Deschutes Brewery’s slogan—”Bravely Done”—appears on the underside of pretty much all of their bottle caps, but that phrase will probably be most appreciated when you open their Black Butte XXVI Reserve Porter. No, this isn’t some Fear Factor-inspired beer with ingredients crafted from beetle larvae (though we wouldn’t put that past the craft beer scene right now). But this is a big, boisterous beer, measuring in at a boozy 10.8%—not as high-octane as the 12.1% Not the Stoic quad, but still potent enough that drinking it on an empty stomach could become an intoxicating experience. Literally.
The Black Butte XXVI pours a deep, inky brown, much like its name would imply. The density of that color reflects the beer’s key ingredients: dates, figs, pomegranate molasses, Oregon cranberries, and the dry spice of Theo Chocolate’s cocoa nibs, which anchor this imperial porter before it’s aged in bourbon casks for six months. The aroma is as deep and complex as its color: cocoa, stone fruit, and tart berries. Sip through the thin, deep tan-colored head and you get more of that dried fruit, along with a nice measure of oak from the barrel and distinct tastes of vanilla and malt. The nominal carbonation adds to the overall richness and its full, velvety mouthfeel. Yet the overall texture doesn’t articulate the beer’s high-alcohol content; instead the edges of sweetness merely hint at it—which can be a dangerous proposition.
This is a big beer, make no mistake. Which seems appropriate given that this annual release is crafted in honor of the first Black Butte Porter, the brewery’s flagship beer introduced 26 years ago (hence the string of Roman numerals at the end of this year’s release). The Black Butte XXVI therefore stands as an example of the brewery’s longevity in both thriving in an ever-crowded market, and making damn fine beer the whole time.
City: Bend, OR