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
Reviews: 377 | Ratings: 580
Photo of DucksFan16
4.8/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22 oz. bottle.

Pours a dark black with a creamy tan head. Aroma of chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, and roasted malts. Flavor is very rich. Regular Black Butte is one of my favorite porters anywhere, and this version is absolutely incredible. This is without a doubt one of the best bourbon barrel aged beer that I’ve had.

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Photo of Urbancaver
4.7/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had this a number of times and really really enjoy it.

Pours a dark thick brown. Almost black. A nice tan head.
Smells coffee heavy. Lots of roast with a nice sweet malt backbone. Some light oak on the nose. Improves as it warms to reveal considerable complexity. Tastes roasted and full bodied. A ton of roasted flavours with just a touch of oak from the bourbon barrels. the oak and vanilla are very subtle. Love the coffee flavours on the tongue. Thick solid mouthfeel. Well carbonated. Sits perfectly on the tongue. Overall one of my favourite brews!

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Photo of grittybrews
4.59/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Opened 06/2011. Poured a dark cola brown into a tulip with a thin slick of light khaki head. Strong, roasty aroma dominated by cocoa, coffee, and sticky bourbon vanilla.

Moderate carbonation and a full, creamy mouthfeel -- not too heavy. Bourbon and caramel up front with waves of molasses and chocolate. Long, roasty coffee finish with hints of warm, oaky vanilla.

This one was worth saving for a special occasion. All the huge flavors of a stout but a little lighter in body. Just enough boozy warmth at the end to keep things interesting, but really smooth and balanced on the whole.

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Photo of youradhere
4.95/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had in a XX, XXI, XXIII vert. Pitch black body, ample tan head. Smells of tootsie rolls and chocolate, slight coffee and char, slight orange. Taste is similar with a slight chili flavor; as it warms there is more coffee and chili.

Bottle opens with a pop, pours black with tan head. Head falls gradually to leave lacing cap over the top of a dark and murky body with ruby edges. Smells like chocolat covered fruit, slight chocolate, vanilla, oak, caramel, toffee. Really complex. Taste is coffee and heavy chocolate, smokey oakey in the back, some chocolate covered orange, good stuff here, really mellowed out over the years. Carbonation is strong, mild sweetness that doesnt act too cloying. Mouthfeel is medium strong and veeeery drinkable, I don't think the few I have left will past too many years more.

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Photo of FARGO619
5/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Pours dark brown, almost black with about a 1 finger light tan colored head. Good retention, and minimal lacing.

S- Big chocolate and roasted malts, with integrated coffee tones and nice light bourbon notes. A very well integrated and full nose on this one.

T- More chocolate coffee comes through with fantastic oak bourbon undertones. Smooth vanilla notes and roasted malts also appear once in warms. Heat from the barrel is there in the finish, but there is absolutely no trance of alcohol. This is a great tasting beer.

M- Very creamy, smooth, with light carbonation. Coats the mouth with a velvety texture that warms the throat as it goes down.

O- Such a great beer. Thanks to the people from Deschutes Oregon. Thank you and keep making these great gems.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.35/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Shared this one with beeruser, funkydelic, and Ryan (can't remember his handle right now) during one our weekly tasting sessions. Big thanks goes out to futura123 for sending me this one in a past trade! Best after 10/17/10! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller flute. Poured a massively dark brown with a one finger light tan head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained nice lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, coffee, and dark chocolate. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, coffee, dark chocolate, and wood. It had a heavy feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Overall this brew was quite excellent. Everyone at the tasting really seemed to enjoy this one. All of the flavors were very nice and forward and all worked quite well together. The aroma was also quite inviting and pleasurable. Definitely a nice brew without a doubt!

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

aquired in a trade with kdub87. I have been anticipating having this beer again, since Dark Lord Day 2010. Its been long awaited for sure, I remember this being an awesome beer. This beer is 2 years old this month!

poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Black as midnight. Medium brown head about 2 fingers head. Sticky lacing on side of glass.

Smell: Big coffee note and some whiskey. Malts smell roasty, burnt and even a little sweet probably from the chocolate. Mild astrigency from the oxidation of ageing the beer, i am guessing. Great smelling beer!

