Black Pearl
Ichijoji: Burakku Paaru (Black Pearl) (Japan: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown, toffee froth in a half inch of head.

Nose: Roasted. Red peppers and peppermint.

Body: Milky chocolate. Sweet chilli. Peppermint. Miso. Dry roasted peanuts. Liquorice. Lemongrass.

Finish: Mint leaves and peppermint. Liquorice. Hazelnuts.

Conclusion: I seriously had no idea what beer style this was, it looked like a stout or black IPA, but the flavours…? Very fresh, minty and with light sweet chilli touches over chocolate and liquorice with roasted nut notes. Very fresh and unlike anything I expected.

It really is dominated by the peppermint flavours and can, at times, seem a bit single minded. The chocolate and roasted base however grows quickly enough to work against that and give the beer a certain charm.

There is some sweet chilli flavours as well, in fact the beer is dominated by various greenery and vegetables. Something about it just screams Japanese beer, and in fact I think it would complement Japanese food very well.

Oddly for what turns out to be a stout, this is a very refreshing beer that works a lot better than that heavy mint flavour would have you imagine. I think it might be an acquired taste as the mint is so intense. I can’t imagine having more than one at a time, but it did amuse me very much.

So, if you want a normal beer, this doesn’t hold up to those expectations. As a thing in itself I very much enjoyed it.

Background: This brewery is bloody miles out from the centre of Kyoto! Of course with my map reading skills I didn’t realise that so ended up on quite the amusing hike throughout Kyoto and managed to get to the little brewpub with just enough time to sample two beers before they closed. I also tried and honey and lemon ale which was very much like mead and cough syrup mixed in a beer fashion, odd and better tasting than that short description would make it sound.

I’m glad I reviewed this beer as I think it and, in fact, the Ichijoji brewery sums up the best part of the Japanese scene. There are a lot of beers infused with fruit and other odd ingredients there, in a way that would make many people not consider them beers. Then again a lot of people wouldn’t call lambics beers, so fuck ‘em.

The beers at Ichijoji seem to call to the old traditional ales before hops became popular and used many other ingredients to impart flavours, but here they do it with a craft beer twist.

In the case of this beer, a stout made with a Kumamoto fruit, which according to google auto translate is called the “Pearl citrus”. I get the feeling I lost something in translation. Anyway, I knew none of this on drinking. I didn’t quite catch what the bar tender said about this beer, so, instead of asking for him to repeat it like a sensible person would, I decided to order it and find out. This incidentally is also the train of logic that led to me finding out curry doughnuts exist.

Because of the peppermint flavour in the beer I originally thought this could be their peppermint ale but a quick struggle with the katakana led me to realise I was wrong. By the way, to really get a feeling for the range of infused ales they have check out their beer list (For those who don’t speak Japanese, google chrome does a passable auto translate)