December is to peppermint as October is to pumpkin spice. My house is full of mint-infused additives, from coffee creamer to muffins. Yet mint isn't an easy ingredient to use. Too much and you get toothpaste; too little and you get, well... lighter toothpaste. There are two minty beers out now that taste like the holidays. One or both may be perfect for you.
Epic - Grandma Van's Candy Cane Stout: Pours a viscous-looking motor-oil black that requires a fairly aggressive pour to yield a finger of mocha colored head. The aroma is dominated by rich bittersweet chocolate characteristics and cocoa nibs alongside the roasty notes of burnt toast and medium char. However, as you smell it more and more, you get the herbal, minty characteristics from the dried peppermint leaves. Unlike the mint that one might typically associate with mint-flavored candy or chewing gum, this has a far more natural feel to it.
The taste picks up right where the aroma left off, with the primary flavors being the semisweet chocolate and flavors of roasted malt and bitter roasted notes. At first sip, you might not even realize that this is infused with mint if you weren't paying attention—though that's likely a good thing, since you don't want the mint to overpower the flavor. Once again, the peppermint comes through in more of an herbal, even earthy vein, rather than the kind of artificial profile in mint candy. In fact, the mint imparts zero sweetness whatsoever, relying on the chocolate malt and cacao to counteract the bitterness from the roasted flavor profiles.
Overall: A nicely-done beer that forms a good balance between the rich, roasted stout characteristics and the more herbal peppermint in a way that doesn't taste artificial. This 6 percent stout is more of a dessert beer than anything else, as it doesn't really pair well with savory food.
Uinta - Peppermint Patty: It poured a very dark brown color with a finger and half worth of creamy tan head, resulting in a very good-looking beer. The aroma starts off with a medium amount of sweetness, with the mint being the first to show up as it imparts a nice spearmint-y aroma that seems to dominate this beer. I wish the stout base came through more.
The taste seems to be similar to the aroma, but lighter, and it starts off with a lower amount of medium sweetness. The mint is still the first to show up, but this time it's heavier than it was in the aroma. Up next come the malts, which impart a mixture of dark malt, grainy and dark chocolate flavors. On the finish there's a higher amount of low bitterness, with some spearmint and roasted malts showing up in the aftertaste. This is a nice-tasting beer, but I wish the flavors were a little bolder; they seem just a little watered down.
Overall: This comes across as the name describes: A Peppermint Patty treat. I thought this was decent beer and though it was pretty close to being average for the style, it just doesn't have the balance and the flavors don't pop like I wish they would from an 8.5 percent stout.
To sum up these two beers, Epic's reminds me of a chocolate brownie with mint icing, while the Uinta is a spot-on representation of the York Peppermint Patty candy treat. It will all come down to preference; I think you'll find both of these to appeal to very different sensibilities. As always, cheers!