Tag Archive: Kiuchi

Real Ginger Ale

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Real Ginger Ale (Japan: Spice Herb Vegetable: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy cherry red. Medium cinnamon to brown tight bubbled head.

Nose: Ginger. Cinnamon. Barley.

Body: Ginger. Toffee. Barley. Brown sugar. Cinnamon. Cherries. Brandy cream. Raisins.

Finish: Digestives. Ginger. Toffee. Raisins. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: This is indeed a ginger beer. A real one even. Despite the time it must have taken to hit these shores it still feels raw and fresh in its expression of the ginger. When you drink the beer warm that is pretty much all you get. Ginger. That’s it. It pretty much dominates.

Chilled down you get something similar to a British ESB or maybe a lighter interpretation of a Belgian dark ale backing it up; There is those cherries and raisins and other such dark fruit below the surface. So definitely another beer better chilled.

Man, I can remember back when I hated chilling beer, how times have changed.

Anyway, chilled I kind of dig this, a dark fruitcake and sweet brandy cream body under sharp ginger spice is a surprisingly good combination. Even with that it still isn’t the most complex of things, it still basically is an alcohol ginger beer, but they have used the extra abv to give it extra weight and depth. You can spend longer examining and enjoying it than with most of its ilk.

As it warms the ginger comes back to the fore, subsuming the more malty elements. Overall it wont convert a non ginger beer fan, but it is far more beer like than most and gives you a lot in trade for the increased abv.

Worth a try.

Background: I have joked for a while that the more simple the name of a Hitachino Nest beer, the more likely it is to be good. Pale ale and Amber ale were more fun for me than Ancient Nipponia. This then misses the chance to drop the word real and just call itself “Ginger Ale” for a better chance of success. The ideal Hitachino Nest would probably just be called “beer” or maybe would have a blank label. Anyway, this was a gift from my mate Matt – many thanks guv. This was drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, you know, for cheery times.


Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Pale Ale (Japan: English Pale Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Light amber brown. Moderate loose bubbled toffee coloured head

Nose: Fruitcake. Digestive biscuits and malt. Vanilla fudge and red cherries.

Body: Light to moderate bitterness. Pineapple. Malt chocolate drinks. Red cherries and raisins. Fudge sweetness. White grapes.

Finish: Raisins and red cherries. Light to moderate hop bitterness. Slight dry feel and digestives. Grapes.

Conclusion: What is it about Hitachino Nest? Their big beers like XH are good but underwhelming compared to the close competition. However their understated, more main line beers such as amber ale and now this equally modestly named Pale Ale are bloody good beers. Both pack very high flavour to comparatively restrained abvs.

Much more malt dominated than I expected with a good mix of fruitcake, cherries and raisins, against a restrained use of fresher grape and pineapple flavours.  The bitterness is also restrained. It is definitely present but not excessive. Which all together gives a very satisfying and just slightly dry beer. That last bit is the killer element, some pale ales can seem far too attenuated. This does just enough to give a slight thirst inducing dryness to encourage further drinking.

While it is not a big beer I think it deserves respect as a very good beer. It is that oft overlooked more everyday beer, not quite sessionable due to the abv, but definitely has the flavour for it, bringing in great drinkablily and good flavour.

A very good general drinking beer, bringing character to an area that can be very dull. The term good general drinking beer can sound like a backhanded complement or nigh on an insult, but it is not intended as such. It s a beer worth keeping in good stock of, to enjoy at any time.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section as part of my continuing exploration of the craft beer scene.  Looking at ratebeer I noticed an odd comment about the beer style, English Pale Ales.  In the UK pale ale and bitter are often used interchangeably. For example Timothy Taylor’s landlord is oft referred to as both, with pale ale usually referring to the bottled version. Therefore apparently the style English Pale Ale, is pretty much a foreign creation based on those bottled beers. Huh. You learn something new every day.

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Lacto Sweet Stout (Japan: Sweet Stout: 4.5% abv)

Visual: Black. Froths up nicely into a nicotine stained style brown head.

Nose: Lactose. Milky coffee. Light roasted coffee beans. Touch of smoke and some nuts. Cloying milk chocolate.

