Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DRANK: CascaZilla Red Ale, Ithaca Beer Company, Ithaca, NY - BOTTLE


The benchmark of all great beers. The yin and yang between malty sweetness and bitter, hoppy bite. Just as every batter in the bigs yearns for the sweet spot—the perfect contact between white ash and cowhide—the brewer aspires to reach the same sort of beery zen with each of their brews.

Unless that's not what your going for.

It's not necessarily a bad thing either. I don't mean disharmony, just not balance. Look at how many breweries of late, are producing a single ingredient "showcase" beer—from raspberries and coffee to chipotle peppers and bananas. Really, who wants to play nice with everybody all the time? Sometimes, ya' just gotta do you own thing, right? CascaZilla Red Ale from Ithaca Beer Company, proves this point.

Do you think all this beer has made me put on weight?
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this tasty treat, let me give a little background on the name. As the bumper stickers states, "Ithaca is gorges,"and who am I to argue? That being said one of Ithaca's gorges happens to be named Cascadilla gorge. A potent and popular American hop variety, coincidentally, goes by the name of Cascade. To round out the triple threat, there also happens to be a gigantic, Tokyo destroying dinosaur named Godzilla. Put them all together and you get Casca (from the Latin root meaning to tumble down a hoppy gorge) and Zilla (meaning "Oh no there goes Tokyo—Go Go Godzilla!)

While all that is quite amusing and wonderfully punny. The real important part is that bit about the hops. Cascades have become the defining American hop. It's flowery and spicy with a citrus-like quality. So why not make a beer that highlights this star of the Cannabaceae family—and that's exactly what Ithaca Beer Company did with CasacaZilla.

The bottle opened with a hiss and immediately I could smell the distinct citrus/floral aroma, so associated with Casacdes. It pours a deep, almost garnet, red with a dense tan head. Ithaca's website says CascaZilla is both hopped and dry hopped with Cascades, and that's apparent to the nose as the head settled. There's also just a hint of caramel that manages to sneak past the hoppy defensive line (Look at that, two sports comparisons in a single post.) At first sip you get a little burnt sugar, some smooth caramel and a nice earthy, oaky tone. Then ever so slowly, the orange and citrus moves in, followed by cherry and then rolling into that deep, sweet piny goodness, sought after by so many, especially West Coast, brewers. It holds slightly heavy in the mouth and it brings a pronounced bitterness, but not in an overwhelming way. Yes, the bitterness lingers but just until the next sip. Although the label reads "Red Ale," it is definitely not your Grandfather's red ale.

Here's what makes this beer good. Simplicity. Ithaca chose to highlight a traditional beer ingredient in this brew—and stopped there. Nothing crazy, just a solid malt profile and the right amount of hops. Wait a minute, that sounds like a balanced beer. But it's not, and again that's nod bad. The Cascades still hold the spotlight—they take center stage and keep your attention through all three acts.  Ithaca knew what this hop was capable of and they let them do their job. No over compensating for the sake of making this a "Cascade beer"—throwing in hops for hops sake—just simple, smart brewing.

The real question is could CascaZilla kick Mothra's ass?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good News, Bad News

Last month Bob Weible, New York Sate Historian and chief curator at the New York State Museum forwarded me an email, it read:
On Thursday, 28 July 2011, 4-7 PM, a beer-naming contest known as "Name That Beer" will be held at the Legends Bistro, Brewpub and Wine Bar, 411 Route 3, Plattsburgh. A contest in which Brewmaster Stoyanoff has created a beer to commemorate the War of 1812. It is a combination of Canadian barley, English rye, and American hops, brewed with molasses (with a Russian touch?).
He thought I might be interested. He was right. But as cool as that is, Plattsburgh is a hike from Albany—a two-and-a-half-hour hike from Albany. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a beery trip, but that takes some coordination—cars need to be gassed and monies need to be obtained. It just didn't look like I was going to be heading to the city on the lake, any time soon. That was until fate intervened. As luck would have it, I was assigned an exhibit installation in that very city. So up I went this morning. Sweetening the deal, was that Plattsburgh City Clerk, Keith Herkalo, was kind enough to offer to show me the way to the brew pub!

Bad news—Legends Bistro, Brewpub and Wine Bar is closed for lunch. I had an enjoyable time with Keith, but no awesome 1812 beer. Ya' win some, ya' lose some, right?

