15 November 2012

Flipping the birds

I made a special return visit to the Yamamori Izakaya when I heard they'd got the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale in. It's brewed using a mold-dyed rice known as "red rice koji" and the Kiuchi Brewery claims on the label that this turns it pink, but it didn't look that way to me: more of a hazy orange, I thought. There's an interesting sort of strawberry flavour to it, the sort you find in the better class of Irish red ales. The texture is smooth and wheaty and it's all very jolly up to a point. It finishes abruptly, however, with no proper aftertaste: an unforgiveable sin in a beer of 7% ABV.

I had heard disparaging comments about it from various sources but having tasted it now I can't agree with them. It's just not really as interesting as the vital statistics ought to make it.

The way the beers are listed on the Izakaya blackboard leaves it unclear whether the Pale Ale is a separate beer or just a description of one of the others. Turns out it is a beer in its own right: 5.5% ABV and dark gold in colour with a large fluffy head. No half measures here: it starts out with a blast of bitter and pithy orange, overlaid with an intense waxyiness I associate most with English bittering hops in large quantity. And then in the middle there's a surprising acrid funk, almost lambic-like in its vinegary sharpness and a long way from the flavours best associated with pale ale. It's not that I didn't enjoy it -- it's definitely a beer that makes you take notice -- but it was just one of those that's a bit too confusing to really impress.

Kiuchi's Japanese Classic remains my go-to in this line-up, with an honorable mention for the Nipponia.

7 comments:

  1. I do love this little bar, such a great surprise to see Hitachino in Dublin; fully agree that JCA & draught Nipponia are absolute beauts.

    Was chatting to the bar manager recently imploring him to put Hitachino's Espresso Stout onto their next order (it's wonderful) and also forced him to look at Baird Brewing...here's hoping!

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    1. Indeed! Good work that man.

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  2. I think the Red Rice is a fascinating beer. It combines two ancient brewing traditions. I spoke (via email) to Toshiyuki Kiuchi about the beer, and here's a little bit of what he said. The beer emerged from a suggestion by the importer, B United.

    "He requested us to brew very unique Japanese style beer with using some Japanese ingredient. At that time we had red rice sake we called Asamurasaki. Asamurasaki is ancient rice was brought to Japan in the 5c and have very unique taste like berry."

    I think that aftertaste issue you identify is a feature, not a bug, and is typical in sake where the good ones end crisply, with just a whisper of white tea.

    "Normally we use polished rice because there are so many proteins and oil and nitrogens at the surface of rice, and those will cause bad flavor and taste. But there are also good pink color at the surface. So we developed new idea for using whole, not polished rice and we had success for brewing very unique beer."

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  3. I have no idea how my commentary paragraph hopped up to divide Mr. Kiuchi's comment. Sorry!

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    1. It's a punishment for typing the phrase "very unique". Took me ages to write that script...

      But thanks for the observations. Next time I'll try it with one of the pub's sake tasting trays.

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    2. Of course, I fully endorse anyone who doesn't like it. We need to embrace our preferences. But it does exonerate Kiuchi when you know it was intentional.

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  4. Completely understand your point about the strawberry note. Nail on head. I find their stuff interesting, but totally not what I expected. Still, they (along with Baird's) remain the only far-east 'craft' beer I've tried.

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