29 September 2017

Well I never!

It started with a tweet from business journo John West: where is local Sapporo lager brewed? I know that Asahi is brewed at Shepherd Neame in Kent; I noted more recently that cans of Kirin Ichiban come from Weihenstephaner in Bavaria, of all places; but Sapporo was not on my radar. And indeed has never featured on this blog. Asking around finally yielded an answer from local distributor David of Noreast: Europe's Sapporo is brewed at the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Cor!

As it happened I had a bottle in the fridge, so took it out to toast my new-found knowledge. Sapporo is a handsome deep gold colour. It smells boringly sweet, like a million other mass-produced ersatz pilsners. But the flavour does have something going for it. There's a classic central-European grassy hop bite, which was a very pleasant surprise. It also has the full and soft texture of a decent helles making it a lot more satisfying to drink than stereotypical dry and gassy mainstream Japanese-style lager. A decent crunch of malt husk finishes it off.

While I'm on the subject of Asian lager, I lunched in Arisu Korean barbecue on Capel Street recently (highly recommended) and was bemused to see they stocked imported Hite lager. I explored the beer of Korea in Seoul a couple of years prior to starting this blog and Hite wasn't a particularly fond memory, though neither were Cass or OB for that matter. Still, here it was: man up and give it a go. Straight from the bottle, of course.

On this occasion it reminded me a lot of Tiger: it has that horribly thick and estery banana flavour I always get from Singapore's flagship beer. It's barely tolerable when ice cold, but any degree of warmth at all turns it sickly and difficult, in a way that this sort of chugging lager shouldn't be. If you can't create the complexity of Sapporo, at least make it dry.

All of these macro meanderings were enough to guilt me into getting some proper Asian craft beer. That involved another tasty lunch, this time at Yamamori's restaurant on Ormond Quay. It has been far too long since I last tried any Kiuchi beers, which the chain imports into Ireland. The Hitachino Nest Lager was entirely new to me and happily fitted the theme of this post.

I was expecting something exceedingly average, but this it an absolute beaut. It's a plain yellow colour topped by a fine white foam, and at 5.5% ABV is a little stronger than the norm, but that's very much in its favour when it comes to accompanying food -- once again the body is wonderfully full and satisfying. The first sip provided a juicy burst of melon rind, turning to bitterer orange pith on the end. I don't know how this was done, but I suspect it may be down to the judicious addition of Sorachi Ace hops: enough to give it a very distinctive taste but without drowning the consumer in coconut oil. Amazingly, this bright and zingy flavour was still present even as my bottle was coming up hard on the stated best-before date. It's a robust little owl.

Given some of the rubbish that gets sold in Asian restaurants around here, and Yamamori's exclusive hold on Kiuchi, it's a shame Sapporo isn't more prevalent. Its weight would make it a much better counterbalance to spicy food, for one thing. I can understand why they don't sell it at Arisu, however, and I still wouldn't swap the Hitachino Lager for it.