Taste: This beer is as good as I remember it. It starts with big roasty coffee flavor which is balanced by the whiskey. The coffee flavor is not bitter and very flavorful, just like a premium coffee. I am amazed at how much coffee flavor is still left in this beer; makes me wonder just how this beer would have tasted fresh. As the beer warms, it goes from coffee forward to a more balanced whiskey flavor with the coffee. The beer also has sweeter taste and the slight hint of an alcohol burn is noticed. Other flavors imparted from the barrell mild vanilla, oak or woody character that is deep, but seems linger in the background. Complex and balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate carbonation. This beer has a lot of carbonation left for a beer thats 2 years old. Its a sipper for sure!

Overall: Wonderful beer by Deschutes! Just wish i could have tried it fresh for comparison. This beers is aging very, very well. One of the best barrel aged porter i have had, the only thing that came close has been barrel aged Killer Kapowski by Flossmoor Station. Deschutes is a top notch brewery.

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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 russwbeck
4.4/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Best after 10/17/10. Can't wait to try this! Almost exactly 2 years old.

A: Dark pour with a light brown head. The dark brown head I'm accustomed to seeing with big dark Bourbon/Chocolate/Coffee beers is not present and is missed. The retention and lacing are lacking a little.

S: Certainly not a Bourbon bomb here. With that said, the smell isn't very impressive. Chocolate and Bourbon mostly, but sort of musty almost. It does, however, improve as it warms. The Bourbon and chocolate really come out a lot more. I was originally going to rate this at 3.5, but after it warms I went with a 4.

T: This is where the beer shines. Wow. Extremely complex and well balanced. Lots of flavors going on, but very mellow. The taste starts with chocolate, very light to begin with. The Bourbon comes up next, not dominating, just popping up to say hello. At this point the beer is sweet, but not quite Dark Lord sweet. Roasted malts and a slight booziness (and I mean slight, it's only slightly noticeable) end the beer. Far after the beer has been consumed, the coffee comes back in a big way. It could not be any more on the backend, but is welcomed immensely. As was noted by my drinking partner, the complexity evolves and strengthens as the beer warms. It seems to coat the tongue in a way that negates the booziness that was previously noted.

MF: Medium bodied. What I keep reminding myself is that it's a porter not an imperial stout. The carbonation might be a tad low, but it certainly isn't off-putting.

O: Really a wonderful treat. This beer is aging very well. I wish I could have had it fresh to compare, but I can't imagine it being better.

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

black as the moonless night had on tap at toronado

smell is just so stoutlike, tons of chocolate and coffee and deep baking goods nose

taste - incredible, so rich, so bitter - cacao nibs, espresso grinds, and harsh licorice, maybe some persimmon on the finish.

overall this is a bomb example of a huge ridiculous porter that just oozes bitter black character and pounds your tastebuds but does it respectfully!

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

Special thanks to Renny (Diomede) for this bottle.

650mL black waxed bottle into a Deschutes snifter. Best after date of 10/17/10.

A- Pours dark brown, almost black with about a 1 finger light tan colored head. Good retention, and minimal lacing.

S- Big chocolate and roasted malts, with integrated coffee tones and nice light bourbon notes. A very well integrated and full nose on this one.

T- More chocolate coffee comes through with fantastic oak bourbon undertones. Smooth vanilla notes and roasted malts also appear once in warms. Heat from the barrel is there in the finish, but there is absolutely no trance of alcohol. This is a great tasting beer.

M- Very creamy, smooth and viscous, with light carbonation. Coats the mouth with a velvety texture that warms the throat as it goes down.

O- Completely impressed with this beer, and lived up to what I thought it would be. Flavors have melded very well in the bottle and I love the subtle barrel components, as most -bal beers tend to be overshadowed by them and little of the base beer remains. I definitely wish I had another bottle of this, and I'm looking forward to this year's release of XXIII.

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Photo of dubinsky
4.6/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle into a Crate & Barrel snifter. Best after date 10/17/10

A - Pours pitch black, with a one finger khaki color head that recedes very quickly. The remainder of the head resigns it self to the edges of the glass with very minimal lacing.

S - Rich, roasted coffee and bourbon dominate the nose. Dark chocolate, oak, and vanilla round out the remainder of the profile.

T - I cant believe this beer doesn't garner as much hype as the BA stouts. This beer has many of those stouts trumped. Tons of roasted coffee, chocolate, vanilla and masterfully balanced and blended, oaked bourbon. I'm also picking up some molasses and cinnamon. All of the ingredients compliment each other amazingly.

