Friday, October 21, 2016

Mint Beers for All Seasons?

I’m on record as a fan of herbal flavors in beer (see Lavender Beers for Summer), and I love all things mint. I recently came across my third mint-flavored beer, and they say three’s a trend, so it deserves a post. These three beers could not differ more. One is thick, dark, and bitter. One is sour, tart, and earthy. One is light and crisp. Here’s a rundown on each:

Ballast Point, Peppermint Victory at Sea, imperial porter
This beer is rich intense, thick, strong, quite bitter, and not sweet at all. The peppermint flavor is noticeable, but I might have preferred it slightly stronger. Overall the impression is like the peppermint flavored coffee you might buy around Christmas time, if you brewed the coffee VERY strong and drank it black. (My husband said he was tempted to add cream and sugar.) I love the concept of mint in a porter, but the strong bitterness was surprising here. If I hadn't seen the bottle I would have believed it was a black IPA, and although we like IPAs around here, I found the bitterness a bit too much. (10% abv)

Avery, Certatio Equestris, sour ale aged in bourbon barrels with spearmint
The aroma is very sour with hints of mint and vanilla. The taste is sour too (not sweet at all), with a noticeable amount of mint and subtle flavors of bourbon and vanilla smoothing out the tart sourness. The combination of wild yeast and barrel aging adds a great, earthy complexity. I recommend letting this warm up slightly before drinking – it becomes less tart and more minty. I'd put this beer in the category of Crazy but Good. (8.9% abv)

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No Label, Mint IPA
I think the idea of adding mint to a crisp, hoppy IPA is genius. I was a little disappointed at the subtlety of the mint – I’m not sure I would have known the mint flavor was there if I hadn’t seen the bottle. However, it’s a pleasant IPA overall, with a malty citrus character and moderate hoppy bitterness. (7.7% abv) I haven’t seen this in stores recently, and I think it’s seasonal, but I also can’t find it on No Label’s website. I’m concerned it may be discontinued.

I’m fascinated by the different ways these breweries use mint. Though the beer styles vary widely, they’re all using the bright, sweet character of mint to balance an opposite quality in the beer. Ballast Point uses it to balance the dark and bitter flavors of coffee and hops. Avery uses it to make a tart, sour beer sweeter and smoother. No Label also uses it to add sweetness against hoppy bitterness, but in an entirely different way than Ballast Point.

Some (if not all) of these beers are seasonal, but mint makes a nice addition to beers designed for both warm- and cold-weather drinking. It makes me think of Christmas flavors, but it's also refreshing in the summer. Not every beer needs mint, but I’d argue it’s a fantastic weapon to have in your beer-flavoring arsenal.

You might also be interested in:
The Ultimate Guide to 58 Pumpkin Ales (and counting...)
Beer Infographic: Map of Houston-Area Craft Breweries

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