A Tale of Two Dark Beers

Featured Contributor Matt  @SportsNCraftBeer
Beer Review #1: Deschutes Brewing’s  Black Butte Porter

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I purchased a six-pack of Deschutes Black Butte Porter with knowledge from several beer-rating sites of its overall popularity. However, I am rather picky about my porters, notably since I do not prefer porters that are overwhelmingly coffee flavored – I am not a coffee drinker. I also rarely enjoy porters laden with chocolate. In general, I like my darker beers to exude balance and present a level of skill in appealing to my tastes in brewing, not my tastes in coffee or dessert.

Black Butte Porter poured very dark, enjoyed a decent amount of head, and presented a light brown lace that lingered for quite a bit after pouring. The aroma is not intense, but one can easily smell the plethora of elements, such as smoke, chocolate, coffee, malt, and a little bit of hops. Like smelling buttered popcorn upon walking into a movie theater, Black Butte’s scent stimulated a Pavlovian response within me that made my mouth water with anticipation; I had immediate confidence that I would enjoy my first taste of this porter.

The beer could not be smoother; nothing harsh or overpowering about this beer on the tongue or in the throat. In fact, at 5.2% ABV – on the low side within the porter family, one could easily find Black Butte’s smoothness as an invitation to consume a few of these while hanging out on the porch and watching the snow melt during the early spring.

This Deschutes Porter may not be overpowering, but it is far from a single note beer, Black Butte’s flavors involve a complex balance of gentle acidity, slight bitterness, smoke, and subtle sweetness. A delicate roasted coffee flavor, chocolate, and hops tickle each taste bud with every drink. Furthermore, the aftertaste is as balanced as the initial taste. I drank the beer slightly chilled, but not cold and I recommend enjoying it in that fashion. The cold would mask the flavors and that would be a crime.

Even if one is not a hop-head, a coffee drinker, a fan of smoke, or chocolate – do not be scared of this porter. The treatment of each component as an ingredient, rather than a star, allows for a harmonious blend of tastes and smells. Its rich tastes are multi-noted and well balanced. It does not try to be a stout or anything fancy. It is just a porter, and it is a darn good one. Along with O’Dell’s Cutthroat Porter, this ranks as one of my favorite porters. I could easily sit and drink a few of these and be incredibly satisfied with each glass consumed.

Overall Rating: 4.25 pints out of 5.

Beer Review #2: Urban Legend Brewing’s Cold War, Russian Imperial Stout

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On the other end of the dark beer spectrum is Urban Legend Brewery’s Cold War Russian Imperial Stout. Urban Legend opened less than two years ago in suburban Chicago and, so far, has received many great reviews. Cold War offers proof that Urban Legend is brewing excellent beer.

Cold War’s appearance is a dark brownish-black beer with a tan head. The aroma and taste include roasted chocolate, anise, and a subtle hint of hops. The aftertaste is as pleasant as when the beer “first hits your lips.” The overall flavor is sweeter than I normally prefer, but the sweetness does not overpower – this will not confuse one with a cider, or even a dessert. In fact, the hint of hops that comes through at the end of a taste effectively cuts down on the sweetness – a wonderful balance of sweet and bitter. The combination of creaminess and gentle carbonation provide for a wonderful mouth feel. All together, the beer’s appearance, feel, aroma and taste make Cold War one of my favorite stouts of all-time, if not one of my favorite overall beers.

Urban Legend notes that this beer is fantastic for aging, notably in a dark cellar. The bottle I obtained included instructions on how to age the beer. Although I could not wait, I can see why this beer would be prefect for aging. Speaking of similarities to wine, at 11.8% ABV, this beer delivers quite a kick. If you are looking to chug a beer to quench your thirst, this may not be the beer for you. However, this beer would be perfect to sip with steak or a hearty pork chop.

Sadly, Urban Legend offered this beer for a limited time — I received mine as a Christmas gift. For now, the Cold War is over, but I have a feeling that Cold War tensions are still brewing. I can’t think of a better way to calm the nerves of communists or capitalists than with a good stout from Urban Legend.

Overall Rating: 4.75 pints out of 5.

Matt’s Bio:

Writer, beer lover, and sports aficionado.

Chicago

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Mathew Powers

Mathew Powers

Forever part of the Sommbeer family, Matt's journey from beer geek to beer writer has included regular contributions to Chilled Magazine, Thrillist.com, and his blog, "A Pint of Chicago," for the Chicago Tribune Media Group. He's also published non-beer-related items on various magazines, "webzines," and Ebooks. But, Sommbeer was, is, and always will be his home.
Mathew Powers