Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

I had a very bad afternoon yesterday (Thursday, 29th) and by 3:30 pm I was ready to start drinking some very dark, very strong beer. But I didn’t.

Then around 3:50 I saw this tweet from @DeschutesBeer

Meet the brewer & taste The Abyss ’11, ’12, BBXXIII, BBXXIV, & Jubelale on Nitro @platypuspubbend #inbend 2nite 6-8pm. See you there??

Sara and I decided to go since we had not yet had Black Butte Porter XXIII. We headed over around 5:15 to check out the bottled beers upstairs—looking for Midnight Sun Berserker Imperial Stout, in particular. Didn’t find any but there are several Midnight Suns and a few other things we’d like to try soon. Headed downstairs and got a table before the proceedings were to start. Turns out that they even had Black Butte Porter XXIII on tap so we got a 10 oz. snifter to share and some food.

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

This is what I put into Untappd when I checked this beer in:

Mmmm. Tobacco, figs, slight wine notes, pepper on sides. XXIV is better but this is darn fine.

The event started a bit early but we had our food and it was an ongoing thing for a couple hours so we chilled and ate. The brewer and some other folks were there and had some ingredients—brewer’s licorice, vanilla beans and cherry bark, and something else (I forget)—in jars for smelling and tastes of the beers.

While we were eating we saw that they had flights of the 5 beers so we ordered one. It came with the BBP XXIII & XXIV, The Abyss 2011 & 2012, and Jubelale on nitro. Then they told us there was a special 6th one which we would get from the brewer but a few minutes later a guy from the Platypus Pub came by with our 6th glass and said “Here’s your XXII.” Holy WTF, Batman! Black Butte Porter XXII. Sara immediately texted Stacey and Beth. Beth was able to come join us.  All of the beers were quite good but I wasn’t very good at making notes last night.

Flight of Deschutes beer at the Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

Deschutes flight: Back L –> R: BBPXXIII, BBPXXIV, Abyss 2011. Front L –> R: Abyss 2012, Jubelale 2012 (nitro), BBP XXII

BBP XXII was much smoother than the XXIII and XXIV and tasted more of vanilla and dark malts, with a very slight bourbon/whiskey taste. I think Sara and Beth like it the best of the three but I still like XXIV the most. Perhaps that is because I have had it more frequently and in more varied situations. Sure wish I could give the XXII that chance, too.

Black Butte Porter XXII carton at Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

Black Butte Porter case

These are amazing beers and I want to thank Bend for being the town that it is, Platypus Pub for hosting this evening, and to especially thank Deschutes for brewing so many outstanding libations and sharing them with us.

[This post, Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 1 December 2012. It was slightly modified in that I removed the initial disclaimer about it being tagged DigiWriMo.]

The Abyss 2012 Release Party, 15 November 2012

We did manage to get to The Abyss 2012 Release Party yesterday in time to get a flight of 2008-2012 The Abyss as I was mentioning in my Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event post. Our friend who was most interested said she could go after 12 noon so we packed up and headed down to the brew pub for lunch.

Placard for The Abyss at The Abyss 2012 Release Party

The Abyss 2008-12 tasters and quote from “Ten beers that will make you a man — if they don’t kill you first” at Denver Westword http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2011/04/ten-beers-that-will-make-you-a-man.php?page=2

Before I get into my short tasting notes I want to give you the info they provided us for The Abyss 2012, which is the seventh release (2006-2012):

  • ABV: 11.0%  IBUs: 70
  • Malt: Pale, Black, Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Wheat
  • Hops: Millennium, Nugget, Styrian, Northern Brewer
  • Brewed with: Blackstrap Molasses & Brewer’s Licorice
  • Dry-Hopped with: Vanilla Beans & Cherry Bark
  • Barrel-Aging: (28%) 6 months in Bourbon, Oregon Oak, and Pinot Noir
  • Tasting Notes: Best served at 50-55 degrees. Vanilla, Chocolate, Dark Fruit, Caramel, Toffe, and Espresso
  • Cellaring Notes: Store at 45 degrees in a dark place. Constant temperature is key to proper cellaring. Drink within 5 to 7 years.
  • Beer Advocate Rating: A+ World Class
  • Rate Beer Rating: 100 Overall
  • 2012 World Beer Awards: World’s Best Stout & Porter