Either way, if you're around Plattsburgh, stop in at Legends (just not around lunch) have the nameless, 1812 inspired beer and email me how it was. I'll be crying into my pillow.

By the way, the contest continues until the end of the month. So, you have eight days.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Question of Style

I've gotten myself into an interesting discussion on style guidelines over at Beer Nut, George de Piro's blog on the Albany Times Union's website. George is the phenomenally talented brewmaster at Albany's at C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station. We, however, have a difference of opinion. A difference that stems from his post on objectivity—specifically objectivity when judging beer on a competitive level; and even more specifically how style guidelines help to achieve that objectivity. I am not a big fan of style guidelines—at least not those style guidelines used as beer judging criteria—like those developed by the BJCP. I think guidelines are great as brewhouse benchmarks, used for quality control, just not as judging criteria. I prefer the BIIA's method of a few, broad categories based on characteristics like color and strength. I think that's a more level way to judge the beer itself, rather than rating the beer on a brewer's technical expertise. In my opinion beer should be judged on how it tastes, not on how it's made. There needs to be an equal balance of malt, hops, science and art.

Whichever side of the fence your on check out George's post on objectivity, and you can read the whole argument—his side and mine. Please feel free to comment here as well. I'd be more than happy to either argue or high five depending on which way you lean. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

As far as my beery bloginess, I haven't been quite as prolific this past week(s) as I have been in the past. To be honest my work schedule has been a bit hectic, and I fear next week will be the same. The upside is, I've drank my fare share of beer, the downside is I haven't had enough energy to form a coherent opinion about it, let alone write those opinions down. I'm kicking myself, too, because I actually have a number of topics I'd like to write about—I just can't seem to keep my eyes open in front of the computer. I know I've been slow on the posting end, and I apologize for that. One of the things that I promised myself when I started this whole thing was that I was going to keep my posts fairly regular--a few a week. That's started to fan out a tad, and I don't like that. At the same time, I can't, nor do I want, to make this work. So bare with me for another week and by then the regular old garbage I normally write will come spilling out at an alarming rate. I promise, as soon as I get over this hump at work, I'll return to all the assumptions and anti-beer snobbery that you've come to love over the years (months, Craig.) Over the months. So keep tuned and keep drinking.

Monday, August 15, 2011

DRANK: Bomb Lager, Bomb Beer Company, New York City, NY/Wilkes-Barre, PA - CAN

All this logo needs is spandex pants.
My weekly, Sunday Oliver's trip afforded me two opportunities to cash in on two of my top level beer criteria—new and cheap. Bomb Lager ($3.95 a sixer) fit the bill. I think I may have gotten out ahead of something in the beer world with this one, too. It's new—way new. It's has a total of four reviews between Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate. Truth be told, at first glance I thought it was an energy drink. It has, without a doubt, the ugliest logo I have ever seen on a beer can. It looks like something I would have doodled on my high school social studies notebook—far from out-of-place next to the inky Metallica and Van Halen logos adorning the scribbled blue spiral bound cover. This logo is the heavy metal dirtbag of the beer logo world. This logo makes David Lee Roth cry. The logo is bad enough but the 6-pack packaging is an all black, cardboard sleeve hiding the best part of the package, the cans. They're a cool metallic lime green with Keith Herring-esque, post-modern, Mayan hieroglyphs. That's it. No mention of style or ABV. No barley or hops, scrolls, cascading streams, mountains or animals. Just the crazy black, red and green grinning faces of, well, the Bomb Lager guys—and the regular legal mumbo-jumbo, oh and that stupid logo. Why the brewery thought it a good idea to cover all that cool craziness up is beyond me, but they just about missed an opportunity to sell me their stuff. Good thing I'm cheap on Sundays.

The kid behind the counter says, "Hey—Bomb Lager! Ever had it?"

"Nope, looks like I'm about to, though." I answered.

As he swipes my credit card he says, "They're new, out of Pennsylvania. It's kind of skunky in a good, Heineken kind of way." He seemed excited. I think he could tell by the look on my face I was not, but the card had been swiped, nonetheless. He grinned, "They sell it to us cheap, though!" Good thing I'm cheap on Sundays.

In fact, it is a good thing I'm cheap on Sundays. It's not skunky at all. In fact it's pretty good. It pours a maple-wood gold, with a wallop of a fluffy white head. It smells grainy, like wet bread, with no hoppiness at all. It's smooth, nearly creamy with a good bit of carbonation. It's grassy and just a bit bitter with a dry finish. It has a touch of sweetness—almost a sweet and sour note like fresh grapes—but just at start. The sweetness trails off and the hop bitterness steps in after the swallow.