M - Fairly light carbonation and medium mouth feel, even though the beer is fairly viscous. Finishes dry, roasty, and slightly hoppy. Finishes with a warming effect that can only be the 11%ABV that is only apparent because of the warming.

O - Like i said earlier, this is an amazing BA that should be as desirable as the rarest BA stouts. All of the elements of this beer are so balanced and harmonious. Its very rich and decadent yet is incredibly drinkable.

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Photo of claspada
4.17/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Edit: Was lucky to find a 2nd bottle, sampled 2/3/12. Much roastier and bitter than I remember, where are the dark fruits that I got in the first bottle, who knows, maybe that was an off bottle.

Huge shoutout to TheViceBlog for trading me his last bottle. Promised him a review so here it is.
Pours dark as night into a Belgian style tulip glass. Gorgeous cream 1 finger head with nice lacing.
Wow, I can smell it from here. Dark roasted malts are fairly evident but the dark cherry fruitiness is the nice subtle surprise. Dark bittersweet chocolate and ample amounts of baker's dutch cocoa powder as well. As is warms I can get some toffee and espresso and dark caramel maltiness as well.
The taste is WOW period. It begins with waves of both dark and milk chocolate flavors with supporting contributions of sweet toffee and lesser amounts of freshly ground espresso. As it warms you get the dark fruits (black cherry and red wine vinous grapes) that I detected on the nose which I have detected in aged dark malt dominant beers before. If I had to use only one flavor descriptor I would say it tastes like a liquid cherry cordial candy.
Mouthfeel is full and luscious as expected with adequate carbonation throughout to help balance the sweet flavors and high ABV. Oh yeah 11% ABV are you serious, wow no way. Not a hint of booziness or alcohol heat.
Overall wow, just wow. The only downside I can mention is I don't detect any barrel flavors; maybe that is a good thing and I am just used to "bad" barrel aged beers. I am surprised by the minimal amount of coffee/bitterness that others describe but maybe that is the age factor. Reminds me slightly of a Brooklyn Black Chocolate multiplied by 5 obviously though.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.77/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had this on tap at the Portland Brewpub. Severed in a Deschutes Snifter.

A - A dark, deep brown, not quite black. Very thin, dark tan head that clings to the edges.

S - Chocolate, coffee, toffee, very slight booze.

T - Chocolate is the dominate flavor here, some coffee tones, molasses, bourbon.

D - This is where most Big Beers can fail, but not this one. Smooth, balanced, flavors are bouncing around in your mouth.

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Photo of inthebeeraisle
3.92/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap today at the Deschutes Brewery pub in Portland as part of American Craft Beer week. Served in a snifter.

A: A really dark color with a very small amount of head that dissipates pretty quick.

S: Aromas of alcohol, licorice, and molasses.

T: A licorice taste as well. Boozy, but balanced.

M: The mouthfeel has a molasses stay with you feeling, but the beer is thinner then expected.

O: Pumped they had this on, surprised it was XXI and not XXII. I'm more of an Abyss guy it seems.

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Photo of Florida9
4.29/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours dark brown, but appears black in the glass. Forms a large, big bubbled dark tan head that reduces down to a faint surface coating. Very little lacing.

S: The complex aroma of cocoa, chocolate, coffee, and vanilla.

T: Starts with a blend of lightly sweet and bitter coffee that fades to a soft chocolate. Mild bitterness.

M: On the heavier side of medium with a slight syrupy or oily mouthfeel. Appropriate carbonation.

O: A nice, complex porter; easy drinking and toroughly enjoyable.

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Photo of sendsilk
4.12/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Shared with Forgetfu at a recent tasting. Thanks Bill!

A- Nice and dark, nice head mocha colored.

S- Pretty sweet, malts and bourbon smell, Daddy like!

T- Very good, a little hot but not nearly as hot as Black Butte XX. It was amazing how I liked this one better than the XX in a side by side tasting. But you could definitely taste the alcohol in both.

M- Solid, good, boozy and fairly rich for a porter.

O- Now that I've had it I can retire this one from my wants. A good porter but for the quest of it there are plenty of other great beers that are far easier for me to come by.