[See http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/brew/the-abyss for more awards]

A flight of The Abyss 2008-2012 at The Abyss 2012 Release Party

A flight of The Abyss 2008-2012 and a truffle

In the pictures: Back row – left 2008, mid 2009, right 2010; front row – left 2011, mid 2012, right truffle

  • 2008 Thick. Caramel. Roasted malt. Little change after truffle. Excellent!
  • 2009 thick. Tobacco and leather. Slight bourbon. After truffle a bit darker. Amazing!
  • 2010 Little aroma. Slight bourbon, strong wine flavor. After truffle a tad smoother.
  • 2011 Smells slightly smoky. Definite bourbon taste.
  • 2012 Thick.

As you can see, my words sometimes escape me. That is the order we tasted them in, oldest to youngest. By the time I got to the newer ones and having had some truffle already it made no sense to do “after truffle” tastings on them as I had truffle permeating my mouth. The only palate cleanser I had was water.

2008 and 2009 were my favorites by far. 2011 was also very good. 2010 was also very drinkable and given another year or three may become something very special. 2012 needs to age a few years. Don’t get me wrong, it is a tasty beer. Is it the best stout or porter in the world? Nope. Not at all.

I have revised my opinion of The Abyss upward a bit from the other night but I’m still going on record with the claim that Black Butte XXIV—also ‘fresh’ this year—is better and that Midnight Sun’s Berserker Imperial Stout is what The Abyss 2010 dreams of becoming in a few more years.

I did get myself a hoodie sweathshirt and two bombers for the Cellar. Our friend also took two bottles home.

One last thing. I want to give props to Deschutes Brewery and their social media coordinator, Gina. There was some confusion over the officially published times for the availability of the limited number of flights. We had made plans with assorted friends to try and make it together and then the time changed. Sara and I both tweeted Deschutes to ask what was up with the time and to register a bit of disappointment. We got a quick response apologizing for the confusion and contact info in case we were unable to get the flights we were hoping for. Yesterday, after our plans changed and we made it, I emailed Gina to thank her and let her know we had been successful. She again apologized for the confusion and offered me a token. I turned it down as it was never about getting something from a situation that can too easily arise in our busy and complex lives. I think Deschutes does a great job with their social media presence and website and we generally know when things are happening. So, just wanted to give a shout out to Gina and Deschutes. Thank you!

 

[This post, The Abyss 2012 Release Party, 15 November 2012, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 16 November 2012.]

Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event

On 6 Nov. we attended the Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event with 6 of ours friends. We got there a little early and Sara was able to grab a table so all 8 of us could sit together. The room was pretty full so I assume they had sold all 25 seats.

We tasted 8 different barrel-aged beers; four were from Deschutes, one was a collaboration between Deschutes and Hair of the Dog, and three were from other breweries. Hors d’oeuvres were served about midway through the beer sampling.

We also got a presentation from Jacob Harper, the barrel master at Deschutes. The beers were arranged in the order he figured was lightest to heaviest, but was slightly complicated by the fact that four were sours so they were placed at the back half.

We began with the Calabaza Blanca from Jolly Pumpkin (Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Dexter, Michigan). It is a light wheat/white ale hybrid that was slightly sweet and slightly sour. I thought it was fairly tasty but would not want to drink it in quantity or frequently. ~5% ABV. I gave it 4 stars.

Next was Ale D’or Fort from Deschutes, which I had never heard of. Turns out it was brewed for a special Oregon beer festival (missed the name) last year where all the brewers took a particular Brettanomyces yeast strain from Unibroue and competed with what they produced from it. It was light, almost wine-like, a strong gold which had been aged in French Pinot barrels. No carbonation. It tasted a lot like Ashton’s Fresh Hop London Strong Gold without the fresh hops, which is to say, amazing. 9%+ ABV. 5 stars.

