This was the essence of High Concept: take one of the nation’s most honored, emulated, and consumed Porters, lay down a fair quantity in Whiskey casks…and wait.
No gimmicky infusions of tiramisu or gummy bears or newts or whatever a ton of breweries are tossing out there for the newbies who want so desperately to turn beer into their recently-jettisoned juice boxes or favorite candy or some extravagant dessert. Just beer – GREAT beer. One of the most decorated American dark beers in existence and the virtual template for the New World Porter…and oak and whiskey.
Yeah, I’m older than you. Hell, I’m older than about 65% of the general population, these days. But I taste and think about all those tricked-out beer styles and have managed to at least come to a somewhat grudging acceptance of the fact that some of the Stouts and IPAs and Porters, et al, are going to contain literal slices of pumpkin pie or S’Mores or a whole chocolate nut sundae. Hell, I just read something last night about a restaurant in Oregon that’s serving a burnt hay ice cream(?))(!), which is, to me as an old chef, really Trying Too Hard. It’s not the fact of those ingredients that bother me. It’s the FACT that maybe 75 – 80% of ’em are just badly done; gratuitous flavorings for the Newly Hatched beer crowd.
Deschutes Whiskey Butte Porter is the polar opposite of badly done.
This stuff is Sublime ale…and Dangerous. Like Black Butte (Deschutes’ original flagship beer and how cool is it that new brewery down in Bend, Oregon, in an era in which dark ales were just barely a Thing, adopted a black-as-the-Pit Porter as their very first release?) Whiskey Butte is wickedly easy to drink. The last time I verged on Drunk In Public was a Sunday morning, in downtown Seattle, at our pre-Seahawks pre-funk, at the iconic Temple Billiards, which had newly introduced Black Butte to their taplist. I had three, in about two and a half hours, and lurched a bit when we got up to walk down to the stadium. It didn’t taste that strong (an absurd statement, BTW) and, in fact it’s just 5.5% ABV and I had had it a hundred times, so I got fooled; was talking with my fam and wasn’t thinking. Because Black Butte is exactly what a Porter was always intended to be: as dark as a Stout but a tad lighter in body and not as high in ABV. Compared to a 10+% Imperial Stout that I would normally drink, Black Butte lacks NONE of the roasty flavors, the complexity, or the depth, but just scales it back a hair. It has always been a single-dose primer on how to make a dark ale: chocolate, a hint of molasses, coffee, roasted nuts, grace notes of black cherries and tobacco and a subtle finish of piney hops.
Now, imagine all that – or, if you drink and love Black Butte, just remember why – and add a medium-wet American Whiskey barrel, all that oak and caramel and vanilla and boozy splendor…and there ya have it. Like I said, simple.
But flat-damned Delicious.
Sublime execution of a flawless concept.
And Dangerous, in that Whisky Butte is very nearly as easy to drink as Black Butte but IS actually stronger, at 9% ABV.
Whiskey Butte is, ho-hum, just another significant Achievement from a brewery that produces such New Classics as casually as Mozart once said he wrote symphonies: “I write music as a sow piddles.“
Unfortunate image, given the subject. But spectacular ale. 99 Points