Tokyo Black ShinSyu

Yo-Ho Shinsyu Natural Porter (Aka Yona Yona Tokyo Black) (Japan: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate creamy fudge coloured head.

Nose: roasted. Hazelnuts. Bitter cocoa. Coffee. Chalk.

Body: Fudge. Charring. Thick, slightly oily feel. Black liquorice. Tarry. Bitter chococlate. Purple peppers*. Black cherry.

Finish: Bitter and charring. Chalk. Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: This is a bitter one. Bitter chocolate, bitter coffee, slightly oily and tarry in feel. An impressive load out for the abv. However, does that mean it is any good?

The flavours are in the expected range of chocolate and coffee, though with the bitterness way up. More viscous than normal as well, having elements usually associated with the stronger stout style. The harsh edges are cut slightly with a fudge sweetness that makes it manageable, with a chalk dryness to ground it. Late on you get black cherry which helps open it up a touch.

The texture is light at the edges, thick and oily in the middle. Clinging and intense it rolls between the bitterness an fudge sweetness. All in all, pretty heavy and brings a lot of character to what would be a pretty standard set of expected flavours. This makes them seem new and more interesting than they would otherwise.

All in all, pretty impressive. Pushing the envelope of intensity but keeping it just within the lines. There is no compromise though, Like the Imperial Stout Mikkeller Black it kicks out the bitterness, though at far lower abv than that beast of a beer. Another impressive achievement. There is nowhere near the sweet or liquore like elements that those Imperial Stouts bring though.

A beer of slow immense weight, delivered more in texture and bitterness than flavour, but impressive for that.

Too bitter? Maybe, depending on your tastes, but it shows class and confidence in its characteristics. Give it a look and see if it works for you. Even if it is not, the craftsmanship cannot be denied.

Background: After looking up the Blond Ale and realizing it was a yo-ho beer I suddenly wondered -Was the porter I had seen then Tokyo Black. The answer, it turns out, according to rate beer, is yes. So on the way out of Matsumoto station I grabbed a can for later drinking. As well as being in ratebeer’s top 50 japanese beers, it was also in 1001 beers to try before you die. I try not to let such lists run my drinking, but when in an unknown beer scene they tend to give reasonable starting points to work from.

* note it has been a long time since I had purple peppers last. My memory may be a tad off.