Deschutes' Black Butte XXI & XXIII (Reserve Series)

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    Another week, another beer from the Deschutes Reserve Series, but I must correct myself, because we’ve got two beers this week. We’ve got a match up between Black Butte XXI and the recently released Black Butte XXIII. Now, we can’t do a true head to head, because the recipes of these Black Buttes are a bit different. Yes, they both have an ABV of 11% and 55 IBUs, but Deschutes went a bit “mad” with the Black Butte XXIII. So, let’s see how “mad”, and normal do against each other, shall we?


    Deschutes writes this about their Black Butte XXI on their website:


    Using select cocoa nibs and locally roasted coffee, Deschutes partnered with equally passionate local artisans to craft this potent, colossal homage to Black Butte Porter. A final aging in aromatic whiskey barrels infuses a truly handcrafted depth and the complexity of fine wine.


    The Black Butte XXI pours a thick light creamy chocolate head, i.e. light brown. The look of this is pure darkness, and I want to say even blacker than the Abyss, but that might be blasphemy. Head – 9, Look -15. The smell is simple, but brilliant. Bitter notes radiate through with coffee, smoky roasted malt, and oak characteristics. Sometimes strict simple aromas are fantastic. Smell – 25.


    This beer tastes like I expected, which isn’t a critic, but a complement.  It hits the palate dry and smoky with peat flavors and light chocolate notes. The aftertaste has a light hop presence, but mostly bittersweet.  Palate – 9, Aftertaste – 9.  The first sip pretty much kept consistent with the last. It has a very smoky flavor with robust bittersweet notes, as well as coffee and chocolate notes that radiate from the key flavors. Flavor – 28.


    Rating: 95/100


    Alright, now to the Black Butte XXIII. This is what they have to say on their website about the Black Butte XXIII: XXIII.


    So where to next? What's 2011's rich, imperial take on Black Butte Porter? Just for kicks, you dream. Orange zest perhaps? From Spanish Oranges. Seville, to be exact. And Chocolate nibs. Pampered nibs from the artisanal alchemists at Theo. Maybe some chilies? Pasilla Negra only, please. That would be crazy wouldn't it? Welcome to crazy. Get it while you can.


    The head on the Black Butte XXIII is a light brown color (chocolate) that has a creamy texture, but it quickly dissipates. Much like the color of the XXI it’s very black – engine oil black. Head – 8, Look – 15. The best explanation of the aroma of this beer is a chocolate orange ball. It has bittersweet chocolate aroma with a strong caramelized sugar presence; almost syrup like. The orange zest comes through behind the more dominant dark flavors, but it’s there. Smell – 23.


    This beer hits the palate sweet with alcohol, chocolate, and orange. The initial taste is an exaggeration of the aroma. Aftertaste is bittersweet and dry, after which the coffee flavors come through. Palate – 8, Aftertaste – 8. The overall flavor had a strong bittersweet chocolate presence with orange citrus coming through in the background. The dark malt is a big delicious player in this beer with a velvety mouth feel. This is a big flavor beer with some strong alcohol notes. Flavor – 26.5.


    Rating: 88.5/100


    Both these beers are fantastic, and somewhat different as you can see by how Deschutes went about crafting the recipe for the XXIII, but what is definitive is these beers get so much better with age.  The XXIII is still a little young, but the uniqueness makes me excited for it in a year, and I feeling it will win me over from the XXI. Now, the Black Butte XXI isn’t easy to find, and you most likely will be unable to find a bottle of it, but sleep easy knowing that the XXIII is here and available for aging. I know I’ve been sounding like a Deschutes salesman the last couple weeks, but I’ve been very impressed with these reserve series beers. More importantly, I’ve been really able to see the effects of age on beers without having to invest the time cellaring myself, which is a BIG plus! Once again, I highly recommend finding these beers and cellaring/drinking them. We are nearing the end of the Deschutes Reserve Series series with the last reserve being a 2009 Mirror Mirror Barleywine.