I am currently sitting, bleary-eyed, at a Portland International Airport gate, waiting to depart on a week’s trip to Tampa. I’m still hoping to get the recipe and brew notes from last Thursday’s session posted this week, but I’ll be fighting a variety of distractions.
My partner made dinner last night, a lasagna with fresh handmade pasta. We’ve borrowed a pasta maker from a friend, and we’re still in that honeymoon period where making it from scratch always seems like a Good Idea. We shall see if it lasts. For the time being, though, I’m loving it.
After dinner we shared, over a couple hours, a bottle of Deschutes Black Butte XXI, which is an imperial version of their classic Northwest porter, done up will all the modern conveniences: cacao nibs, locally-roasted coffee, and bourbon-barrel aging. It was delicious, of course, but I’m curious about the long-term stylistic development of beers like this, or Deschutes Abyss (also wonderful), Full Sail Top Sail, or the like. The beer runs the risk, I think, of playing second fiddle to the barrel-toast vanilla and adjuncts like coffee, and it can be a challenge to differentiate your barrel-aged Imperial porter from your barrel-aged Imperial stout. Will we end up, as our palates mature and we acclimate to the stylistic nuances of these beers, finding more complexity, or will our vanilla- and alcohol-fatigued senses find less and less?
One thing I love about this bottle: rather than a “Best By” date on the bottle, there’s a “Best After” date (which indicates that I committed infanticide, but I already knew that). This beer is alive—as all bottle-conditioned beers are—and I want consumers to appreciate that. The Budweiser “freshness dating” campaign makes some sense for their product—pasteurized, filtered, and generally at risk of all manner of oxidative damage over time—but Black Butte XXI is no Budweiser.
It’s boarding time. I’ll see you from Tampa.
A votre sante!