Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR
Style: American Porter / Robust Porter
Stats: 5.2% ABV / 30 IBU’s
Deschutes is in Minnesota! I’ve known for a couple months that I’d soon be able to find Deschutes beers here, and my excitement peaked when I found out through beernews.org that one of the introductory beers would be Black Butte Porter.
Black Butte (the beer, not the mountain whence it draws its name) is an old beer-friend of mine, and has long been my favorite porter. During my years of living in the Pacific Northwest, this was the closest I had to a regular beer – meaning that every fourth or fifth six-pack I bought was most likely Black Butte. I would not call Black Butte a benchmark for other US porters, because I feel it’s too good to be the “standard.” Instead, Black Butte blends porter’s working-class origins and a delicious elegance that I wish more porters in this country would aspire to.
This is not meant to disparage Black Butte’s brother and sister porters; after all, were I forced to name a favorite beer style, it would be porter. However, I’ve had my share of porters that are simply a stout made scrawny by using less crystal malt and roasted barley, leaving me with little more than the memory of a thin, slowly-dissipating sensation of charred chocolate.
Okay… time to step off of the soap box, and on to the review:
As soon as I open the bottle, delicious smells of coffee, chocolate, and caramel waft into the room.
A vigorous pour results in a creamy, one-finger head consisting of large loose bubbles. Over the next two minutes, the head diminishes to a thick layer of foam atop the beer. The beer itself is black; dark and thick enough to compete with any stout for color. Held up to the light, I observe scant brown highlights along the curve of the glass.
The aroma in the glass is more of everything that I smelled upon popping the top: coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel, with a very light smoky character developing over time.
The flavors largely reflect the smells. This is an artful blend of coffee, chocolate and caramel, with some nice toffee and bready notes. A respectable bitterness balances the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel, and then the beer finishes in a slightly roasted flourish and a tease of grassy hops.
There is ample body here to accompany the well-rounded flavors, and a healthy dose of carbonation. As the beer warms and the carbonation escapes, the mouthfeel develops a vinous quality.
If you are a lover of dark beers and would like a sessionable-yet-delicious alternative to all those tasty imperial porters that are all the rage right now, it would certainly behoove you to try Black Butte – you won’t be disappointed!