Home > Beers > Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Black Butte Porter

Black Butte Porter

Just occasionally, everyone gets moments of epiphany. Saul had his on the way to…wherever he was going, I had mine with this little beauty. When I first came to the US, I was told there were three things that I’d not be able to get easily; beer, cheese and chocolate. My initial reaction was that this warning was true, at least on the beer front. Thankfully, thanks to a few good friends and an enlightened group of people at the Davis Food Co-op and the Graduate “pub”, the scales fell from my eyes, albeit one at a time, as you may already have read.

I admit that it took me a while to stumble across this particular beer, given that I was trying to find brews like those I’d get in my local pub in England (I pause to praise the Salutation Inn here). Having worked my way through a few amber and pale ales, I tried this jet gem, and was in for something of a surprise.

Oh, ha-ha moment here. Being so English, I got the pronunciation wrong, of course. “Butt”, I would say, to the consternation of everyone around me, most especially my Dear Wife. Beaut turns out to be the correct way to say it, and when I finally climbed my first butte, (Spencer Butte, rising above Eugene, Oregon), I realised that these standout hills were reflected quite nicely in this dark, rich and wholly American brew.

Porter Perfection

Quick history lesson. The brew known as porter originated in London, made with darker malts, and was so named because it became a favourite with the porters, those lads who would move stuff around. You want a large package moving? Think ‘beast of burden’, and call a porter.

These lads worked hard, and at the end of the day (and probably during it) they’d need some heavy-duty refreshment, with some body, some ooomph. So they’d hie to the nearest pub (of which there were a goodly number, even in eighteenth-century London) and quaff a pint of dark, nutririous porter.

Okay, lesson over. I did not quaff the first one, I have to admit. I treated it like a rare and ancient single malt whisky. I sniffed it, I rolled it around the glass, I admired the darling darkness of the beer in the glass, and finally, having tantalised every other sense, I sipped it.

For starters, I can do no worse than simply type in the notes I took at the time. Voluptuous head, creamy and high. The body is the colour of Cadbury’s Bournville [chocolate] , and [tasting it] there’s chocolate and espresso and cherry, even. There’s a clear toasty maltiness in the nose, and faintly woody, composty. Zing of carbonation (bottle-conditioned?) Not over-sweet, not too heavy. Finely balanced.

I’d poured it from a 12-ounce bottle into a fat fluted glass, as you can see in the picture. Even as I was pouring it, the scent was terrific. Faintly burnt and sweet, rather like a dark chocolate-covered espresso bean. Only in a glass, cool and refreshing and delightful. After the opening mouthfuls, I lost my self-control, and let it all slip smoothly down in a long, lingering draught. It made me want to have another, which I did. This time, having assuaged my thirst, I managed to leave it long enough to enjoy the changes as it warmed. The head stayed intact for a while, lacing the glass as I slowly worked my way through it, enjoying the release of more layers of malty sweetness as the temperature rose.

It grew smoother as it went on, and the last drop, wrung from the glass after about twenty minutes, was still a sheer delight. There’s almost nothing bad to say about this one, as long as you like dark beers. Guinness drinkers, take note. Porters were the forerunners of your dark stout, and this is a wonderful example of the type. This is a solid “A” rating from me to Deschutes. Their brewmaster deserves a medal for this one, and next time I’m anywhere near Bend, I’ll come and present you with something.

Enjoy it on its own on a chilly night as you sit in the warm, or with your rich grilled meats on a summer’s evening. But enjoy it you should, because here is the brew that convinced me that Americans can, and do, make first-class beer.

Footnote: I just checked on Deschutes’ website, and this brew has been going since 1988, in which time it has won nineteen (19!) medals and prizes. And if I may say so, bloody well deserved.

  1. HJK
    23 June, 2009 at 23:12

    Ooh, that does sound bloody awesome. Mind you, I don’t really struggle that much finding proper ales this side of the pond.

    SO the choice is basically; 300 days of rain a day and proper beer, or crap beer and mostly sunshine. hmm.

    – h

  2. Matt
    23 June, 2009 at 23:18

    There’s nothing quite like a good porter. Not really the time of year for it though.

  3. 24 June, 2009 at 19:25

    It’s a winter beer, true. But Black Butte is so wonderful that I’m quite happy to wait until the temperature drops enough to warrant it being cool enough to drink it. Admittedly, the evenings are only “cool” in comparison to daytime temperatures over about 90F (32C), so still quite warm by some standards.

  4. 6 July, 2009 at 16:18


  5. Andrew
    17 July, 2009 at 20:26

    I like this blog..

    Thanks for sharing…


  1. 15 January, 2011 at 23:48

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