Third was Deschutes’ Black Butte XXIV, which we have had a fair bit of and of which neither of us would tire of ever having. I have three bottles in the Cellar. It is an Imperial porter with dates, figs, chicory and other bits for flavor. 20% was aged in bourbon barrels. We were told that next year they plan on aging 50% of the batch in bourbon barrels, which will up the ABV a few %. I think everyone present let out a loud and appreciative “Oooohhh” at that. 10.8% ABV. 5 stars+

Fourth, and the last non-sour, was Deschutes’ The Abyss (2011). I have been really wanting to try this as this year’s version is being released today. It is an Imperial stout that used licorice and molasses in the kettle. It was 28% barrel-aged (11% Pinot noir, 15% bourbon, 2% raw Oregon oak barrels). It is relatively the same each year. My first reaction was a thoughtful “Hmmm.” I didn’t want to be hasty but I was definitely underwhelmed. It has a chocolate taste late in the mouth. It is tasty but I have to say it is no Black Butte Porter XXIV. 11% ABV. I gave it 4 stars and am hopeful for this year’s batch. It won World’s Best Stout & Porter at the 2012 World Beer Awards, which in my humble opinion it does not deserve. A damn fine beer it is but Black Butte XXIV Porter is better and Midnight Suns’ Berserker Imperial Stout blows them both away.

With any luck we will be one of the lucky few at the release party today to get in on the vertical tasting of 2008-2012 batches of The Abyss. Perhaps I’ll revise my opinion then. [Turns out they have moved up the time when the limited flights will be available and it isn’t looking good. We both questioned this on Twitter—mostly as to what time they really were being served—and got an interesting reply back so we’ll see.]

Fifth, and the first sour, was Tart of Darkness from The Bruery (Orange County, California). It was a sour stout made with cherries and aged in oak barrels. It tasted much lighter than it looked. 5.6% ABV. 4 stars.

Next was The Dissident from Deschutes, which we have also had recently and of which I have 2 bottles in the Cellar. It is made every other year and uses a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces. Currently made in batches of 200 barrels they are aiming to begin producing it every year. 11.4% ABV. 5 stars. This won World’s Best Oud Bruin and Americas Best Oud Bruin at the 2012 World Beer Awards. World’s Best? I don’t know but it is certainly one of the finest sours produced outside of Belgium.

Next to last was Sang Noir from Cascade Brewing (Portland). Pretty darn sour. Light and thin but very sour. Cherries. Aged in French oak and bourbon barrels. 9.5% ABV. I gave it 4/3 stars. For me it was a 3 but I wondered if I were judging it too harshly since it had pushed past my acceptability for sourness.

Last was The Collage, also from Deschutes. We have also tasted this since being here and have a bottle in the Cellar. It comes from a collaboration with Hair of the Dog (Portland) and is a blend of Deschutes’ The Dissident (but unsoured) and The Stoic (a quad we are still waiting to try) and Hair of the Dog’s Fred  (10% ABV Golden Strong ale) and Adam (10% ABV; their 1st beer). It is 100% barrel-aged in 6 different types of barrels. Hair of the Dog uses a peat malt. It is tasty, no doubt, but it seems all the work is over much for the end result. 11.6% ABV. 4 stars.

I must say, though, that I am definitely looking forward to tasting Fred and Adam and other Hair of the Dog beers some day.

After the tasting we were still hungry so we moved downstairs for some dinner. Sara and I shared an Ashton’s Fresh Hop Strong London Gold which was excellent but perhaps not the best idea after all those other strong beers. And I had even been finishing a couple of Sara’s that she did not. I really felt it the next day!

It was, of course, election night and some of those at our table had been (::grumble:: understandably ::grumble::) refreshing their phones all evening as returns came in. During dinner we learned of a couple states’ equal marriage bills passing, Colorado’s passing of their marijuana bill, and of the reelection of Obama. Many people in the pub seemed genuinely happy at much of this but there were definitely groups of assorted sizes who were not. “Sorry if our reasonably joyous celebrations were disturbing you.” No, honestly, I’m not. Deschutes County is a lot more red than I ever might have imagined before moving here. I can see it now but I still find it hard to believe.

All in all, it was a tasty and enjoyable evening.

One of my favorite lines from Barrel Master Jacob Harper was one of the reasons why one might want to barrel-age a beer: “To add mystique to an already good beer.” I’ll raise my glass to a little mystique!

 

[This post, Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 15 November 2012.]