Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Japanese Classic Ale (JCA) (Japan: IPA: 7.5%ABV)

Visual: Hazy reddish brown. Moderate browned colour to the large bubbled head.

Nose: Musty wood. Vanilla. Sherbet and light earthy hops. Sugar dusting. Strawberry.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Malt drinks and hops. Smooth texture. Sushi rice. Light strawberry. Coriander and caramel.

Finish: Caramel. Vanilla. Wood dusting. Light bitterness. Shouchuu.

Conclusion: A nice mid range beer here. Smooth, a light but always present wood influence which is noticeable in both the wood flavours themselves, and the light smooth sweetness that the ageing brings. A mellow bitterness to the character shows its call to the early IPA’s but is more moderate than you would expect of that style.  Similarly the alcohol is very well hidden, with the main hint being a slight shouchuu like spirit finish, but even that is not a major element.

It seems it some ways closer to a Japanese equivalent of a well made bitter than an IPA at times, mainly due to its refreshing qualities and smoothness. There is a bit of a kick, but not too much. Admittedly there isn’t the widest flavour range, but there are elements you would not expect such as the strawberry touch, and the sweetness calling to bourbon like flavours. In fact while the cedar wood flavour is subtle its influence can be seen stamped throughout the beer. The smooth texture, the dry but sweet finish and the distinct influence on the aroma.

It isn’t quiet showy, and the abv seems a bit high for what in flavour a very sessionable ale. It is a very relaxing sociable beer. Id say the beer would take perfect place in the mid point of a session. It isn’t lively enough to open up a session, and not heavy enough to be distinct at the end, but mid way through it would not get heavy but would still have enough flavour to not get lost in the crowd. A tasty mix of sturdiness and yet distinct character.

As mentioned before, effectively a Japanese take on a bitter with IPA leanings, and a very interesting take it is too.

Background: Picked up from Brewdogs guest beer section.  This thing claims to be based on the first Japanese beers made in the Edo period, using the IPA style from England. Hence it has been labelled as an IPA. Style wise it is a bit different, but IPA seems close, enough as it has that earthy UK IPA hop style, and frankly since there isn’t a better label I can think of for it. Aged in cedar casks.