Chicagoist's Beer Of The Week: Perennial's 17 Mint Chocolate Stout
Ed. note: While regular Beer of The Week writer Jason Baldacci is in Europe sipping on some fancy beer, we've brought in a slate of guest writers. This week's BOTW was chosen and written by the appropriately-named John Barley with some editing help from Paul Schneider, both of Solemn Oath Brewery.
At Solemn Oath Brewery, our staff fridge is a constantly turning supply of incredible beers brought in by brethren brewers, patrons and ourselves as we collect inspiring beers from our travels to share with the group. One brewery that is almost always present in that rotation is Perennial Artisan Ales. If you aren't familiar with this St. Louis beast of a little brewery you really need to evaluate what it is that you're doing with your life.
This month we've been enjoying quite a few of their brews due to a recent collaboration dark rye saison we did with them at our shop that will be hitting Chicagoland in a few weeks, and a highlight at Oath Day - our anniversary party on May 31. When Perennial brewer Andy Hille came up to brew, he muled a number of beers across the border. To be honest, some of the best beers in the country are coming out of this brewery, and in this climate that is fucking saying something.
Perennial has an insane amount of Chicago ties, with many brewers there having honed their skills in renowned breweries all over our fair metropolis- from Half Acre to Goose Island. We feel a deep kinship with their emphasis on Belgian styles and admire the way they harness yeast to express the fruity, spicy and funky character that makes the category so interesting- and always in a way that respects and plays well with complex malt character and specialty ingredients. And then there's Side Project: Perennial head brewer Cory King's, well, side project, featuring 100 percent wood-aged sexiness that's mostly barrel fermented. Snagging one of those bottles is the black market beer equivalent of stumbling across that new Wu-Tang album.
They're small and really pushing the craft of brewing in interesting directions, taking risks and exploring territories that other brewers, us included, just don't have it in us to move confidently into. You should support these guys. We do. But enough of this, on to the beer: 17 Mint Chocolate Stout, an imperial stout brewed with chocolate malt, cacao nibs and mint leaves. If you're thinking April is the wrong season for a nice imperial stout, you're clearly not living in the same town we all are. Seventeen also happens to be my favorite number and graced the backs of all my jerseys during my childhood days. (No real reason for that nugget, just a fun fact.)
You pick up on the fresh mint nose right away, brightening up the deep earthy, roasty aromas that hang just a little lower in balance. The carbonation is fairly lively for a big stout and it accentuates the sharpness of the mint. As the beer warms, the mouthfeel gets creamier with less bite but never weighty. A really exceptional round chocolate sweetness emerges and begins to mellow out the mint from fresh-cut to--by the time you reach the end of your glass--pure Mint Meltaway. It's beautiful to experience the balance of a beer change as you drink through it, which, in this case, should be done slowly, after dinner, in a comfortable armchair with your eyes closed. At 9.3% ABV that may seem like a tall order, but on these nights that should just be fucking warm already call for it. The finish is smooth and clean, with the bright and dark flavors swirling around each other and insisting on the next sip to bring about the full effect one more time. As for pairing possibilities, a fine mint truffle, seasonally appropriate Thin Mint cookie or pedestrian cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream will do the trick, but don't fool yourself--this beer needs an accompaniment like Paul Simon needed what's-his-face.