Is it a light lager? Yes. Are there a thousand light lagers out there? Yes. Would it make for a great lawnmower beer? Yes. But, I can't say it's just a lawnmower beer, it's better than that. It's more than just refreshing, it's a truly well made light lager—and that's hard to do. There's little room for error in a beer like this and Bomb seems to have pulled this one off. So, not only did I get new and cheap I also got good—and maybe a little surprised thrown in there, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

And the answer is none. None more black.

Ah the Black IPA. The beer world's own, personal oxymoron. A conundrum of definition, and a contradiction of terms. Let's look at a a few definitions:

Beer Advocate: Also referred to as a Black IPA (India Pale Ale) or Cascadian Dark Ale, ales of this style range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy generally with the use of American hops. Alcohol can range from average to high depending on if the brewery is going for a "double / imperial" version.

Wikipedia: The American-Style Black Ale (Black IPA, Cascadian Black Ale) is a relatively new variant of IPA, with a characteristically dark or black appearance, due to roasted malts, while retaining the hop aroma typical of the IPA style.

Black—It's the new white.
Ratebeer: An emerging beer style roughly defined as a beer with IPA-level hopping, relatively high alcohol and a distinct toasty dark malt character. Typically lacks the roastiness and body of a strong stout and is hoppier than a strong porter. Expressive dry-hopping is common. Also called India Dark Ale, India Black Ale, Cascadian Dark Ale, Dark IPA, and sometimes India Brown Ale.

That's seven different names for the same beer—mind you, "Cascadian Dark Ale" does in fact have it's own Facebook page. Either way, Black or Dark IPA has become the most common, usage. Although we've all seem to have forgotten the PA part of Black IPA. Really, it's pretty important. Let me walk this back: Black (of the very darkest color) India Pale (deficient in color or intensity of color) Ale. A wee bit contradictory, wouldn't you say? Although, it does cover all aspects. I may adopt that strategy in my day-to-day life. A non-committal approach to the world. I say to the woman with the baby, "Wow, that the most beautifully ugly baby I've ever seen." See? It's a win-win for everybody.   

Now, don't get me wrong, I like these beers. I just have a tough time calling them IPAs—or Cascadian Dark Ales for that matter—which by the way, is the beer-geekiest, and most epic, beer name ever thought-up. Tolkien is kicking himself for not coming up with that name, and having Frodo and Samwise drink it, back in the Shire. As I said I do like these beers but, along with the name, I have some execution issues, as well. I love the concept behind the Black IPA/Cascadian Black or Dark Ale/American-Style Black Ale/India Dark Ale/India Black Ale/Dark IPA or India Brown Ale I just don't know—if they insist on being called IPAs—that they hit the mark. I've recently tried two, Widmer Brother's Pitch Black IPA and Otter Creek's Black IPA. Of the two the Otter Creek is closest—it's definitely has a bitter bite—but the Widmer is Coca-Cola sweet and decidedly un-IPA-like. It's that roasty dark malt, it throws everything off. Neither, in my view, are real IPAs. They lack something—perhaps it's a masking of the hops, by the dark malt. While both were bitter, I missed that citrusy, piney, pop of a really good pale, IPA. Not bad, just not IPA.

So am I splitting hairs? Am I arguing semantics over spirit? I don't know, but I do know I'm torn over this. I think I'm just going to have to drink many, many more Black IPA/Cascadian Black or Dark Ale/American-Style Black Ale/India Dark Ale/India Black Ale/Dark IPA or India Brown Ales until I can get passed this classification issue. It'll be a tough job, but I think I'm up to the task. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

They Love Me in Brazil

Brazilian wax?
My post from the last Session (12-Steps to Beer Snob Redemption), has garnered a few mentions across the the beery blogosphere. First from Stan, and more recently from Max over at Pivní Filosof, the Czech Republic based Argentine, beer writer and philosopher. While I'm hoping all this fuss doesn't mean that I've hit my peak with beer blogging I am a bit flattered.

That all being said, Max's, involvement has added an extra bit of craziness to the situation, and his South American roots play into that. Not only does Max blog about beer in English, he also translates his posts into Spanish (or maybe the other way around?) Since his mention, I've noticed a good number of hits from Spanish and Portuguese written websites. Every day I notice more and more visits from readers in countries like Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Honduras and Portugal. That in and of itself is pretty cool, but to get mentioned on someone elses' blog is really great. As much as I admire and respect both Stan and Pivní, there is however, one shout-out post that stands out in particular.

