I first heard of Deschutes the year my oldest son was born. We were visiting friends in Seattle and one of them talked a lot about Deschutes and Pyramid. Unfortunately, I tried so many beers on that trip that I have no idea which, if any, Deschutes I tried. Glad then that Jay sent along two samples (the next review will be for the Mirror Pond Pale Ale).
A quick jump over to the brewery's website reveals two things about this beer. First, it's Deschutes' flagship beers. Second, this beer has won a LOT of awards. The site also reveals a potential contradiction. Most of the awards are for Brown Porters. However, this particular beer is an exemplar in the BJCP list for a Robust Porter. What gives?
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery, Inc.
Brewery Location: Bend, Oregon
Beer: Black Butte Porter
BJCP Style: 12B. Robust Porter
Appearance: Black, with a thick vanilla-colored head. Light does not pass through easily, and there is little apparent carbonation, aside from the head.
Smell: The nose isn't huge on this beer, as I might have expected. I pick up some faint presence of black liquorice and some roasted notes. Would have expected coffee or chocolate, but don't pick up much. Perhaps some warming vanilla.
Taste: Deep and dark; lots of roasted flavor, with some chocolate and coffee rounding it out. The chocolate and crystal malts are evident, as is some residual sweetness. The beer ranks at 30 IBUs, but the hops subside to the darker malt flavors. Some diacetyl slickness mid to swallow.
Mouthfeel: Not as full as I would have expected--it's surprisingly easy to drink. Good thing, too, since I'm drinking this in the middle of July and it's about 85 degrees outside. Almost a tad on the watery side, but the beer comes across more as refreshing than weak.
Drinkability: I think it must be the roasty, black malt flavors that push the BJCP to classify this beer as a Robust Porter. However, in other regards, it's a lot lighter and smoother on the palate than other Robust Porters I've tried. It actually reminds me of a tasty Schwartzbeer I had recently. My overall impression is that it is heavy on the roasted flavors, a little light on the chocolate notes that I usually prefer in a porter, yet I'd still recommend it to friends. And better yet, I'd still seek it out. Porter is one of my favorite styles, so it'd be interesting to line this up against Great Lakes' Edmund Fitzgerald, Bell's Porter, and Sierra Nevada's Porter to see where in that line it fits.