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Friday, February 8, 2013

Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter

  • Style: American Porter
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Season: Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Dueschutes has just begun to distribute in the Chicago region.  Well represented West of the Mississippi.  Here's their beer finder
  • Color:  Solid dark brown/black
  • Head: Two finger with great lacing
  • Aroma: Heavy on the chocolate scent, with notes of coffee and roasted malts
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with minimal carbonation
  • Finish: Short
  • Food friendly: Relatively easy for a porter.  Grilled or roasted meat and barbeque.  Pair with buttery cheeses such as Havarti or Brie.

Every one needs a bit of encouragement now and then.  An affirmation that you, yes, YOU!  The ponytailed one clad in the men sized 5K Turkey Trot t-shirt and faded jeans with holes in each knee.  Even you can conquer the world.  If by world, you mean your own kitchen and by conquer, you mean brew a batch of stout from scratch. It was with this in mind that I attempted my first batch of non-kit beer two weeks ago.   Last Spring my youngest brother, P, and I tried our hand at homebrewing.  I was in search of a new hobby that would challenge me and lead to a deeper understanding of the wonderful world of craft.  And P, well, he just liked to drink beer.  We bought the necessary equipment, took the instructional class and decided on a Scotch Ale kit.  It went surprisingly well for a first attempt. Well enough for us to get a little cocky.  For a follow up we decided "Kit?  We don't need no stink'n kit."  And we didn't.  What we did need was a blow off tube, however.  The brew day went as by the book as you can get.   The grains and hops melded together to make a liquid (AKA Wort) that smelled, for all intensive purposes, like beer.   The yeast was pitched and the air lock secured with packing tape.  This unorthodox securement was a process that we would be eternally thankful for the next day   For you see, when I checked the carboy before I left for work Monday morning, I discovered that at some point over night, our gorgeous glass carboy had been transformed into Mount Vesuvius.  Brown sludge dripped from the top most part of the carboy, even going as far up as to infiltrate the air lock on the tippy top.  And as for that packing tape, well that clear film is probably the only thing that stood between an almost impossible to clean glass water bottle and me ever being allowed to brew in the house again. 

Wort at work
It took me almost an hour of scrubbing that carboy with an oversize pipe cleaner before I could successfully remove all of the gunk.  And after all that work, I needed a beer.  But the last thing I wanted was a Stout.  So, of course, I poured myself a pint of Porter.  (Now is not the time to debate the differences and interchangeability of the terms Stout and Porters.  I'll be sure to let you know when.)  Deschutes Brewery is a hugely popular Oregon brewery that has just begun to distribute to Chicagoland.  Their Black Butte Porter is regarded as one of the best selling Porters in America.  You'd think that there was a solid gold coin in each bottle of the beer the way people reacted when they heard the news here.  I had to pick up a bottle to see what the fuss was all about.

Tasty pint for a hard working girl

The Black Butte Porter poured a solid dark brown, cola colored drink.    A healthy two finger, light tan head formed.  It took it's time settling down to a fluffy, rich layer of foam for most of the pint.  Thick clumps of lacing clung to the sides of the glass.  At times the lacing reminded me of another famous Chicago import who went by the name of Michael Jordan (well, I suppose he still does, he just hasn't returned any of my calls for a while.)  Both had amazing air times, you know.  The head smelled heavily of milk chocolate with under notes of acidic coffee and sweet roasted malts.  I absolutely loved this beer, right up to the moment that I took a sip.  You known that moment when your lofty expectations meet the settlement of reality?  My mouth was ready for a lightly carbonated, sinfully chocolated, perfectly caffeinated Porter bomb.  What I got was a pleasant enough beer, but nothing overly special to recommend it at all.

Soon to be in the starting line up for the Bulls
The chocolate taste was artificial and reminded me of those fake chocolate sprinkles you see on cupcakes.   I could also detect the roasted coffee from the nose, some caramel malts and a bit of dark fruit.  None of the flavors impressed me.  I would have liked a heavier hop presence to give the drink some depth.  There was an appetizing earthiness to the taste which most likely could be attributed to the hop profile.  It had a lightly carbonated, medium mouthfeel, but it also slightly verged on the side of watery for me.  A bit more bubbles would have been welcome (good possibility here that I simply was expecting more carbonation because of the gorgeous head that poured.)  The finish was short and sweet.  I would have liked the hops to jump in on the last note and give the beer some most missed bitterness.

Tales from above

On the plus side, I think this beer would work well with many food pairings.  The "lightness" of the taste and mouthfeel would work with grilled or roasted meats beyond the requisite simple beef dishes.   Try drinking a pint with barbeque chicken or a molasses bourbon beef tenderloin.  Personally?  I'm thinking of trying it with this Bacon & Broccoli Mac & Cheese recipe.  Yum.  Black Butte Porter isn't necessarily a beer that I will reach for again on my own, but I could see it as the perfect gateway Porter for friends who claim that all Porter and Stouts are too heavy for their delicate palates.  Sometimes everyone needs a bit of a push to try something new.  I think that Deschutes' Black Butte Porter understands this.  In fact, I know that they do.  Because, you see, after scrubbing the hell out of that krausen crusted carboy.  And swearing curse words that would make a teamster blush.  And wondering if this whole homebrewing thing was just not meant for the likes of me, I discovered that Deschutes had printed a phrase on the underside of the bottle cap of my Black Butte.

"Done Bravely." 

My half batch of Saison is fermenting quite nicely right now in it's primary, thank you very much.