Black Butte Reserve XXIV from Deschutes Brewery

For those of you that know Black Butte Reserve XXIV from Deschutes Brewery, you've probably already got a few in your cellar. For those that don't know this beer, or only treat yourself to one each year, keep reading.

The annual Black Butte Reserve beer is one of the most complex beers that leaves Bend Oregon. With its myriad of enticing ingredients, and its high-viscosity body, it almost defies description. Black Butte XXIV is layer upon layer of darkness: nearly black in color, flavors of chocolate, roasted malts and molasses, plus complex hints of dark fruit from Deglet dates and Mission figs.

In full disclosure, my cellaring history is not without its regrets. I regret not having any more Black Butte XX and XXI.

With a  "best after" July 2013 date stamped on the bottle, this beer offers most to those with a bit of patience. At about $12.99 for a bottle though, this beer can frighten some people away. Don't be afraid. Shake up your beer budget and buy three of these: one for now, one for a special occasion next year, and one for a really special occasion the year after that.  Birthdays make a great excuse to treat yourself. While wine storage conditions (55° F) are optimal for cellaring beer, if your basement is a fairly consistent temperature and humidity, find a cool corner, put them upright in a box to keep out light, and wait. Over time, complex beers can continue to change. For example, if a beer has huge chocolate flavors and a big heat signature from the alcohol, these peaks can diminish to reveal other flavors that were initially buried by their overbearing siblings. As a beer ages, the subtleties will gain traction, and you'll end up with a beer that evolves nicely.

Black Butte XXI from Deschutes Brewery

Two weeks ago, I brought out my last (sniff) Black Butte XXI during a tasting. The beer had developed an awesome chili pepper profile. The smooth dark chocolate flavors, some light anise, a touch of warm whiskey, and spicy pepper notes made for a delicious, distinct, and more importantly changed beer. It was especially surprising as there is no hint of peppers being added to this beer on the label. Truth be told, I have no idea how a flavor like this would develop from a beer with no chili peppers in it, but everyone at the table loved it.

Most of my personal cellaring is in the under 5 year range. I'm not made of money and patience. I have, however, sampled many other peoples' cellaring projects—all the way up to twenty years—and I've only been thoroughly disappointed once. Sure, it's a gamble—if you're cellaring for over a decade. If you're only keeping these complex, high-octane beers around for a couple of years, they almost always get better. Not all beer ages well, but the Black Butte Reserve series is as close to a guarantee as you can get. Spending roughly $38.97 on three bottles to sample over two years is a worthwhile investment in your beer drinking experience.

In full disclosure, my cellaring history is not without its regrets. I regret not having any more Black Butte XX and XXI.

The official description of Black Butte XXIV: "24 years after Black Butte Porter’s debut, our potent, layered, imperial tribute returns. As usual, it’s a jazz riff, guided by the brewer’s muse and the lure of exotic ingredients. Artisanal dark chocolate nibs. Deglet dates. Mission figs. It may, possibly, hopefully, be the best edition yet. But, as it should be, you’ll be the judge of that."