After Hours spotlights a beer every Sunday. As the world of craft beer continues to explode, the number of breweries and beers seems to grow exponentially making the process of selecting your next beer infinitely more difficult. These tasting notes will aim to make the process a bit less challenging.
This week, a Shochu barrel-aged beer from Japan is featured. Japanese breweries continue to slowly rebuild and return to normal business life after the earthquake and tsunami destruction earlier in 2011.
Is there a beer that you feel should be spotlighted here in the future? Drop the columnist, Bryan Kolesar, a note to make it happen.
Name: Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH)
Brewer: Kiuchi Brewery [Website], established as a sake brewery in 1823 and added a beer brewery in 1996
Location: Naka, Japan
Style: Belgian Strong Ale (barrel-aged)
Vintage tasted: 2010
Recipe Notes: Marris Otter, Munich, Crystal, and Chocolate malts with Chinook and Styrian Golding hops, aged three months in Shochu — a distilled Japanese spirit — casks, bottle-conditioned
Stats: 7.0% ABV, 44 IBU, 18.9 Plato (or 1.078) original gravity
Price Range: $5 - $6 per 330ml bottle
Availability: Imported to U.S. by B. United International and available at better bottle shops in 38 states
Aroma: Black licorice, cherry, ripe peach, wood, mild booziness, the slightest touch of sour funkiness
Taste: Pepper spice, fruity sweet esters, molasses, mild booziness, mild hop bitterness, slightly tannic, the slightest touch of sour funkiness
Overall: A very interesting beer with complex, yet identifiable, flavors up front that dries out nicely in the finish. The added dimension from Shochu barrel-aging provides an undercurrent of booziness, but does not steal the show from this dark and rich Belgian strong ale. A subtle and pleasant touch of Pediococcus souring also adds to the beer’s enjoyment.
Recent awards: International Beer Challenge (Gold, ‘06; Silver, ‘04), Japan Beer Cup (Silver, ‘05), International Beer & Wine Summit (Gold, ‘01)
Suggested Food Pairings: Some personal recommendations include barbecue shrimp, Singapore Mei Fun, soft-ripened Brie-style cow cheese with a mild earthy character.
Tidbits: Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, despite some damage, the brewery is back up and operating and has resumed exporting to the U.S. market. They have tested extensively for radiation and have reported no detectable issues.
After the natural disaster, the brewery’s expansion project was put on hold as all construction companies were “recruited” to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure (bridges, roads, ports, homes, et cetera). Toshiyuki Kiuchi is hopeful that his expansion can be continued and finished soon.
Damage at the brewery from the natural disaster was relatively low — estimated at roughly $125,000 by brewery owner Toshiyuki Kiuchi — yet the American craft beer market rallied and raised cash and goods contributions to the order of over $32,000 that were donated directly the brewery for building and community relief.
Finally, consumers can expect a very new special brew near the end of summer. According to B.United company president, Matthias Neidhart, “A very special version of Kiuchi’s Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia will be coming from Japan by the end of August. This ‘Pilsner version of Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia‘ is fermented cold using a bottom-fermenting yeast and will be kegged at our place in Oxford, CT as soon as our temperature-controlled container tank arrives from Japan.”
–Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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