The Brazilian music/beer blog If you don't like to rock this is the wrong place to be, has re-posted my 12-step rant—in Portuguese. I love the fact that something, so stupid—that I've written—has been translated into another language. But, what's far funnier than anything I could have come up with is the English to Portuguese back to English translation that Google translator has produced. The nuts and bolts of the original post is there, but something may have been lost in translation. Here's a few comparisons between the original and the new Portugized (I just made that word up) version:

3. Understand that your opinion is not, necessarily the only opinion.
Unless you say Nazis are bad or I'm the most charming man in the room, I might not always agree with you. You may enjoy pig anus flavored beer—more power to you—I'll pass.
3. Know that your opinion is not necessarily the only opinion.
Unless you say that the Nazis were bad people, nobody is obliged to agree with your opinion. You may find that beers with more than 1000 IBUs are the best - congratulations, you're fucking - but remember that this is still your opinion.

Thanks for the congrats, I've been practicing. I think I've got the hang of it now.

7. Believe that, "This beer is good" is an acceptable way of describing it. 
What you say: "Oh my! Do you get notes of charred baobab and beaver musk?"
What they think: "This guy is a dick."
7. Believe that "great beer" is an acceptable way to classify a drink.
You say, "Gosh, you caught the great aromas of dried fruit and date combined with the dry finish that beer?". People understand, "This sucks, this guy is boring as hell.." You are not defending a master's thesis at the bar table. If you liked, say that beer is tough and ready! If people want your opinion sensory can be sure that you will ask.

A tough and ready beer? Does Chuck Norris own a brewery? 

8. Know that drinking from the bottle will not kill you.
If you're at a cook-out, and the host doesn't have proper glassware, don't worry, it'll be okay. Look at your plate—you're about to eat a burnt hot dog and warm macaroni salad—having a tulip glass doesn't really matter, does it?
8. Learn to drink straight from the spout of the bottle will not kill you. 
Have you ever eaten hot dog in the park, pick up a piece of barbecue that fell to the ground, ever eat poorly washed lettuce, mayonnaise won already eaten... You really think a beer without the proper glass will kill you?

This last one is my favorite. First off the intro sounds like they're talking about someone drinking from the hose—like your dad made you do when you were a kid. More importantly, what's with picking up the barbecue off the floor?! I get the five second rule and all, but who does that? That dude must have been starving! A hot dog in the park, then the dirty, ground barbecue, all topped off with unwashed lettuce. Watch your fingers, folks and don't get too close to that guys mouth. Thank God that mayonnaise, won though.

Now, I suspect (You're assuming again, Craig. I know—Shut up!) that the translation of the original English into Portuguese was probably a bit silly, as well. Nothing translates perfectly, so a little word-smithing by my Brazilian friends, may have been necessary. It does however, seem to be a be a bit editorialized in a few places. I'm cool with that, the gist is still the same—the jokes may have been lost, but they weren't that funny anyhow. I'm just glad someone is reading it. I'd love to see it translated into a whole bunch of languages. Russian would be cool, or Cantonese. I will admit to having my fingers crossed for a version in Klingon—but that's just a dream. Either way, please spread the gospel of anti-beer snobbery and, as always, congratulations—you're fucking.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Session 54: Tales of a Sour Beer Nothing

Okay, I'm going to admit something to you guys. I don't know a whole lot about sour beers.

Yeah, I know, I'm surprised they've allowed me to have children, too. In any case, I've made it thirty-six years having only Lindeman's Framboise to draw reference from—and the only reason I have that experience is, it's the only beer my wife will drink. (Yup, they let her have kids, too.) Because, in her words, it doesn't taste like beer. Amy is not a beer fan, but I still love her.

So, having such a limited history with sour beer, I've decided to execute an experiment, of which you are invited to witness. Granted this little project, is probably going to be more exciting for me than you, but, you're already here, so why not stay a while. Here's what I'm proposing: I'm going to drink a beer. WAIT! Don't go zipping off to Alan or Stephen's blog yet—hear me out. I'm going to drink a bottle of Ichtegem's Grand Cru, from Browerij Strubbe, and give you the, Al Michaels, play-by-play breakdown—from first the first sniff to the last burp. I've had Porters and Pales, Dunkles and Dopplebocks, but Belgians, in general, are my weak link. I know what's in my wheelhouse, and the Flanders funk ain't in there. I don't know where this is going to take me, but a real-time, jump-in-the-deep-end of beer sounds like a blast. So, here goes nuthin'.

