Friday, November 23, 2012
Quick Sips: Deschutes Black Butte XXIII
Deschutes. I'm a New Jersey guy, so their amazing beers are not available to me unless I trade beer. And that's exactly how I got Deschutes Black Butte XXIII, a big ass porter (almost 11%) brewed with cocoa nibs, orange peel, and with a portion aged in bourbon barrels, available exactly ONCE.
Wait, a portion aged in bourbon barrels? Nonsense! Because despite only 25% of this being bourbon barrel aged, it's BOOZY as fark! Anyway ...
Pour it and take a whiff. The nose is alcohol and chocolate with deep sweet breads. Even by the smell, this beer means business.
You need to drink the damn thing, though, so you pour a glass and despite the high alcohol some nice carbonation is there – this beer poured with a rich, frothy head that quickly disappeared – but it’s gone fast, giving the beer a silky, slightly slick feel on the palate.
The taste? Mild chocolate in front with some bourbon heat in the middle. Orange notes poke through in the end. This beer is 10.8% with some fairly complex flavors (bourbon, orange, chocolate, etc.), but most of them fight pretty hard for dominance. The beer could have used some time for all these elements to come together a little more smoothly. Deschutes recognizes this by putting a best AFTER date on the bottle of 6/15/12 despite this being a 2011 beer. (Who does that?) Despite the BEST AFTER, I drank this beer around July 2012, after their recommended date, and it STILL needed more time.
One thing that surprised me was the booze. The bourbon isn’t overpowering sure, but it’s far more present in the middle than you’d expect considering the barrel-aged portion makes up only 25% of this blend. And as this beer warms it just gets boozier and boozier.
All that said, it's easy to see why the special editions of Black Butte are sought after each year. This beer is complex and delicious, definitely worth sinking into if you're a beer geek, but take a pass if you just want a good beer beer.