Body: Sweet sugared milk. Malt chocolate. Egg yolk. Milk chocolate as well. Slightly fizzy tingle.

Finish: Milk chocolate. Cadburys cream egg centres.

Conclusion: Did some break a few Cadburys cream eggs into a beer or something? For that matter how would that even work?  Despite the aroma’s hints at coffee this is predominantly a sweet and slick chocolate stout, with of course, a heavy milky lactose influence which is what led to the cream egg comparisons.

It is easy going flavour wise. There is distinct character to each element, if not a particularly wide range of flavours. Pleasant, quite sweet indeed and easy to drink.  While there isn’t much of an edge to it there are some roasted nuts to keep the lactose in balance. In general it works more by carefully balancing the intensity of flavour rather than by using contrasting flavours to keep the balance.

The lactose cloying sweetness is very evident, but without getting too souring. It keeps to the simple formulae of the beer working at the sweet end of the scale.  Overall while not great it is a simple bit of fun.

It keeps a smooth texture, slight fizz and carefully weighted flavour to bring is this none too intense stout that can be drunk happily for a while.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section. Not much to say on this one, Hitachino Nest have been pretty good so fr if nothing exception. I’m not unbiased on Japan or Brewdog. Sweet stouts rarely seem to have a real breakthough beer in their ranks but tend to be enjoyable.

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Amber Ale (Japan: Amber Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red with half an inch of caramel brown bubbles. Quite still main body.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Fruitcake and malt chocolate. Some roasted elements. Cinnamon.

Body: Nice bitterness into fruitcake with raisins and cherries. Malt drink. Grapes. Walnuts. A greenery element, maybe egg plant maybe purple peppers, can’t quite put my finger on it.

Finish: Hope texture and moderate bitterness. Malt drinks. Dry fruitcake and lemongrass. Slight nuttiness.

Conclusion: Perfect timing on this beer. A day of running around getting internet fixed, clothes washed and ideas written down and by the time I broke the bottle popped open all I wanted to do was relax.

So, yeah all that and I broke this open, which turned out to be a nice touch of synchronicity.

The texture is all slick, but with a slightly gritty malted drinks touch. Already pretty soothing, with a moderate bitterness to just get your attention.

The elements of fruitcake and roasted nuts are not heavy, but are easily identifiable. Very easy to drink, and the call to mind of fruitcake gives and almost psychosomatic stodgy feel when combined with the texture. Again very relaxing.

It’s a nice balance twixt hops wake up call and the soothing texture, with that solid, if not fancy, flavour in between. Then there is the slight odd lemongrass like hop twists. An element I associate a lot with Japanese beers, but here they keep it tucked away at the end, add interest but not intruding.

Despite the flavours not really trending that way, the mix of texture and the flavours floating over a solid base does put me in the mind of a good quality coffee. Though that could be just because it reminds me of a fancy coffee I tried a few weeks ago, really juicy and lightly fruity. Unfortunately not being a coffee connoisseur I have no idea what the name of the coffee was.

It’s not fancy beer, but it is good and exactly what I needed at that point in time, which is just as important. I could easily see myself keeping a few bottles of these around for general drinking.

Background: As indicated in the conclusion I had quite the hectic day before this one, one that finally resolved my recent internet issues.  I am a big fan of Japan in most things so have a slight bias towards their growing craft beer scene.  I’ve had a chance to try Hitachino’s Ambers Ale a few times before, but always plumped for something that looked more interesting. It’s probably the name, “Amber Ale”, while descriptive doesn’t really fill you with a need to try the beer.

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: White Ale (Japan: Belgium Wit Beer: 5% ABV)

Visual: Light grain yellow. Slightly hazy. Short lived white head.

Nose: Fresh apple in tartness and slightly new apple sourness. White grapes. Banana candy sweets. As it warms distinct ginger becomes evident.

Body: Apples Fresh. Slight bitterness. Slight banana and cloves. Vanilla. Quite sweet but sharp. Slight ginger warmth.

Finish: Vanilla. Pepper and coriander. Waxy sheen. Ginger beer as it warms.