10:12 pm - Hmm? Smells fruity; cherry-like, with a little cocoa in there too. It's very red wine-like. (See, I know my wine—there are two kinds—red and white, right?)

10:13 pm - First sip. Sweet, and tart. More fruit. Definitely berry-like.

10:16 pm - Getting a bit syrupy. It's decidedly rich with a leathery earthiness.

10:24 pm - Again, it's tart, and a bit sour with just an acetic touch on the back of the throat.

I'm shocked how berry-like this is, almost distranctingly. It's significantly sweeter than I expected. I do have to say, I was expecting, or rather hoping for, a tad more sourness. I do love the smell, though.

10:29 pm - Yeah, it's warming up, now—I'm getting more caramel. It's quite port like. It seems a lot bigger than 6.5% ABV.

10:33 pm - It just hit me, balsamic vinegar. I knew it reminded me of something, and that's it. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

10:37 pm - Giving it a good swish around. It's drying and almost Cherry Coke-like, sweet at the swallow, then building to a soured aftertaste.

10:41 pm - It's lacing the glass, fairly well.

10:42 pm -  I mentioned port earlier, but now I'm really getting that. Woody and just a bit nutty.

10:47 pm - Last swallow.

There you go 35 minutes of sour beer exposure.

I've got to be honest. This was not my favorite beer, or my second favorite, or even third. Was it drinkable? Sure. Was it enjoyable? Maybe, maybe not. Although, I don't think I could do more than one of these in a sitting. I'm not sure I needed all eleven ounces, either. I know I'm breaking one of Stan's new beer rules, and I know sour beers are all the rage, I'm just not over the moon with this one. Maybe it's because I'm not a cherry fan. Even as a kid, the red popsicles were my last choice. Cherry pie? Apple, please. Ichtegem's Grand Cru has a prominent cherry essence, and as I've said, it's sweet—bordering on cloying. Guess what else I'm not a big fan of—balsamic vinegar. Even the good stuff, I personally think it tastes like wine vinegar spiked with caramel flavoring. I get how a sour/sweet combination could be appealing, but this one seems to miss the mark. The thing I found most appealing was it's aroma.

As far as the sour beer trend goes, I see why people like this approach to brewing—it's different. I do however, think the hype around sour beer is trendy. I feel the, "Are sour beers the next IPA?" question is a little off-base. I think folks are attracted to the uniqueness of sour beers, just as they were to IPA when those hop-heavy beers became more common. It's not a question of replacement, it's a comment on availability. I'm not just saying this because I have some great affinity for IPA, either. The spotlight has been shone on sour beer; more breweries–and not just in Belgium–are making them; and sours are being more widely distributed, all of which play into the sour beer, and I hesitate to use this word, craze. I think there's an aura around Belgian beers, generally, that elevates their status. There seems, to me, the idea that the Belgian brewing and beer, by monks or otherwise, is more traditional and pure. That they somehow are above the pettiness of the rest the brewing world. An elite blanket has been cast over our Flemish friends–and not by them, I might add–like that of the Champagne region of France.

Belgian beers can be great, and I'd imagine that some sour beers can be as well. What I don't think we should do is simply say all sour beer is great and, oh by the way, it's going to replace IPA—So, you best get on board the sour beer train, or get left behind with that boring old hoppy stuff. Those little remote-control floor cleaners are great, but I hope they don't replace humans, any time soon.

But, what do I know, I'm a sour beer nothing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The official #IPADay Haul

#IPADay Haiku

the bitter hop bites
devious and yet playful
smooth crisp just in time

Feel free to haiku it up in the comments section.

Happy International #IPADay

Yeah, I know this is a lame post, but what can ya' do, it 7:45 in the morning.

More later. Hopefully.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi—The beery offerings of every sushi joint and hibachi-style steak house from Tokyo to Toledo. For decades Japanese beer, outside Japan, has been relegated to rice-solid, adjunct lager, made by a handful of breweries. What else is there to drink between pieces of spicy tuna roll, as an onion volcano spits sparks into the air? Coors Light? C'mon you'd just make yourself mad! The clear choice is obviously Kirin, Sapporo or Asahi.

