridge for a few weeks, bidding its time. Glad to have finally enjoyed it.

The very dark beer left a good finger and a half head once poured. It looked thick, and felt thick on teh tongue.

The aroma was coffee with slight sour apple notes. Interesting.

I didnt find any sour apple taste, but it was a sweet coffee and raisin malt. The alcohol was apparent, but definitely not overpowering. The aftertaste was minimal and pleasant as well.


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Photo of russpowell
4.59/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours mahogany with a finger of mocha colored head. Nice viscosity to this; above average head retention & lacing

S: Dark fruit & oakyness, plus vanilla notes, once warm, a touch of sherry as well, beautiful nose to this

T: Coffee, burnt grain, dark fruit (raisins & dark cherry) & dark chocolate. Dark chocolate, plums, oaky vanilla, coffee & a touch of booze as this warms; plus dryness. Finishes dry, boozey, oaky & with some mocha, dryness drags this down a bit for me

MF: Medium bodied, oily, low carbonation, pretty darn rich

Drinks pretty easy for the abv, just enough coffee for me. I think I liked XX more, but this would be an awesome 2nd choice. Can't wait for XXII!

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Photo of Beaver13
3.31/5  rDev -24.1%
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 maximum12
4.37/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thanks to the online beer stores who sent me several of these. Them places is invaluable to us stuck in the middle of the country who can't get any of Deschutes precious brews.

Very curious to see how this stacks up to the XX - comparisons are inevitable in my tiny little brain since the XX was so damn good. Had one of these just after it came out & it still seemed muddled, but couldn't wait any longer to see what it's up to. Three months should be enough!

Poured during the infamous Monday Night Football game, Favre vs. the Packers. It's black, a nice shade, kind of dark. Tan head. Easy on the nose, bourbon & coffee come out on top.

Black Butte XXI hasn't quite lived up to its predecessor yet, but getting close. The flavors are starting to play together politely: bourbon, chocolate, coffee, dark malts, all present, nothing shouting for attention, but everything goood.

Starts out thin on the pour, this one needs to warm up before smell, mouthfeel, & taste hit their peak, even more so than most brews. Like XX, drinkability is a strong point. Because this isn't over-bourboned, over-coffeed, etc. I could drink a bomber or more of this while sitting around with my hand in my boxers.

Excellent beer. I think it can get better. Not going to break open another bottle until at least the new year. Might reach A or A+ level by that time. Eager to find out!

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Photo of RomaniIteDomum
4.78/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this at a tasting I stumbled upon with a few local BAs. Great time with great people.

The beer poured black, which happens to be one of my favorite beer colors. Little carbonation, nice lacing.

The smell was surprisingly sweet for something the color of liquified sin. Some vanilla, chocolate, and coffee present.

The taste was very, very nice, similar to the nose. Surprisingly not much alcohol taste. Great beer. Too busy drinking to do much writing.

Creamy, very creamy. Not much carbonation, but very smooth.

I had to add this to my wants. I fell in love with this beer from the get-go. Great beer.

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Photo of loren01
4.85/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Pours jet black color, good sized brown head with good lacing down the glass.
S: Smell is of chocolate, roasted malts and coffee
T: Sweet, chocolatey with a coffee/espresso aftertaste.
M: Very thick and heavy sticky mouthfeel
D: This beer is so tasty...I loved it. Goes down way easy for an 11% ABV beer.

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Photo of rayjay
3.61/5  rDev -17.2%
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 Thorpe429
3.87/5  rDev -11.2%
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.

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Photo of spointon
4.3/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I poured this one from a 22oz brown bomber bottle (with waxed cap) into a tulip pint glass. Thanks to the great BA roadhouse for bringing me this treat from his recent pilgrimage to Portland.

A= This ale poured a deep blackish brown that allowed zero light penetration when held to a bright lamp. The lighter than expected tan head rose a full 3/4" with an aggressive pour and left a lot of sticky lace rings down my glass.

S= Big aromas of heavy dark malt, coffee, chocolate, chickory, treacle, and burned sugar. There was a fair touch of bourbon and a rich alcohol burn, but it was not overwhelming in any way.

T= Much like the smell, but a bit more rough around the edges. The caramel and toffee sweetness of the crystal malt is balanced nicely by the coffee and dark chocolate bitterness of the roasted malt. The finish showed a few rough edges of bourbon barrel but also a few nice ones in the form of vanilla and oak. Some alcohol warmth but nothing too intense.

MF= Heavy side of medium bodied with a fairly soft but active carbonation and slightly slick feel on the palate.

D= Dangerously drinkable - this beer hides its 11% well!

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Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

dark dark black espresso head
listen here to what I said

Aroma strong, coffee, and chocolate
dark malts too and quite lots of it

Taste is heavy, thick, and sweet
Man this beer is really neat!

Mouthfeel thick , really chewy
finish lingers, do it to it

These Deschutes X beers are tops
I wish I could get them on tap at Pops

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.4/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Trying to save money and drinking some cellar brews tonight... I can't believe that I've never reviewed this. Poured into my Delirium goblet.

Pretty 2 finger lite tan head... great cap and lace.... the brew is pretty much black until held to a bare bulb and only then a slight very clear deep mahogany appears at the edges.

Nose is fudgey chocolate essence with some vanilla and mild oak... roasty with something that reminds of cinnamon in Mexican cocoa.

Flavor is intoxicating... like a dessert prior to some love-making :-) decadent and rich chocolate.. a little leathery ... subtle smoke.. not as much coffee as just nice waves of roasty malts that are complimented by just the right amount of barrel flavors... finish lasts forever.. a bit of a French Roast bite may be a much at the end.. but it's balanced nicely by some vanilla and oaky sweetness..

The body is lighter than I remember the XX... but I'm have a really hard time coming up with any flaws...

Overall.. I think this is gonna be a true champion with some age on it. I honestly don't appreciate the "best after date" thing.. It seems like a good scheme to get people into cellaring and savoring (brilliant marketing and great for building palates) ... but for me, I think I can tell when a brew needs some bottle time... and this one doesn't "need" it... but it will definitely benefit.


Edit: I've had this on tap probably at least a half dozen times... and the draft is fucking phenomenal.... Draft seems more integrated .. at least my neurons say so.

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Photo of Bung
4.05/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. Sturdy black pour, brown around the edges with minimal cream head. Very strong roast aroma, mostly coffee, some malt and dark chocolates, light booze. Taste is very heavy roast coffee with all sorts of accents, licorice, oak, cocoa, roast malt. Unfortunately it is tough to get by the heavy espresso like qualities. Some vanilla, molasses and whisky follow. Mostly bitter coffee and boozey whisky finish. Very warming, very full bodied. It was tough to get through a large quantity of this. They do not lie when they print a best after date. This was a good big beer, but aging will help it out hopefully. Definetely prefer the Abyss, even without the age on Abyss. Unique take on a porter, worth trying, better worth trying to age I think.

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Black Butte XXI from Deschutes Brewery
4.36 out of 5 based on 580 ratings.
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