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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 JayQue
4.5/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is as enjoyable in its own way as The Abyss. A very flavorful (Imperial?) Porter. Pours a dense black color with only a hint of light coming through at the bottom of the glass. A hard pour gives you a 2-3 inch tan head with great retention for an 11% beer. Good thick lacing on the glass.

Smell is great as well. roasted malts, milk chocolate, coffee and a hint of oak. There is a floral/light perfume quality about the aroma, Not your typical malt/coffee porter.

Great taste too! An expert blend of coffee, sweet chocolate and malt with some oak flavoring as part of the gently balancing bitterness.

Mouthfeel is rich and smooth. No hint of the 11% abv. An easy drinking, rich and flavorful Porter.

This is another outstanding beer from Deschutes.

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Photo of oline73
4.1/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours black with no light coming through. One and a half finger thick creamy tan head.

Smell: I'm picking up a ton of roast. Sweet dark chocolate, bourbon, and mild vanilla.

Taste: Again, there is a lot of smokey roast. The coffee flavor is very mild. I'm also picking up dark chocolate, dark fruit, and bourbon. The alcohol doesn't overwhelm at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium to thick body, but definitely not as thick as I thought it would be. The carbonation is smooth and creamy and the finish is a bit slick.

Overall: This beer was a bit different than I thought it would be, but not in a bad way. The roast flavors dominated the sweetness. The flavors blend together well, and I really enjoyed the mild bourbon taste. I'd definitely have this one again.

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Photo of NorCalYeti
4.39/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

taste- nestle toll house semi-sweet chocolate, bitter citrus hoppiness, roasted coffee

color- deep chestnut/brown

clarity- pours clear but opaque in the glass

smell- wood smoke, dark chocolate, molasses, red wine, leather, alcohol, sweet malt, biscuits

body- tightly-wound, smooth, hop bite at the front of the mouth, bitter hop/sweet malt finish, oily mouthfeel, medium weight and length finish, bitter roasted coffee character in the finish

appearance- thin coffee-colored head that disappears quickly, oily appearance to the beer, little to no lace but carbonation is present when the beer is agitated.

overall impression- above average barrel aged porter, nice interpretation of the style

notes and comments- bottle states best after 10/17/10

beer spy- monument wines and spirits, concord ca, 2010, 22oz

glassware: tulip

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

Poured from a bomber into a snifter, bottle best after 10/17/10. Lots of chocolate, and coffe on the nose, hints of bourbon. The flavor is lots like the nose, very chocolate, coffee, vanilla, oak, bourbon. Everythin is in excellent balance. The beer has a wonderfull, lingering finish. The beer is creamy, full bodied, well carbonated. A great beer, top notch.

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

Had this from the tap on the night of Deschutes Base Camp Week at Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale, AZ on Friday, April 8th.

Dark as night. Smooth, mellow, and strong roasted malt with barely any alcohol presence. Consistent and one of the better Porters that I've had. I've had this same beer out of the bottle without any aging. This definitely improves upon that with the aging and come from a keg. Such a great beer.

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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

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Photo of nataku00
4.7/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap poured into a tulip glass. Beer is a very dark brown, opaque and bordering on black, with a half a finger of light brown mocha colored foamy and creamy head. Held up to a light, edges allow a bit of lighter brown color show through, and a bit of carbonation seen slowly rising from the bottom of the glass. Light lacing that slides easily back into the glass, and a bit of alcohol feed greasing the way for it.

Taking a sniff from the glass, lots of chocolate, semisweet and rich, some dark roasted malts on the lighter side of the roast, and smooth fruity coffee. A bit of molasses and light vanilla sweetness as well. Very fragrant and well balanced aroma.

For a porter, this is bordering on an imperial stout in robust flavor on the tongue. An explosion of milk chocolate sweetness and fruitier and complex dark chocolate flavor hits the tongue, a touch of roasted malt bitterness to help keep the sweetness in check, and some nice mild roasted coffee as well. Mid tongue, there is a bit of the barrel presence in vanilla and light oak, but the chocolate is immense. Nice lingering fruity chocolate on the tongue after each sip.

Very fine carbonation combined with a medium body for a creamy mouth feel. Smooth and luxurious, like a well made hot chocolate, served cool. Not much alcohol burn in the flavor, masked by the excellent chocolate notes, but there is a bit of warmth in the throat after each sip to remind you this is a big beer. I wish I can still find bottles of this excellent beer.

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