Beer of the Rising Sun

The Jug Shop put on an impromptu Japanese bottled beer tasting last week.  While the notice was short … very short … I still found a way to show up first (not without a little help from a friend).  With so many exciting and potent beer-related events just around the corner this turned out to be a pleasant way to get into the swing of things.  And I don’t get a lot of opportunities to try Japanese microbrew beers because I tend to spend my money on reliably devastating stouts, double IPAs, and all manner of barrel-aged beast.  So a hefty flight of Japanese beers all in one place seemed like a rare opportunity.  And, yes, I felt like a drink or eight.  The tasting covered the three better-known (read actually imported) microbrewers of Japan: Hitachino, Baird, and Ise Kadoya.  All contributed some respectable flavors to the tasting but there were a few stand-outs.  Hitachino’s White Ale, easily the most accessible of Japanese microbrew beers, showed why its distribution is quite far flung: the beer tastes good.  A honied hue suited its classic, light Belgian style.  Refreshing and delicately flavored, the beer had presence and you didn’t need to sacrifice the majority of your taste buds to appreciate.  Ise Kadoya had two I worked in room for some extra pours.  First was the Genmai Ale.  This ale has some roasted brown rice thrown into the mix and it works.  The orange/amber beer takes on a pleasantly roasted note that enhances-but-does-not-detract from the overall malty, pale ale profile.  Ise Kadoya’s other stand-out was their IPA.  A solid amber, this seasonal release started out with a lightly sweet maltiness that opened up onto a lusher, barleywine-like brew.  The bitterness of the hops was mellowed in the bottle and this played to the strength of a satisfying beer with curious hints of sugared hops and fermented rice.  If I had to pick one out of the line-up this is the beer, I would have settled into for the evening (but the night was young and there were places to be).

Eric Cripe’s captaining of the tasting was reliably solid and educational (I had no idea microbrewing had been illegal in Japan up until the late ’80s).  A little non sequitur, but he tipped his hand about the contents of a few of February’s events and let it suffice to say that I am looking forward to spending a little more time at the Jug Shop in the near future.

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