When we opened up this 2014 bottle of Perennial Artisan Ales’ imperial mint chocolate stout, 17, we expected a boozy Thin Mint cookie. Instead, we found a beer that’s a close ringer for cult favorite Italian liqueur Branca Menta, a minty, herbal after-dinner drink. (I love its non-minty cousin, Fernet Branca.) Branta Menta is a digestif, basically a low-proof, botanical- and mint-forward liqueur sipped traditionally to settle one’s stomach; it’s also used in cocktails and can be taken as a shot.
17 pours a dark brown, offering up a dark chocolate-wrapped peppermint aroma that calls to mind an Andes mint or a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Vanilla and some slick whiskey linger just at the edges, reminding you that the beer is barrel-aged but generally taking a backseat to the cool mint.
But oh, the first sip: Instead of a peppermint patty, we found layered flavors that begin with dark chocolate and mint, but at midsip, the cacao nibs’ chocolate note bows out, allowing the mint to take the reigns and ride the alcohol warmth that emerges toward the finish. The way the mint leaves combine with the whiskey barrel’s complex alcohol gives the impression of a cool botanical liqueur; the stout’s roast is just a memory by the time the sip fades. If you’re a fan of Fernet Branca or Branca Menta (high five to you!), you should get your hands on the next bottling of 17 and lay it down for a year or two. If you’re not a liquor drinker, consider a snifter of this beer your after-dinner digestif.