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Every year at Valentine’s Day, a slew of limited-edition chocolates are rolled out in Japan, where following the local custom, women give gifts to men. Unfortunately, while there are indeed plenty of guys with a sweet tooth, few of them really want candies shaped like butterflies and rosebuds.

Thankfully, there are a handful of more masculine alternatives, such as the Final Fantasy chocolates we recently introduced you to. But you know what’s even more manly than a video game about a dude killing monsters with a giant sword while his hot martial artist girlfriend cheers him on? Booze. Which is why today we’re knocking back a mint chocolate beer.

The unique beverage comes courtesy of Japanese craft brewer Sankt Gallen, which operates out of Atsugi in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south. Sankt Gallen has an interesting history: The owner’s father began brewing when microbrew operations were still restricted by Japanese law, forcing him to produce his beers in America and import them back into Japan. Eventually regulations were relaxed, Sankt Gallen set up its Kanagawa brewery, and their ales and stouts went on to win multiple awards both in Japan and abroad.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sankt Gallen has released a lineup of chocolate beers. In and of itself, this isn’t all that shocking. After all, some darker beers such as porters have a chocolaty aftertaste, and in Japan, most reasonably classy bars have assorted chocolates on their snack menu.

What caught our attention, though, was Sankt Gallen’s mint chocolate stout. The brewer’s website has a list of retailers and bars that sell the brew, but we picked up ours in the food section of department store Sogo’s Yokohama branch, which is connected to Yokohama Station.

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We grabbed a bottle the clerks had wrapped up with a bow for Valentine’s Day, which now that we think about it may have been for display purposes. They took our money though, so we own it outright now.

The mint chocolate stout makes no bones about what it aims to be, with its label proclaiming it to be a “sweets beer” and promising all kinds of minty goodness with its illustrations.

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Despite the name, there’s no actual chocolate in Sankt Gallen’s chocolate beers. Instead, a mixture of regular and chocolate malt is used in the brewing process. For the mint chocolate stout, peppermint is swapped in for a portion of the hops, an easy enough substitution since the two plants have certain genetic similarities.

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The use of mint puts the drink in a bit of a grey area as far as legal classifications go. For taxation, the Japanese government doesn’t recognize beverages made with mint as beers, so for legal purposes, the mint chocolate stout is technically happoshu, the ordinarily low-malt alcoholic beverage that’s the bane of all but the most budget-conscious drinkers in Japan. Rest assured, though, that the mint chocolate stout has as much malt content as any other legally recognized beer, with a full flavor and respectable 6.5 percent alcohol content. Sankt Gallen’s website even goes so far as to assure customers that the happoshu designation isn’t an attempt at tax evasion by the brewer.

But you know, one of the reasons we drink is to keep us from worrying about such complicated matters. Let’s crack this bottle open.

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It passes the visual spot test, with a light-absorbing quality that definitely qualifies the “stout” title. There’s also very little carbonation, meaning that it doesn’t achieve the 30 percent of head that many in Japan hold as the optimum ratio, but should please those from other nations who prefer more beverage and less fizz in their glass of beer.

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Like with many stouts, the scent is almost more coffee than beer, but just when you think the aroma profile has run its course, there’s a tiny whiff of sharp mint. There’s also an almost imperceptible unpleasantness at the end, but it comes and goes so quickly it’s impossible to identify or get that worked up over.

So, how does it taste?

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The first thing you get is coffee, laced with a bit of chocolate, on the tip of the tongue, although it’s milder than you’d expect from the beer’s inky color. In spite of its top billing, the mint sensation comes and goes in a flash on the roof of the mouth.

That brief moment with the mint is over all too soon, and not just because of the expectations the label builds up for it. Once it’s gone, we realized what the tail end of the brew’s smell reminded us of: sweat, which is also the flavor that washes over the back corners of your tongue.

Even though the 6.5 percent alcohol is enough to give you a decent buzz after you’ve polished off the bottle, there’re so many flavors fighting for your attention that it’s not until the liquid hits the back of your throat that the alcohol becomes noticeable.

Finishing off our first pour confirmed our fears. This isn’t so much the best of the triumvirate of mint, chocolate, and beer as it is a shot of iced coffee taken immediately after brushing your teeth.

Our usual problem-solving strategy is “add beer,” but since we were already covered on that front, we went to our secondary protocol, “add ice cream.” We’d really been looking forward to that mint chocolate flavor, so we ran out to the convenience store and picked up a tub of mint chocolate flavor.

Would alternating between sips of beer and bites of the frozen treat do the trick?

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No, it would not.

While the ice cream’s sweetness did help to cover up that sweaty flavor, it also amped up the beer’s bitterness by comparison. Even worse, the stronger mint of the ice cream left us completely unable to notice any trace of the same in the beer.

In a last ditch effort, we did the only sensible thing. We dumped in a scoop of ice cream and made a beer float.

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The ice cream immediately disappeared from sight as it sank into the murky liquid. We gave the glass a few stirs, and as the cream melted away, it produced a growing top layer of foam.

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Could this ragtag group of misfits save the day? We’ll let this post-tasting snapshot do the talking for us.

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Sadly, the mint chocolate stout didn’t turn out to be our one true Valentine. It’s a lot more like someone you meet who’s good-looking and into the same band you are. There’s an immediate attraction and allure, but after sitting down and having a conversation, you realize that your values are so completely different that you’ll never be happy together, and the only thing to do is to see other people.

In the end, that’s what we had to do with our mint chocolate stout. Being the civil gentlemen we are, though, we introduced it to someone we think is a better match.

▼ We’d like you to meet our good friend, Mr. Drain.

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Related: Sankt Gallen
Photos: RocketNews24