Ever since the leaves turned and the temperatures dropped Thirsty Thursday been fixated on reviewing darker richer beers to keep your motor chugging during the winter months. But today we’re mixing it up with two completely different beers from Japan: The Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale and Red Rice Ale.
Made by the nearly 200 year old sake brewery Kiuchi in central eastern Japan, the Hitachino Nest Series came into existence in 1996 and is known for the unique owl on its labels. Though there are twelve different beers brewed in this series the Classic and Red Rice might be the most unique.
The Classic follows an original India Pale Ale recipe brought to Japan in the 19th Century and the beer is slowly matured in the same type of cedar casks used to age sake. The result is one of the most distinctive, non-IPA like, and strangely pleasant beers you’ll ever have…one that you literally have to taste to believe.
The Red Rice is brewed with a combination of malt hops, barley and a special red rice that provides the ale with its cranberry like color. The beer tantalizes the nose and is unique on the palate with an unfiltered sake like mouthfeel.
And for as strange as the following detailed descriptions of the beers might sound, both are highly recommended for their experience and enjoyment values.
Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale (7% alc)
Pours burnt hazy orange in color with a skimmy sea foam froth on top. The nose expresses notes of toasty lemon spice and the amazing/perplexing essence of salty soy sauce* (yes you read that correctly). Medium bodied, the Classic Ale is relaxed and smooth on the palate revisiting the flavors from the nose. With every sip the beer’s soy sauce aspect strangely grows on you and makes you wonder why you’re not enjoying this with sushi.
*Other reviewers of this beer have found the nose to express more of a cedar essence
Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale (7% alc)
Diluted cranberry fizz cocktail in color, the nose is floral and provocative with sweet citrus fruits and a tartness wrapped into one joined by a smattering of yeast and cloves notes. Crisp and refreshing the beer has a mouthfeel similar to that of an unfiltered sake that is unusually comforting causing one to forget that the fruit and nut flavors on the palate are virtually non-existent.
Both beers are currently available in Japan and the U.S. (retailing around the $4-5)
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