This week I decided to pick up a beer from a brewery I’ve never sampled before. I’ve seen Hitachino Nest beer before, as the Foodery usually keeps several types in stock, so out of deference to the warm weather I decided to grab one of their IPAs, the Japanese Classic Ale.
Hitachino Nest Beer is produced by Kiuchi brewery in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. This brewery was founded in 1823 by Kiuchi Gihei, a local leader, as a method to use the rice he was collecting as taxes. The brewery was under the control of Mikio Kiuchi in the 1950s, who kept the brewery focused on quality products made from quality ingredients, even as many other breweries were massively expanding production of low quality sake to meet the explosion in demand as Japan was being rebuilt after World War II. In 1996, Hitachino Nest Beer was introduced, which focuses on the fusion of classic beer styles with historic Japanese ingredients and brewing styles, such as ginger and aging in shochu casks. The brewery, in addition to maintaining its beer, sake (rice wine) and shochu (liquor) product lines, is continuing to diversify with a soon-to-be-released wine line.
The beer poured a light amber yellow and was quite hazy because I did not realize that it was unfiltered; unfortunately, I poured all the sediment into my glass. The aroma was an interesting combination of piney hops and a fairly significant yeast character because of my bad pour, but overall enjoyable. The taste was surprisingly sweet and malty, with a little bit of caramel. The bitterness was there, but only moderately high (paltry compared to the west coast IPAs that I’m used too) and only a bit of piney hop flavor. There were, however, significant citrus fruit notes, but they were much sweeter than I’m used to from IPAs; like a fresh-squeezed orange juice character with some lemon highlights. The body was quite thick, accentuated by the low carbonation.
This beer was not a very good IPA, but I do think that it was a very good beer. The style seemed more like a slightly hopped up brown ale, actually, given the sweetness, caramel notes and color. The best comparison I have is Yards Brawler with a bit of hops. I really, really enjoyed this beer, and I think it’s a good introduction to hops for anyone who isn’t as familiar with them. I personally feel that you should start off with a beer like this instead moving directly into hoppier stuff like Victories Hop Wallop, as starting off low will let you grow to appreciate hops instead of burning out your taste buds. Definitely give this beer a try, especially if you are new to beer or really like Brawler.