REVIEW: Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, OR
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 30
Hops: Cascade, Tettnang & Bravo
Malt: Carapils, Pale, Wheat, Chocolate & Crystal
Appearance: Pours Dark, Dark Brown with Glimmers of Red on the Edges
Aroma: Roasty Malt; Cocoa; Coffee; Chocolate; Hints of Pine
Flavor: Subtle Coffee; Bitter Chocolate frolicking with Sweet Malts
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Grilled/Smoked Meats; Robust Onion Soup; Coffee or Chocolate Cake

This is an interesting one. Not only is this an old beer, first brewed in 1988, but also this is Deschutes flagship beer, a position you will rarely find the porter style occupying. In 1988 Gary Fish opened Deschutes as a brewpub, the first in Bend, Oregon. He named his new business for both the county that Bend is in and the magnificent Deschutes River that flows through the town.

Deschutes, like any other brewery, has had its share of lows. In the winter of their first year they had to dump ten consecutive batches of beer due to bacteria contamination. They found the contamination was due to a flaw in their brewing design that had the grain mill directly above the mash tun, and airborne grain bacteria from the grain dust kept drifting down into the mash.

After they got this not-so-little hiccup remedied, people started to notice how good the beer coming out of this new little brewery was. They sold 310 barrels of beer in the first year.

Jump ahead three years and business was booming. Gary Fish likes to say they did so well, so fast because of their attention to detail, quality ingredients, and a sense of community that the brewery worked hard to foster from its very beginnings.

“Oh, glass’ed black is seek you true, that I might find complexities anew”

The quote at the front of their website exemplifies Deschutes exploratory and unfettered passion for robust, great tasting beer: “The meek shall inherit… well, some pretty dull beers.” Black Butte Porter set the standard for the brewery… time for me to drink and find out what exactly that standard is.

The Pour and Aroma

Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery

The Black Butte pours dark, dark, dark, dark brown, ok we’ll call it an almost black. But hints and glimmers of red along its edges speak of a color more complicated than just plan old black. A finger’s worth of dark tan head graces the top and stays for a time before sliding stickily down the inside of the glass, settling in as a memory just above the liquids surface.

The aroma is expectedly porter-like. Cocoa, bitter chocolate, and coffee designs are nicely woven into a blanket of roasty malt. The engagingly sweet malt flirts with hidden hints of hoppy pine bringing a nice complex balance to the whole.

Mouthfeel and Taste

Body is thick with a hefty mouthfeel of velvet-soft smoothness. The bitter chocolate comes through, mellowing into a nice sweetness as the malts begin to play the palate. Coffee is subtle and works well as the backing echo to the chocolate and sweeter roasted malts.

Carbonation is low and just right, allowing the complex flavors to speak for themselves. The end of the taste throws up a brief screen of hop bitterness that subsides slowly into the aftertaste. The aftertaste lets you know you’ve just imbibed in something complex and robust with smattering hints of coffee, chocolate, and hops. It is a long and almost decadent experience of taste reminding me in many ways of a complex cake.

The flavor is robust enough to easily carry a pairing with any equally robust food. Grilled and smoked meats come to mind, a hardy onion and vegetable soup, and it would go equally well with coffee or chocolate cake.

Finishing the Impression

This is a near perfect example of the porter style with nice complexity and hints at deeper ideas. The beer has won more awards then I car to count and, at least as far as I’m concerned, it deserves them. It’s a beer to be enjoyed equally for its velvet-like wrap of the palate and the complexity of dark flavors it brings. It’s a great beer to accompany you to the porch on a nice quiet cool evening. It is a pairing, not just for good food, but for bats diving, fire flies darting, and a cooling evening breeze.


More Beer Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and graduated from the American Brewers Guild (CBA) Craft Brewers program in 2014. When he’s not busy freelance writing, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places. You can contact him through his website


    • Nick says

      Easiest thing to do Ross is go to the Deschutes website and go through their “find our Beer” tab. You can put in Kentucky and see what places offers their beer. It looks like there’s a few.
      Good Hunting.

  1. daniel walrath says

    hi my name is dan i live in postfalls idaho well anyway growing up around here my friends all drank beer 1980. well i tried drinking that crap, the coors, budweiser, michelob.. all crap!

    Well i went in the army and ended up in germany (great place) where i got introduced to their beer. Holy hell, that was what beer was suppose to taste like! these people have been doing this for long time, now i am here to say your black butte is some of the finest brew i have ever had the honor of drinking. I did not know you were around in the 80s or i would of drank a lot more and your stout. oh my god is that good.

    well i just wanted to say thanks for making the best damn beer in the world, dan

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