Conclusion:  Most beers change with chilling, but this one is more reactive than most. Even the slightest temperate changes seems to radically change the profile of the beer. Slightly chilled it is quite tart and slightly thin. It’s refreshing with apple tartness and vanilla tones.

At room temperature it is a livelier bugger. Ginger beer like with slight spicy fire. Less refreshing but more enjoyable aside from that. Even then the fresh and vanilla gives a sweet and slightly sharp backbone that means it hasn’t lost it’s core.

The sweetness is slightly more evident than a lot of the Belgium wits. Very vanilla style mixed with apple tartness.  Kinda mixed messages, the kind of contrast you get from biting on a toffee apple. The vanilla style seems quite similar to the TM 10 saison oddly enough. Its still somewhat refreshing if less so than the chilled diversion, and the ginger beer dryness does make it easy drinking. A nice wee mix.

Definitely a better beer warm,. Chilled is slightly too light, and reminds me of Baldin Isaac. Warm it is heavier and richer. Slightly disjointed but enjoyably so. A bit too much clashing to be in the best of beers but a worthwhile trip for a session drinking. The abv is just a but to high for a  full session beer, but flavour wise it is well set. Guess in a pich you could share a few bottles with mates quite enjoyably.
Background:  Drunk with friends, which gave the advantage of extra opinions on the beer, but also meant that I was distracted with conversation during the review. Hopefully the two cancel out.  I’ve tried quiet a few Hitachino Nest beers recently and they have been pretty good so far, if not quite showing the spark of wild experimentation most of the time.  Still as a fan of craft beer and Japan it’s always nice to give them a look over. Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section.

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.

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Weizen (Japan: Hefeweizen: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy. The colour is halfway between orange and mature banana skin. Surprisingly small bubbly white head. Looks somewhat fruit juice like in main body.

Nose: Wheat. Tangerine. Overripe banana. Ice cream syrup toppings. Cinnamon. Quite fresh and slightly acidic.

Body: Cloves. Fresh tangerine. Sherbet lemon. Banana. Moderate bitterness at the back. Tart apple juice.

Finish: Grapefruit juice. What and bitterness.

Conclusion: I didn’t realise it was possible to pour a weizen and not get a massive head.  Erm, maybe I should rephrase that, but I think you get the point. Most weisse beer end up being poured as if they were nitro glycerine just to make sure they don’t froth up.

This thing splashed into the glass from a great height , happily spilling around the glass with but a small set of bubbles forming over a fruit juice looking beer. Huh. Time to recheck the expectations I feel.

The aroma and body play in the right field. Wheat, fresh banana, but is tart and more acidic than I would usually expect. It is recognisably a weizen in ways,  such at the wheat in front and back, but has an unusual fresh tangerine acidity that is new.  The beer comes in a bit too fizzy which hides some of the flavour, but that is a common weizen flaw, and it taste well enough nonetheless.

Not to make too much of the beer, because it does have flaws, but I do find it immensely cheerful and a fun twist on the style. While still seeming familiar enough to make a relaxing summer days weizen, it does have good quirks.  It is much more fruit juice influenced, a tart grapefruit like finish and apple juice like element to main body are the most noticeable and they really help keep it fresh. In some ways it seems to pick up a few cues from the American Pale Ale style as well.

Now I wouldn’t recommend making a big deal out of hunting this down, it isn’t that amazing, but I would be lying if I said Id pass up the chance to try it again. It’s fun, fresh and has just enough weisse style. It’s not up there with the German takes on the style, but frankly, what is?

Background: Picked up from Brewdogs Guest Beer section (yes I have been saying that lot, don’t worry I just got my batch of beers from beers of Europe, so that’s the next phrase you will get sick of hearing). I really enjoy picking up beers from the growing Japanese craft beer scene, in part because of how few people seem to appreciate the quality beers being made there- and that includes the locals. I went for a hefeweizen as it was the beer style that first caught my attention for something different and wondered what spin the brewery would put on it. Incidentally I love the dinky little bottles, and just wish I had one of those small half pint versions of the Erdinger glass to use for the beer as they always look fun.


Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Ancient Nipponia (Japan: Imperial Pils: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear grain gold. Still in body but with a good sized set of mounded bubbles mounted on top of a white head which leaves slight sud trails.

