Bootlegger’s Brewery Mint Chocolate Porter

Christmas Time. Yes! Let’s do this thing! I love Christmas. As my wife will tell anyone who’ll listen, I have the sensibilities of a small child. I get teary and weepy every time I see Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Let me tell you something- best Christmas special ever. Yes, even better than Jingle All The Way … slightly.

My wife

And, my wife is getting into the spirit, too. She doesn’t have the childhood sense of wonder that I do, but she actually had a decent childhood, and got that nonsense out of her system. However, she is the world’s best gift giver. She is tremendously insightful and generous. She’s also, I think, passive aggressively mocking me.

[quote]We don’t have a tree this year. So, we’ve designated her hope chest (from when she had hope she’d marry someone who’s not me) as the presents stand. By “presents stand,” I mean it is the place where she leaves stacks upon stacks up gifts for me. Now, most men would be giddy over the idea of that many Norelco shavers, but I am not normal. To me, I just see a big pile of, “top this, jackass.”

There’s like 22 presents there. Much as I hate to admit, I have nothing thus far I have purchased for her. Granted, I work for a living, and I am a selfish jerk, who thinks of no one but himself … but still. Every time I walk past the stack of shame, I am reminded how far behind I am. But, truth be told, I have no idea what’s in that stack. It could be 22 small things, like a Chicago Bears set of 80’s Jazzercise leg warmers (if she read my note to Santa). Or, it could be that $2000 kegerator I’ve leered at on the Internet. (And here she thought I was looking at porn…). I just don’t know. So, what do I get for her? Jewelry, despite my vast fortune, would pretty much limit me to one gift. If I got bunch of small ones, I could very easily be made a fool if that life size statue of Neil Diamond I wished for gets wheeled up onto our porch. See, this is the true joy of Christmas.

Actually, while I do love the presents and the lights and the cartoons, Christmas is really about one thing to me—MINT! Yes, I wait all year long for the return of Dreyers Peppermint Ice Cream (low fat, of course). Then, there’s the chocolate covered peppermint bark. Ooh la and la! However, as has become my tradition over the last few years, it’s time for me to delve into my favorite Christmas beer. Today’s beer is Bootlegger’s Mint Chocolate Porter.

On to the beer

Thanks to Bootlegger’s for giving me this beer to try. Let that be a lesson to you, other breweries! Let’s ensconce ourselves in a holiday wonderland. Grab a (or 17) Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s, pour yourselves as much of the 22 oz. bomber as you can, kick up your feet, and get ready for one the most perfect pairings in all of pairing-land.

In the glass, the beer pours dark, almost black. Under light, only the very outer edges allow the black to give way to garnet. Not overly carbonated, your cup need not over foam (all the more room to pour as many ounces as possible). However, the head is a nice, quarter inch of khaki foam. For one, I am glad the carbonation isn’t overdone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of carbonation, but this has been created in a way as to show off the flavors of the beer without scrubbing bubbles to strip away the winter wonderland that coats my palate.

I’ve poured mine cold, right out of the fridge. What comes to mind immediately is a Girl Scout Thin Mint. Has anyone ever eaten one of those above 50 degrees? I think the Geneva Convention expressly forbids such treason. Yes, cold can often be the death of a beer, deadening the taste buds, and keeping you from truly experiencing the flavor of the liquid goodness—perfect for certain beers that have no flavor in the first place. Here, though, I think cold adds a really nice compliment to the mint. When I think of mint—much like my peppermint ice cream and frozen thin mints—I think of the cooling sensation that they impart. The coldness of the beer only serves to enhance this. And with bold flavors like this, not an ounce of flavor is lost.
With any good beer, layers are a good thing. One dimension is boring, two dimensions a cartoon, and three an extra $5 per movie ticket. Drunk cold, the mint really comes through here. It’s a leafy, real mint quality, which very obviously exposes that Bootleggers does use real mint in the beer. If you’re expecting the artificial sugary mint, you’ll not find it here. However, if you’re not a mint fan, you should probably avoid this beer. I’ve tasted a number of batches of this beer- from early batches with more mint up to the current iteration leaning more toward balance. As a mint nut (ooh, write that down- MINT NUTS! Delicious…), the more the better for me, but I think they’ve made a nice compromise.

The verdict

The result is obvious. While you’ll get that beautiful spearmint quality upfront, you’re quickly greeted with a countering roasty malt underpinning. Here’s where the chocolate comes in. There is no chocolate in here, but that chocolate malt, with its roasty, full flavors, adds that chocolate-y character. In fact, many beers that are called “chocolate” this or that, are actually not made with chocolate. Much as chocolate (cacao) beans are roasted, so are the malts in these beers. The flavors they give off are reminiscent of cocoa or chocolate.[quote2 align=right]

Speaking of chocolate, the aroma on this beer, while not overpowering, really does a nice job of preparing the drink for the contents of the glass, without giving away the ending. Mint takes the lead, but there is a subtle bakers chocolate aroma that wafts through as the finality of the whiff washes over you. Little to no hop aroma do you find in this beer, nor in the taste. While, I am certain they are used, this comes off much more a spice beer, where the spice is an integral part of the recipe, rather than the dash of cardamom, nutmeg or vegemite so frequently added as an afterthought.

Bootleggers Mint Chocolate Porter is not for everyone. However, I find it to be one of the most interesting, refreshing, and seasonally perfect beers out there. You may not like it (though I think most will), but you’d have a hard time not being impressed by it.

With that I’ll leave you. It’s my last review of the year. But fear not, barring a ski accident (which is far less likely as I’ll not be skiing), I’ll be back in January with more annoying, long winded jaunts-of-whimsy on the topic of beers to drink.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all good drinking!

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