Sucking Stones

A notebook of small obsessions,
mainly fermentational

Japan Beer Sojourn, Part 2

23 January 2019

Beer is Back, Japan

Day 3. Kyoto

There’s a craft beer place literally 20 meters from the hotel. But, chance would have it, the place is fully reserved by a group tonight. So, I ended up with nothing but the second part of the Don Quijote clutch of cans. Fortunately, the nose seems to be getting a little better. Though the glassware isn’t - all I have available is a delicate hand-crafted glazed ceramic tea cup. Rather beautiful, but opaque. Still, the shape looks ok.

IPA, 7%, Yo-Ho Brewing Company, Nagano

Pours light golden (as best I can judge). Aroma is fruity - sweet citrus, tangerines, and a little on the herbal side. Bitter and grapefruit on the palate with some pine notes. A fairly robust malt body, which plays out to a bitter and slightly boozy finish. Feels like a bolder version of their Pale Ale. And equally drinkable.

Tokyo Black
Porter, 5%, Yo-Ho Brewing Company, Nagano

Dark body, dark firm head that dissipates quite quickly (maybe due to the unfair glassware). Malty and slightly herbaceous on the nose. Complex, deep roast flavours, with some slight tannins and acidity. A lengthy dark and bitter aftertaste. The lightness of the body contrasts with the seriousness of the roast, and keeps me coming back for another sip.

Aooni IPA
Tokyo Black

Day 4. Kyoto

A cold and rainy day prevented much of an outing in the evening. But chance threw a few catches in my net for enjoyment back in the room this evening.

The first has no English labelling at all. But the amazing Untappd app came to my rescue with a quick scan of the barcode - and what a pleasant surprise, style-wise.

Boku Beer, Kimi Beer
Saison, 5%, Yo-Ho Brewing Company, Nagano

Yet another Yo-Ho, whose beers I’ve been enjoying. And this one a saison. Pours a very light yellow (though I still don’t have glassware to get an accurate sense of the colour). Small head clears quickly. Some Belgian yeast hints on the nose, but light and sweet, fruity, even a little floral. In the mouth it is a little thin but with a firm bitterness at the back of the palate. There’s a distinctly earthy note, but no funk. It also seems a bit under-carbonated. Very dry, refreshing, but lacking some sparkle and punch in the flavor department.

IPA, 6%, Nishijin Beer, Kyoto

Pours mid-gold with a light head. What I'm smelling is unfamiliar. It is sweet, fruity and quite thick, like a mix of honey and citrus marmalade - I’m guessing this is the Yuzu in the name. And that strange mix continues into the mouth where the bitter marmalade develops and lingers long after the beer goes down. There’s a strong maltiness behind a fruit and honey sweetness too, but that pithy bitterness cuts through everything. This is very different, a truly modern take on the IPA, but it holds together. It’s a serious drink, and very enjoyable - not heavy but bursting with flavour and depth.

Boku Beer, Kimi Beer
Yugu-muze beer

I subsequently found out more about this brewery online here (google translate does a reasonable job). An interesting project providing work for people living with autism in a micro-brewery.

I hope you won’t mind me indulging myself with the following novelties.

Bass Pale Ale
Pale Ale, 5.1%, AB Inbev UK Limited (sadly)

Was a little surprised to stumble across this in a department store basement - and, yes, I realize that it isn’t at all Japanese, but the label was irresitible. Pours mid yellow. Head dissipates quickly. Malt and a little booze on the nose. On the palate, it’s mainly malt again, with a slightly herbaceous/minty hop edge, but really not much in the way of bitterness. Is this the Bass I remember from a couple of decades ago in the Midlands (UK, not Japanese)? I don’t think so, but then I’m not sure how much memory, nostaligia and the legend are interplaying with reality here.

Guiness Extra Stout
Stout, 6% (according to Untappd), Guiness

Whilst we’re on the non-Japanese retro cick... Pours dark with a light brown head. Coffee / dark chocolate on the nose. There is some of that coffee as it hits the mouth but the taste very quickly moves to something far more toasty and dark, with an acridity in the finish and a touch of sourness on the edge. This is about roast barley, about well-fired grain. While it is fairly light in body and mouthfeel, with some herbal hoppiness if you look hard for it, there’s no getting away from its burnt flavors and dry finish. Bitter to the end.

Bass Ale in Japan
Guiness Extra Stout

Day 5. Kyoto

Was almost going to skip interesting ales for the day, after a few dinner-time lagers, with the aim of turning in early on another cold night. But I stopped in the bottle shop round the corner from the hotel and found it to be full of interesting beers - especially imported ones - at not unreasonable prices. So, to match the cold, I’m going international today, with a couple of breweries which have long been on my todo list. First to the US for some hops, then to Scotland. Hope you’ll pardon, again, this intermission.

Goose IPA
IPA, 5.9%, Goose Island Beer, Co. IL, USA

Pours golden with a thick white head. Malt, light fruit and pine on the nose, with a touch of caramel/butterscotch. Bitter citrus, pine and a malty sweetness combine well as it hits the tongue, following through to a mid-bitter finish of grapefruit tinged with sweetness. Medium-bodied but with some presence, inviting another swig.

