I was at the grocery store last week - New Seasons - and happened to go down the beer aisle. Really, pure coincidence. I walk down it every now and then just to see if something looks interesting, and that day something did. Deschutes Brewing - which makes such luminaries as Black Butte Porter, Obsidian Stout, and Mirror Pond Pale Ale - had some kind of special bottle called a Black Butte XXI.
Now, the thing for me is I'm still growing with this beer thing. Not that I'm a stranger to beer - all my college friends and somebody's retirement package from Henry Weinhard's can attest to that - it's just that I'm not necessarily a connoisseur of good beer. I could never get into Guinness, but I've developed my tastes in the past couple years, drinking much, much less but looking more for the flavor.
I learned since college that if you are only going to drink one it might as well taste good. And that you can really only drink one. Seriously.
So to make a long story short, I have become a fan of Black Butte Porter with it's chocolate and coffee overtones. The longer you read this blog, you will start to see a theme along the chocolate and coffee lines - even in the beer. So when I found this special edition barleywine version of BBP, I thought I needed to check this out.
Then I just about choked on my tongue when I noticed it was $12/bottle for 24 ounces. $12?! For a bottle of beer?! Who does that?! Then right next to that was a special edition of Mirror Pond called Mirror Mirror. Also $12. Seriously - WTF?! Who would buy those?!
So yes, you guessed it, both of them went straight into my cart, despite the misgivings about spending $24 of my grocery budget on two bottles of beer, when I don't drink much more than once a week and usually a small glass of wine at that.
Later I happened to look up these two beers on Deschutes' website - links already provided - and found out that BBP XXI uses Theo's Chocolates - and I love myself some Theo's.
I had also notice that while most beers have drink before dates on them, this bottle had a best after date - and it was in 2010. Seriously? Spend $12 on a beer then I have to WAIT a year?! Yeah, like that was going to happen. It turns out these beers will age just like a good wine, so they recommend saving them. You can drink them now, and it will just taste different. What I found a lot of people online recommending was to buy two; drink one now and save the other for later. Another $12?! So yes, I picked one up at Whole Foods the next day.
Then Saturday night I decided I needed to try out this bad boy. I was hoping I liked it, because I now had two of these $12 bottles. On the other hand, if I liked it I would probably feel the need to buy more. Did I mention it's $12 a bottle? I might have, not sure.
The first problem was getting the damn bottle open. What is the point of sealing a bottle in wax? Is there one? Perhaps there is and it's just lost on me. I tried my wine bottle foil cutter, but that was a joke. I looked around and the only thing I could come up with was a knife, but after last week (more on that later) I figured that wasn't the best idea either.
On to the internet!
I Googled things like "how to open black butte porter xxi" and the like, but that was apparently too specific. That, and the Google computers are probably thinking: What kind of moron can't open his own freaking beer?!
Finally I tried something like "open wax beer bottle" and came across only one useful hit, a beer forum where someone asked the same thing. The general feeling in the forum was that wax topped beer bottles suck ass, but no one had any really good ideas. It's basically dig away at it until you can get the bottle opener to do the rest of the work for you.
So I flipped around my bottle opener and proceeded to dig away. It actually didn't take that long once I figured out how to do it, but it was still a pain in the ass. Seriously Deschutes, why? I think I'm going to email them and see if there is a legit answer other than "it looks cool."
Now my bottle is open, so I poured it and gave it a taste - no, I didn't wait for it to warm up to the recommended 55 degrees before tasting. Guess what? It was damn good...the chocolate and coffee overtones were much more pronounced than in a regular Black Butte Porter, and overall it was very, very smooth. $12 good? You better believe it was $12 good.
After I waited a while for it to warm up the flavors got even stronger. I remember learning at Pike Place Brewing you should really drink beer in that 60 degree range to really get the flavors; ice cold pretty much kills all the flavor. That's fine if you want to pound 10 beers that taste like crap - or water - to get plastered, but for good beer it's all about the taste.
12 thumbs up to Deschutes for creating a beer worthy of Black Butte Porter's XXI birthday - one for each dollar a bottle costs.
Oh, and yes, I am buying more. Might have to take out a loan first, but it will be worth it. Maybe I can use some basketball cards in trade?
UPDATE: So I actually did email Deschutes to see what was up with the wax seals. Gina, the kindly rep who responded to my email, admitted she struggles with the seal as well but that it does have a point. Apparently when sealing a beer that is meant to be aged like a wine - as the BBP XXI is - it minimizes the oxygen that gets into the bottle, letting it age longer and better. Good to know... I'll let you know in a year if this does good things to what is now my favorite beer. Which, of course, meant I had to buy two more bottles - for now.