Bend, Oregon brewers at Deschutes started their brewery off with a pretty standard porter for a flagship beer. In the current craft beer bonanza, this wouldn't be that unusual. Boring, even. But considering that Deschutes opened 26 years ago, this was actually a bold choice. Fast forward twenty years, and they could see that it was the right choice. That's when Deschutes started brewing up a special anniversary beer to celebrate their success. They took their old flagship, amped it up a few notches, chucked in some adjuncts (different every year, but usually including chocolate), and aged a portion in old Bourbon barrels.
This year's iteration (their 7th) is a complex blend of ales incorporating adjuncts like pomegranate molasses, cocoa nibs, and cranberries. 50% was aged in Bourbon barrels, and the final product clocks in at a hefty 10.8% ABV. So grab yourself a plate of mashed potatoes and start sculpting yourself a butte*:
Deschutes Black Butte XXVI - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of brown sugar, caramel, marshmallow, maybe a hint of roast and chocolate, with some of that bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The taste is very sweet, hints of roasted malt, chocolate, a light caramel, molasses, marshmallow character that intensifies as it warms up, maybe even some tart, fruity notes (presumably that cranberry peeking through, and that also gets more prominent as it warms). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of full bodied, feels more attenuated than your typical BBA porter. It's certainly not thin, and not really dry, but it doesn't have that huge, chewy mouthfeel either. It is, however, very well balanced. Overall, this is an excellent, well crafted beer. It's not like a lot of BBA porters, but it's still really good. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 8/8/14. Best After 06/16/14.
I still can't help but wonder what a full BBA version of this (or their famous Abyss) would be like, but I guess that's not to be. As it is, this winds up being rather unique, so you can't fault them for that sort of thing. Also, someday I'll remember that Deschutes uses a "Best After" date on their big beers like this.
* If I actually knew what a butte was, I would have totally cooked up some mashed potatoes and gone all Richard Dreyfuss on that stuff. In fairness, a nice plate of meat and potatoes would probably be a decent pairing for this, so it's not a totally unrelated reference. Well, probably not, but work with me here.