Maybe not for that much longer though, thanks to a squat bottle with an odd little owl on it's label.

Who you lookin' at?
B. United International, of Redding, Connecticut has begun importing (into the U.S.) the amazingly named Hitachino Nest, line of beers. Brewed by one of Japan's two hundred microbreweries, Kiuchi Brewery. Making them one of the first Japanese craft breweries to export it's beer, outside the island nation. Now, you might ask, how in the world, can an upstart microbrewery—from a country not particularly know for it's beer—compete with Japan's largest breweries—let alone in the international market?

First off, Kiuchi isn't quite as upstart as it may sound. They opened their doors in Naka, Japan, back in 1823, producing both beer and sake. That's right, 1823. Just so we're clear on this, that's 65 years prior to the debut of Kirin Lager; 29 years before Anheuser-Busch opened; and 22 years before messrs Fuller, Smith and Turner founded the Griffin Brewery in London. Needless to say, Kiuchi has figured out the brewing process. That being said, Japan digs it's taxes, and in Japan, beer and it's lower alcohol cousin happoshu, are taxed on their percentage of malt content. One of the reasons that Japan's big four breweries became so popular, was that it was unaffordable to brew full strength (4-5% ABV) beer, unless you were an established macro brewery, thus allowing the big four to tie up the marketplace. In fact, at one time, you couldn't even get a license to brew, unless you produced more than 500,000 gallons a year. In 1994, Japan relaxed it's caste system-like tax laws, allowing smaller breweries to be able to affordably produce smaller batches, and boom went the microbrewery dynamite.

Secondly, the beer is just good.

Tradition and heritage play an important role in Japanese culture, and the Hitachino Nest beers are no exception. While European and American styles are the basis for the Hitachino Nest brews, they also make sure to add a nod to Japanese culture. Their Red Rice Ale, is a sake infused concoction, spiked with Chinook and Hallertau hops; while their Japanese Classic Ale is a bottle-conditioned IPA, aged in cedar shōchū barrels. The epitome of this homage to all things Nippon has to be the Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia. It's an historic mash-up of an heirloom Japanese/European barley variety (not grown for 50 years) and the Asian phenom hop, Sorachi Ace. Kiuchi's Hitachino Nest is a perfect example of what Japan has done since the days when Perry parked his ships in Edo bay. They take something good and make it better—first Samurai movies, then cars and bullet trains, now beer.

Of Kiuchi's ten Hitachino Nest beers, I've had two—their White Ale and Real Ginger Brew*. I intentionally chose styles that showcased a European effort and one that had a decidedly Asian bend. A Belgian Wit is about as European of a style as you can get, while ginger is... Well, what evokes Asia more than fresh ginger root? The white ale poured a hazy wheat gold with a negligible head. All of those classic Wit hallmarks, were there; the slightly citrusy, yet grainy aroma; the crisp, dry, wheaty notes with a phenolic, bubble gummy edge. It leans a little pear-ish rather than the more traditional orange, which is a nice change of pace, for a Wit. Hitachino Nest nailed those classic flavors, but the White isn't all that earth shattering. It's a good example of an interpreted style. The Ginger Brew is another story. I don't usually go for spiced beers—in fact, I outright dislike spiced pumpkin brews all together. This one is different, right down to it's color, a hazy and rusty terra cotta. Yes, there is a pronounced ginger flavor, and a spicy, candied ginger aroma. I figured that going into it. It's both sweet and dry with a slight apple tartness. What surprised me were the subtle nutmeg and cardamon flavors that brings everything together, especially as the beer warms. I have no idea if either of those spices are used in making this beer, but it sure presents itself that way, and I thank Kiuchi for it!

I'm not usually a food and beer guy. I love both, but I usually find there to be a convolution when I mix and mach the two. Again, this beer has shifted my outlook. Hitachino Nest's Real Ginger Brew begs to be eaten with Asian cuisine—Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean. You name it, this beer is honestly the perfect match for eel and cucumber rolls or shrimp Pad Thai or even a pint of greasy old General Tso's.
It's not very often that a beer gets me to change my opinion, twice during the drinking of a single pint. Kiuchi must have figured something out over the last 188 years—I hope they keep it up.

Anybody in the mood for sushi and Seven Samurai on Blu-ray?

* I'm not sure if "real" is akin to the British term real ale, or "real" as in not ginger ale soda. I suspect the later.