Japanese Classic Ale - Hitachino Nest Beer (Kiuchi Brewery)
The Japanese Classic Ale from Hitachino Nest Beer is a surprisingly full-bodied beer gushing with caramel malt and barley flavors mixed with a fine pine-citrus aroma.
Hitachino Nest Beer (made by Kiuchi Brewery) is well known outside of Japan, and has been for many years. They make a wide range of delicious craft beers and experiment with new styles yearly. Until recently they were lesser known in Japan and harder to find and taste. After the larger craft beer boom, Hitachino Nest Beer is now a well-known and enjoyed brewery in and out of Japan, with many convenient locations of small taprooms around Tokyo.
One of their well-known beers is the Japanese Classic Ale, which is marketed as an English IPA. This beer, while mild on the hop notes, does have a heavy malted body, with the bittersweet-ness usually attributed to barley wines but with a nice balance of caramel malt. This beer pours a dark ruby-copper color and immediately the woody malt and floral / citrus hop mixture are noticeable. The creamy head helps to balance the initial barely flavors, slowly transforming to the expected caramel malt characteristics, and finishing with a mild hoppiness that resembles a lighter English IPA. The hops bring a noticeable bitterness to the beer, although if not a little on the mild side.
This Japanese Classic Ale was based on the kind of beer one could find during the late Edo period in Japan. These beers were often fermented in wooden barrels that were once used by sake producers imparting some of the lighter, fruity hints of Japanese sake in the resulting beer. The Japanese Classic Ale was made with the aim to mix this late-Edo technique of using wooden sake barrels with IPA brewing practices, contributing to this beers higher alcohol content.
Style: English IPA
Authors Notes: Living in Ibaraki, I only have a few “local” brews to enjoy and I have been lucky enough to taste many of the Kiuchi Brewery’s beers direct from the factory. That said, this beer is always great fresh, but does give me the impression of more a barley wine, which probably comes from the unique mixture of caramel malt and the residual sugars and other goodies from sake barrels. This beer is a little heavier bodied than I am used to but is really good, hiding that 7% ABV well.