There were times, back in the day, when I found myself enjoying Deschutes's Black Butte special releases at least as much as The Abyss. Often times I would even claim Black Butte to be the better beer. Hey, I am no stranger to controversial opinions!
Those opinions have been subdued over the last years, when Deschutes has released some rather spectacular bottles of The Abyss. Yet now I'm thinking the game might be on again. Sure, that will probably change with the next Abyss release, but there is no denying Black Butte XXIV is a stellar ale, even at the time of release.
The recipe seems to have been switched up a bit this year, and the change is for the better. You won't notice the differences when pouring, mind you. Color wise it's just on the lighter side of black, with a creamy, but fairly short lived head. Compare it side by side with the XXIII and you might find some differences, but going both by memory and notes would suggest the XXIV is highly similar.
Sniff it, and you should start noticing some difference. There's a bit more fruit here, figs in particular, with a very apparent note of roastiness. The chocolate of the XXIII hasn't gone anywhere, and it's not like this smells like a completely different beer, but there are certainly a lot of newness here.
The flavor follows suit: Different but familiar. Familiar but different. The roasted malts flank the chocolate perfectly, giving the dark chocolate flavor more of a backbone this time around. It still doesn't feel overpowering, and the figs gently coat the mouth to let you know everything will be OK. You have sweetness mixed with bitterness mixed with roastiness, and the balance is pretty dang perfect. Just to make it more fun, there is a gentle spiciness toward the end too. Like a farewell present.
As with most Deschutes reserves, this is a strong ale at 11% ABV, yet it never feels that extreme. I'm sure it would knock you out should you decide to shotgun it, but really, the XXIV is a beer designed to take your time with. Sip it, find its nuances. A bottle is a long journey, and it's a journey well worth taking. This is a nigh flawless ale. Imagine what it'll be like a year from now.