Deschutes Brewery out of Bend and Portland Oregon puts out a wide variety of Ales. Their most recognizable beers include Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, Jubelale and, of course, their Black Butte Porter – both the regular and the annually-released, barrel-aged version.
The barrel-aged version of Black Butte is a bit different each year and can include additions like chilies, cranberries, orange peel, figs, vanilla beans or any number of other special ingredients. I particularly enjoyed this year’s release of Black Butte XXVIII. It had smooth well-blended flavors of vanilla and cocoa with just a touch of smoke, giving you a feel for the barrel the beer spent 12 months maturing in.
Now Deschutes has teamed up with Bendistillery, the same distillery that created the Crater Lake line of spirits, to bring to us a project 20 years in the making: Black Butte Whiskey. Double distilled from the wash of Black Butte Porter, it sort of brings things full circle.
Here is the full press release from Deschutes Brewery and Bendistillery:
21 September 2016 – Bend, Oregon – Deschutes Brewery and Bendistillery today announced the much anticipated launch of Black Butte Whiskey. Created over the past three years, this malt whiskey was double distilled from the wash of Deschutes Brewery’s flagship beer, Black Butte Porter. Available in very limited quantities, this sipping whiskey can be found starting today at the brewery’s two public houses, Bendistillery’s tasting room and Oregon liquor stores only.
Jim Bendis, founder of Bendistillery, said, “The origin of this project was nearly 20 years ago when I distilled and barreled a small batch of Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter beer as an experiment. We all kind of forgot about it until we ran across that original barrel when we moved the distillery. Tasting that spirit is what really inspired us to collaborate with Deschutes to produce a whiskey we could share with everybody. It brings happy tears to my eyes witnessing a 20-year-old dream come to fruition!”
Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes Brewery said, “The whiskey was more about an opportunity to innovate at a new level by elevating the beer and creating a very different product altogether. This is what can happen when you’re having fun and not bound by convention!”
Black Butte Whiskey was aged in new #4 char American oak barrels, and the resulting whiskey retains the malty, chocolatey notes of Black Butte Porter while gaining woody, earthy flavors from the oak. The body is full while the spirit drinks dry and clean. Ryan Schmiege, assistant brewmaster for Deschutes Brewery, said, “The base for this whiskey is very unusual because it is founded on a beer which is comprised of a lot of chocolate malts; not common for whiskey. I liked the challenges we had early on while learning to think, brew and ferment like distillers.”
The whiskey will be served neat or on the rocks at the Deschutes Brewery pubs in Bend and Portland starting today. Bottles are available at Bendistillery and Oregon liquor stores. Because a very limited amount is available, a future release for the next round of Black Butte Whiskey is slated for the end of 2017.
“I think the most exciting part of this project has been the public’s response. We have been able to sample and see how the whiskey develops over the years, so we know how good it is. But to see peoples’ eyes light up when they try it for the first time is the best part,” said Alan Dietrich, CEO of Bendistillery.
Founded in 1996, Bendistillery is one of the nation’s first craft distilleries and is still the most awarded craft distillery in the country. Their flagship Crater Lake Spirits brand are traditional American style gins, vodkas and whiskies all produced at their distillery in Bend, Oregon. www.bendistillery.com
About Deschutes Brewery
Named as OUTSIDE’s Best Places to Work for the last three years in a row and winner of the 2015 Oregon Sustainability Award, Deschutes Brewery was founded in 1988 as a brew pub in Bend, Oregon. Still family and employee owned 28 years later, the brewery is known for brewing a diverse line-up of award winning beers including the popular Fresh Squeezed IPA, Black Butte Porter, and Mirror Pond Pale Ale. From the beginning, the focus has been on crafting the best beer and food using thoughtfully curated ingredients. With a second brew pub in Portland’s Pearl District that has become a popular destination for craft beer lovers from around the world, Deschutes Brewery now ships beer to 28 states, the District of Columbia, and internationally from its main brewing facility located on the banks of the Deschutes River. To find out more, visit www.DeschutesBrewery.com.
I look forward to the release of Black Butte each year. If you can find a craft beer bar offering one, which isn’t too difficult, it’s fun to do a vertical tasting of Black Butte and compare the differences from vintage to vintage. Now, with Black Butte Whiskey available at Deschutes Brewery locations in Bend and Portland (as well as at Bendistillery and Oregon liquor stores), it would be fun to pair that vertical with the whiskey bearing the same name.
For now, it sounds like you’ll need to make the trek down to Oregon if you want to get your hands on some Black Butte Whiskey (although I’m betting a few local bars will be able to get their hands on a bottle or two). As noted above though, the next round of Black Butte Whiskey will be released near the end of 2017. Perhaps we’ll see some in Washington liquor stores by then.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.