Brewed in Bend, Ore.—and soon in Roanoke, Va.—Deschutes distributes across the United States, pleasing craft beer drinkers everywhere with their year-round and seasonal releases. But to many enthusiasts, the brewery’s Reserve Series offerings are the ones that are most anticipated. Including The Abyss and The Dissident, this series also offers up a yearly favorite, the special release Black Butte birthday reserve beer.
This year is Black Butte XXIX, an American porter brewed with Pale, Wheat, C75, Chocolate and Midnight Wheat malts and hopped up with Cascade, Millennium and Tettnang hops. Other ingredients in this celebratory brew include Dutch cocoa, Saigon cinnamon and cayenne pepper. After brewing, half of this big beer is aged in rum and bourbon bottles before being capped and waxed into 22-ounce bottles for distribution.
Pouring a pitch black color with a fizzy tan head, aromas of bourbon and rum leap forward, followed by vanilla, light spice, hard candy and a whipped cream nose.
Black Butte XXIX is bold and at first all flavors are overwhelming as I try to pick each of them apart. First noticeable taste is brandy-like with nuances of rum, bourbon and lots of alcohol. Following up the first hit is caramel hard candy, dark cocoa, dry spice including cinnamon, heavy cream, prunes and rum-soaked cherries. I don’t get the cayenne as I expected, tough I am holding out hope that it shows itself as the beer warms.
Carbonation is mild as it should be and the mouth feel is somewhat thin, yet still full of all of the aforementioned flavors. Alcohol remains a player throughout the process and the finish also adds heavily creamed coffee, more dry spice, barrel, burnt sugar and some bitterness at the very end.