Nose: Lemongrass.  Smooth. Slight bubble gum. Slightly minty and quite milky. Some wheat character.

Body: Sherbet lemon. Quite thick texture. Cream. Slight honey sweetness. Barley and light bitterness. Slight greenery.

Finish: Greenery and light bitterness. Resin. Some cinnamon. Hoppiness that grows but never to a heavy degree. Slight ginger bread.

Conclusion: Now I love the sorachi ace hop and I have encountered this beer already on keg at Brewdog Camden. It’s going to be interesting trying it again on bottle to make the comparison.

The flavours here seem less evident that in the keg – especially the more unusual and distinctive elements such as the lemongrass resin and greenery. Here in the bottle it is smoother and more integrated, however it does feel to a degree that the more interesting edges have been rounded off where before they were still prickly and fun.

Drunk cool it is a less interesting beer, more simple and creamy though still with a distinct sorachi ace character . Warm it gets a bit more spice which combined with the increased resin in the finish makes for a more satisfying note to end on.  It also gets sweetness and gingerbread. All makes it what would be a good session ale if not for the abv.  It is very smooth and easy to drink though. This is especially emphasizes by the light cinnamon that helps balance against the lemongrass.  Worth sharing with friends over conversation as it is nice but doesn’t stand up to too much contemplation.

A mixed bag, nice, but despite that and my love of Japanese things I can’t give it a glowing review. The smoothed out edges does take away a lot of its fun. Much better in keg where it is interesting and fun, here it is ok but not great.

Background: The beer style is a bit of a guess. There had been two versions of this beer, a top and bottom fermented version.  From the flavour, year and country it was tried in I am guessing this was the bottom fermented version. I am a huge fan of Japan, and tried a lot of their budding craft beer scene while I was there. This however was picked up at Brewdogs Guest Beer section. I also tried it on tap at Brewdog Camden. The beer is a demonstration of Japan origin brewing materials with Sorachi Ace as the hop and Kaneko Golden as the barley. I love the sorachi ace hop and wish it’s use in more beers.

Kiuchi Brewery: Hitachino Nest: Espresso Stout (Japan: Imperial Stout: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Sheer black with a caramel coloured stir of a head that froths up around the edge of the glass as the beer moves.

Nose: Bitter coffee mixes with chalk and a slight roasted character. Scrumpy. A light touch of fresh picked berries.

Body: Quite frothy texture with a slight pear cider tartness. Bitter. Malt drinks. Moderate black coffee influences but not heavily pervasive.  Touch of blackberries and blueberries. Becomes very smooth in texture as it settles.

Finish: Dry bitter coffee beans.  Very dry feel remains for a long time. Slight bitter chocolate and slight milkiness. The fresh tartness still has an influence.

Conclusion:  It is amazing how fast you can get used to abv inflation. Looking at this sprightly little 7.5% imperial Stout I thought “Oh good a light example”. Dearie dearie me.

It is a cheery “little” beer, though the coffee influence has less to do with it than the naming would suggest.  The main interest comes from a mild tartness that hangs around at the back, a slightly blueberry and fruit style.  It is a small touch but it makes all the difference.

While it is an imperial stout, the ease of drinking makes it seem more like a very well made standard stout with just a touch of emphasis on the coffee. The usual roasted and chocolate elements are more footnotes here than main players.

So a beer that, while I would not personally put as the best beer in Japan, does have an irrepressible easy going and fruity character.  If you could ditch it’s abv it would make a perfect session stout (as always if there can be such a thing).

A well made coffee and fruit stout, built for class not power.

Background: Oddly considering the discussion in the conclusion, this beer is listed as a stout on ratebeer despite claiming the Russian Imperial Stout style on its label.  Its abv is either high stout or low Imperial Stout. In the end I decided to list it as imperial stout as that is the style aimed for by the brewers.  This incidentally is listed on rate beer as the highest rate beer in Japan.  I never did find it while I was in Japan, though the bartender at the popeye bar did mention that they had it on tap just the last week. Rub it in why don’t ya. Ah well, never mind, I have drunk it now.

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