Hitachino Nest beers aren't new to this country but they are new to me. I'm not even sure what to call these beers. The brewery named on the back is stated as 'Kiuchi Brewery' so I'm not sure where the Hitachino Nest comes into it really. I think we'll start with the most obvious point first: The two beers I'm reviewing from Kiuchi tonight are some of the finest looking beers I've ever seen - the branding is excellent and quite frankly, puts hundreds of other beers to shame.
First up comes Nipponia - a 6.5% Golden Ale made with Sorachi Ace hops (a hop bred in Japan) and Kaneko Golden - an ancient barley from Japan. (am I correct in thinking this would be a Spelt?) I've never been a fan of Sorachi Ace, I've constantly thought it smelled like Thai curry when used in a beer by itself so this will be interesting. The beer has a bizarre aroma; It's starts with lemon and straw, some light spice and some sweet malt, a tiny hint of sweet honey and pine. I'm also getting a lot of mushroom and cheesecake because Rick Furzer suggested that's what it was like for him, and I can see what he means.
The flavour is really nice, smooth and complex. Quite soft with a big floral edge and some underlying spicy malts. A little purfumey with some biting citrus notes, and while this is a perfectly made, executed and balanced beer, I'm still getting that Sorachi Ace flavour a little too much. It's a little more restrained in this beer than others I've tried, but I'm still thinking Thai green lemon grass chicken curry. A good beer though, a must try for anyone who's looking for something a little different.
The second of the evening is the XH - Extra High 8% - A Belgian style Brown Ale aged for quite some time in Sake Barrels. (we have six of these Nest beers at the shop now, and they sure do like to make them strong! Apart from the Nipponia, they're all over 7%+) For a beer that's aged in such interesting barrels, the recipe for the beer seems a little less than; Malts - Marris Otter, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate. Hops - Chinook and Styrian Goldings. That's about it, but let's not forget, we don't judge a beer by what goes into it, (well, we try not too) we judge it on what it tastes like.
I first tried Sake about 3 years ago. It was mental and it really messed me up for some reason. After I had my first few sips I felt like I had become instantly drunk - in an amazing way - it was crazy. This beer smells like that. *Danger!* Quite nutty with woody hints, some Belgian dark fruit malt flavours too in the aroma.
The flavour is quite sweet in this beer too, a little like dark Belgian candy sugars or a really nice, good quality brown sugar. Other flavours consist of brown bread, some toffee, light malt spice, grapes, pears and a good dose of Sake! The finish is sweet and moorish, with no indication of how strong the beer is... it's gone before you even knew it was poured.
Two really great beers from Japan. We have a range of six in at the shop at the moment, and I really suggest trying them. My only experience of Japanese beer so far has been Asahi in the past, and while Ashai Black was OK, it wasn't anything to write home about. Apart from that, it's always been the Japanese Whisky that's floated my boat, some/most of them are good enough to rival any Scotch Whisky, they clearly know what they're doing. It's a similar story with Kiuchi Brewery - They clearly know what they're doing.