Tag Archive: Yo-Ho


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.

Local Beer
Shinsyu Natural Beer: Blond Ale (Japan: Golden Ale: 5% ABV)

(According to ratebeer aka Yo-Ho: Yona Yona Local Beer)

Visual: Banana to grain. Large inch of frothy bubbles packed in.

Nose: Banana sweets. Apricot. Banana itself. Ice cream and vanilla. Very light hop character. Cinnamon. Light soil.

Body: Sweet. Banana syrup. Passion fruit. Greenery. Hop oils and oily bitterness. Apricot. Resinous.

Finish: Cinnamon into bitterness. Greenery and hops. Slight hop oils. Soil.

Conclusion: Since I drunk this shortly after Minamishinsyu Golden ale it is hard not to compare the two. Minamishinsyu was fresh and tart while this is more earthy with somewhat of a British hop feel. More syrupy textured with the banana being used more as a base. This uses a much more hop oiled texture to deliver a heavier and less citrus filled bite.

I think I would be kinder to this beer if I wasn’t comparing the two, they have different aims, take on the style and strengths. However with the two effectively side by side I can’t help but think this is the weaker beer.

The syrup is a bit too strong and the hops not quite showy enough. It is workmanlike, and if you are into the heavier, more resinous feel then this does deliver. As an overall package however it feels too leaden. The flavours are there but it feels like the extra weight muffles rather than pushes them.

So, a bit sub par. I mean it isn’t wasabi beer level sub par, just a bit off that’s all.

I wouldn’t recommend it unless the alternative is Kirin Ichiban. If that is the case this beer beats it easily.

Background: I grabbed this at Matsumoto’s train station. Seriously, what is it with Train stations in Japan having a better beer selection than any but dedicated craft beer shops? Anyway it was a whimsy grab, and only on looking it up did I find the beer was an alias for Yona Yona Local Beer. I’ve been drinking quite a bit of Yo-Ho beers so far this trip. Anyway drunk after Minamishinsyu Golden Ale, with just a short break for a dip in the ryokan’s onsen in-between, so I was feeling quite refreshed and tingly by this point.

Yona Yona Ale
Yo-ho: Yona Yona Ale (Japan: American Pale Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Custard touch to the inch of loose white bubbled head.

Nose: Wheat. Jiff lemon. Fluffy hop character. Mild peach.

Body: Bitter. Lemon meringue. Apricot. Good hop character. Lime jelly underneath. Slightly syrupy texture and sweetness. Cream. Banana and toffee.

Finish: Custard sweet over peaches and peach flavoured hops. Lime jelly. Lemon pancakes. Malt drinks. If you wait a long time biscuits finally come out.

Conclusion: Now this is more like it. It is strange how similar yet different this is to Yona Yona Real Ale. There is similar apricot, peach and lime. Much crisper and with much better hop delivery, which is an important factor for me. Still some creaminess but much less, more towards a crisp and yes slightly syrupy texture.

The flavours feel brighter and progress more notably through banana and toffee from the lemon fresh opening. Pretty good range of flavour as well for such an easy to drink beer.

While I disagree sometimes with the heads of CAMRA (Britain’s Campaign For Real Ale), I’m not a real ale hater, far from it, but this beer helps demonstrate why I think that real ale isn’t the way to go for every beer.

Now, this isn’t to say that this beer is perfect, the hops are still slightly clingy at the end for one, though again noticeably less so than the real ale version. Also the syrupy elements can get too sickly. Lots of enthusiasm but lack that touch of polish and clarity.

Still, a very satisfying beer of fresh, hoppy and sweet flavours, with good toffee balance against citrus hops. A refreshing and refreshingly bitter beer.

And better than the real ale version.

You could do a lot worse, and it is pretty easy to find in Japan. I would consider it a standby beer for when you can’t find a specialist shop, and one to have when you just want to kick back and relax a bit. It’s a pretty nice go to beer for a few situations.

Background: So I’d tried Yona Yona Reale Ale, then in a random alcohol store I noticed they had a can of Yona Yona Ale. A chance to compare and contrast, how could I pass it up? Yona Yona Ale seems to be one of the easiest craft beers to pick up in Japan. It isn’t common, but it seems to show up with at least reasonable regularity. Anyway, for just such an occasion I had brought a half pint glass with me, so the beer could be enjoyed at the hotel.

Yona Yona Real Ale

Yo-Ho: Yona Yona Pale Real Ale (Japan: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold, thick dash of a head.

Nose: Apricot and cream. Sugary sweet. Light bitterness but good hop character. Banana.

Body: Creamy. Moderate bitterness. Lime and peach.

Finish: Milky mixed with hops. Bitterness is light but does grow slightly over time. Light lemongrass.

Conclusion: So, I open the games with this Japanese beer. Clear of body yet creating quite a creamy texture and taste. The flavours mix apricot, peach and lime that very much says American hops to me. Similarly the clear body says American craft beer style, but the feel on the tongue decries that, instead calling to a real ale heritage. An interesting contrast between the two countries styles meeting here in a third.

Initially the beer doesn’t seem that bitter, and admittedly it never really gets that heavy, but you do feel the hops start to cling by the end of the glass.

The flavour range is slightly simple, but the texture is well made. The thickness does mean that the elements can cling a bit which can make it wearing over time, but in general it is quite a relaxing drink to open up with,

Damn, that did seem to be faint praise. Lets try again. While it doesn’t have many flavours it delivers them well and with a grip that is both its success and flaw.

Overall, well, it’s ok. Guess I will have to stick with faint praise.

Background; Ok, I’m unsure on Japan for country here. Looking at rate beer they mention it being brewed at Banks in England for a Wetherspoon’s beer festival. However, since I drank it at Popeye bar in Tokyo, Japan, and it is many years since that festival I have a feeling they have made it part of their main range. I could be wrong however. This was the first drink after arriving in Japan, and part of an excellent night of discussions, and miscellaneous kindness from strangers. Good times. As the first beer of the night I was looking for something nice and easy to help get me over my jetlag. This is a cask beer take on Yona Yona Ale, which seems to be the breweries flagship product.

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