90/- Wee Heavy
Strong Scottish Ale, 7.4%, Belhaven Brewery, Scotland

Dark brown with a big creamy head. A little cocoa and booze on the nose. Full bodied, and almost immediately fills the mouth with a rich caramel sweetness with suggestions of raisin and slight booziness. It finishes with a hint of something woody and herbal, leaving a lasting bitterness. For a beer on the sweeter side, that’s really quite quaffable.

Scottish Oat Stout
Oatmeal Stout, 7%, Belhaven Brewery, Scotland

Black, with a cream head which quickly subsides. Milky coffee and chocolate on the nose. Dark chocolate and roasted malts fill the mouth. Fairly full-bodied and smooth with a sweet finish but leaving a lingering roasty bitterness with a mild herbal touch.

Goose IPA, found in several places in Japan
Bottled Belhaven Wee Heavy
Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout

Day 6. Osaka

Location for all the following was the excellent Beer Belly Brew Pub in Osaka. This turned, without planning, into a tasting of Minoh beers. My notes are underwhelming. But the beer was extremely on point. Very well made and served. Everything had restraint though. I guess that’s a positive.

Pale ale
Pale Ale, 5%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

Golden with a good inch of head. Mild hoppiness on the nose. An easy drinker with a medium malt flavour and a classic but light hopping. Delicate bitterness, very smooth, with a touch of sweetness coming though in the end.

DIPA, 9%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

Describes as a 2.5x IPA. This is all about booze, malt and fruity hops. But in good balance with some floweriness coming on the outbreath. The bitterness holds off until the finish. Surprisingly drinkable for the high abv.

First page of the Beer Belly / Minoh Menu, Osaka
On-premise brewhouse at Beer Belly, Osaka
Second page of the Beer Belly / Minoh Menu, Osaka
Black IPA
IPA, 6%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

Black with a solid head which lasts well and provides beautiful lining on the glass. Some chocolate on the nose. Exceptionally creamy mouthfeel with complex caramel and roast maltiness. Hopping is delicate and herbaceous, only showing through in the aftertaste. There’s a dark, toasty edge but overall this is supremely smooth drink.

Stout, 5.5%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

Strong dark chocolate notes, medium bodied. Finishes fairly dry.

The Koelsch
Kölsh, 4.5%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

Very light and slightly cloudy. Sweet herbal scents from the glass. Delightfully sweet and grassy at the start of the sip with a bitterness and dryness way, way below. And nothing in the middle. Gently plays the upper and lower registers of the palate piano. Effervescent in every swish of the glass. Absolute perfection.

Pilsner, 5%, Minoh Brewery, Osaka

After the brilliance of the kölsch I thought I should try the pilsner. Good head. Slightly sweet aroma. Bitterness immediate and all front of mouth, top of palate. Quite a creamy body. Solid and refreshing.

Winter ale
Dark seasonal, 8.5%, Beer Belly Brewery

Cloves, cinammon, nutmeg on the nose. Hits the mouth like a spice bomb - the whole spice drawer plus a little chilli. I think there’s malt behind there. And it is certainly boozy. But my palate feels ruined! It’s not bad though.

Kolsch, Minoh Brewery, Osaka
Interior, Beer Belly, Osaka
Winter Ale

Day 8. Yokohama

A change of town, after a night in the mountains, and taking it easy in preparation for the Brewer’s cup tomorrow.

Suiyoubi No Neko
Belgian Wit, 5%, Yo-Ho Brewing Company, Nagano

Light golden colour and very effervescent. The yeast aromas are immediately present on the nose. Very light bodied and quite sweet with gentle cinnamon and spice aromatics and a little banana towards the end. A little tame and sweet for my taste.

Düsseldorf Style Alt
Altbier, 5.6%, Yokohama Brewery

Hazy brown with a good, slightly off-white head. Caramel and chocolate wafting off the glass as soon as it was poured. Medium-bodied, with a forward dark maltiness, which resolves to a slightly more toasty bitterness in the finish with a herbal note to it.

Day 11. Tokyo

I wasn’t planning to take notes at all today, it being the last day. But habits die hard. So when we ventured into the Baird Beer Taproom in Harujuku for snacks and a rest, I jotted down the following.

Numazu lager
Lager, 5.5%, Baird Beer, Numazu, Shizuoka

Full, creamy mouthfeel with a clean, bitter hoppy finish.

Harajuku Ale
Pale Ale, 6.1%, Baird Beer, Numazu, Shizuoka

From cask, only very slight carbonation. Deep malt base, plenty of hops but not particularly distinct, making this drink almost like a British ipa.

Kurofune porter
Porter, 6%, Baird Beer, Numazu, Shizuoka

Light and slightly creamy mouthfeel. An edge of dry coffee and woody hops.

Suruga Bay Imperial Ipa
IIPA, 8.5%, Baird Beer, Numazu, Shizuoka

Rocky head. Fruit on the nose. Big hops in the mouth backed up by a solid malt. Extremely smooth mouthfeel.

Dark Sky Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout, 10%, Baird Beer, Numazu, Shizuoka

Dark and smooth. Deep roast, but not harsh. In fact there’s a sweetness to it. Despite the high abv, there isn’t much alcohol on the palate. Exceptionally well put together.

Baird Taproom, Harujuku, Tokyo
Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout


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