Review: Deschutes Brewery Jubelale Winter Ale 2017 and Black Butte XXIX

Two highly-anticipated beers from Deschutes are now hitting the market: the Oregon brewery’s annual winter beer, Jubelale, and its large-format, barrel-aged Black Butte, celebrating the brewery’s 29th birthday.

Deschutes Brewery Jubelale Winter Ale 2017 – Deschutes jumps straight from summer to winter with the release of its latest Jubelale, and this year’s expression is a big winner. The spices are present but played down enough to give the brew a toasty and warmly Christmas-like character. Fig notes are particularly strong, and they are complemented by notes of dates, spiced almonds, toffee, and ample malt. There’s plenty going on, but the beer is amazingly well-balanced, finishing with soothing notes of baked bread and a distant smokiness. 6.7% abv. A / $9 per six-pack

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte XXIX 29th Birthday Reserve – The 29th edition of Deschutes’ experimental porter always includes some oddball ingredients. This year it runs to cocoa, Saigon cinnamon, and cayenne, 50 percent of which is aged in bourbon and rum barrels. The cayenne isn’t readily apparent here, but the chocolate/cinnamon notes sure are. These bold flavors build on top of a core of plum, rum raisin, and dark caramel sauce. The finish sees more Christmas spice, chocolate cake, and a hint of bitter amaro. As with the Jubelale, there’s tons going on here, but the interplay of flavors and balance are excellent. 12% abv. A- / $17 per 22 oz. bottle

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