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Sankt Gallen Yokohama XPA (371 of 1001)

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.65

A final review of from the Japanese beers that I picked in Tokyo at the start of October, just before heading home from Japan and another that features in the 1001 beers list; likely my last review of a Japanese beer from the list for a while now that I’m back in the UK again. After reviewing this one, I’ll be left with only another six Japanese beers from the 1001 beers list to try but one of those appears to no longer be in production so I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll ever get to try that one sadly. This particular offering is a beer from the Sankt Gallen brewery, the parent company of which used to run a bar in the Roppongi district of Tokyo before opening this brewery in 1997 near Yokohama; initially brewing a golden ale, a pale ale and a porter before expanding in the years to follow

Appearance (4/5): A nice, bright amber colour that had a slightly hazy body topped with a centimetre and a half tall head that was white and foamy with a few bubbles through it and had good initial retention as well; there was a little lacing left on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (6/10): Relatively light on the nose without being an overly weak offering, this one opened with some initial hop bitterness and a few touches of pine before some nice grassy notes started to come through along with some citrus further on. It was a fresh beer with some bread malts and a couple of floral touches towards the end but it could have been a bit stronger.
Taste (7/10): The taste follows on well from the nose with some nice pine and citrus hops coming through early on, with some grassy hops taking more of a backseat this time around. There was some floral touches towards the middle and the beer seemed more resinous tasting than the nose smelt but it was definitely a fresh offering that had some nice orange and grapefruit flavours nearer the end before some biscuit malts and an earthy bitterness seen things out nicely.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite fresh, the beer started a little lighter on the nose that expected but there was more of a strong, resinous feel to it come the taste and there was plenty of bitterness too. I got a slight citrus tang around the middle and it was well-carbonated, coming through as a lively, balanced beer; if only it had been a little stronger initially.

Overall (15/20): Not a bad beer to finish my run of Japanese beer reviews, this one was quite a fresh and lively offering that had some nice pine and citrus hops with plenty bitterness but my biggest complaint was definitely how light it started on the nose. Initially opening with a pine and grassy hop aroma, the beer was quite light and there wasn’t a whole lot going on until the taste with more of a floral bitterness and some bread malts a little further on. It was an interesting offering and one that I’d glad I managed to pick up in the end but I’m not sure it’s one that I’d put in the 1001 beers list given how many excellent American style IPA’s are out there.

Brewed In: Atsugi-sh, Kanagawa, Japan
Brewery: Sankt Gallen Brewery
First Brewed: 2008
Full Name: Sankt Gallen Yokohama XPA Extra Pale Ale
Type: American IPA
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Liquors Hasegawa (Tokyo Station, Tokyo)
Price: ¥518 (£3.43 approx.)

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Harvestmoon Schwarz (369 of 1001)

December 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.6

One of my last few Japanese beers for a while now, this one being another offering that features in the 1001 beers list and is a bottle that I managed to pick up on my last day in Japan when I spotted it after two plus weeks of looking, finding it in a Liquors Hasegawa store in Tokyo Station before heading back to the airport for my flight home. The bottle I picked up appears to be a 2014 release from the brewery, one from a year that also seen the beer win a silver medal at the Monde Selection awards and this one also marks the fifteenth Japanese beer from the 1001 list that I’ll have reviewed here with the majority being beers that I tried in Japan and leaves another seven to go, although I do have a bottle of one of those still waiting to be tried soon.

Appearance (4/5): Pitch black and opaque looking, this one was very dark with a thin head that sat about half a centimetre tall and was a light beige colour, fading to a thin lacing after a minute or so with some break up around the edges too.
Aroma (6/10): Quite an unexpected nose from this one, there was a lot of roasted malts and dark notes in the early going with far more smoke than anticipated too. Further on there was a coffee bitterness that had a subtle sweetness sitting behind it and some dark, rich smells before a hint of caramel featured towards the end and some grains rounded things off.
Taste (7/10): Caramel malts and a nice sweetness kick things off with the taste, there was a lot of roasted malts and grains not too far behind though with most of them carrying over from the nose. It was again quite a rich beer with some chocolate and earthy flavours around the middle then some of the smoke from the nose making itself known. Towards the end some wood flavours and a little cocoa featured with further sweetness from some vanilla pods seeing things out alongside hints of coffee bitterness.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied, bordering on full at times with a thick feel and plenty of smoke featuring through. This one was a dark and rich offering that was dry towards the end and had plenty of bitterness, mainly from the coffee and roasted malts but it was balanced with some sweetness in there as well thankfully and wasn’t too hard to drink.

Overall (14/20): This one turned out to be quite an interesting offering with nice variety to the beer and a good balance too that helped make it relatively easy to drink. It seemed like it was a stronger offering than the 4.5% abv. on the bottle but this was mainly down to the complexity of the beer rather than any strong alcohol flavours but it was quite a dark and smoky beer too. Further on and some nice sweetness helped to balance things out with the beer, some chocolate flavours featuring to help out but it was the vanilla pods that contributed most in this respect and kept things interesting through; a solid effort and one worth looking out for if you’re in Japan but probably not a beer that I’d go searching for again.

Brewed In: Maihama, Chiba, Japan
Brewery: Roti’s House Harvestmoon Brewery
First Brewed: 2000
Type: Schwarzbier
Abv: 4.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Liquors Hasegawa (Tokyo Station, Tokyo)
Price: ¥518 (£3.43 approx.)

Asahi Red Eye

November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 1.65

The final beer from those that I managed to try on my recent trip to Japan now and one that I tried on my last morning in the country before heading home; I do at least have a couple more Japanese beers to review though after picking some up on my final day in the country. This beer isn’t really one that I was holding out much hope for when I first picked it up but it was a new an unusual beer so I decided to give it a go given I’d likely never see it outside of Japan. Described as part tomato juice and part beer, this one was my fifth Asahi beer and follows on from their Super Dry Black offering that I reviewed here recently but sadly this one wasn’t anywhere near as good as that one.

Appearance (2/5): A light tomato red colour that was pretty much what I’d expected, there was a small foamy lacing on top for a head but this disappeared completely after about twenty seconds though and the beer was an opaque looking one that looked pretty much like a glass of tomato juice after the head vanished.
Aroma (3/10): Opening with tonnes of tomato notes initially, there wasn’t really much to this one beyond that in the early going but further on some background malts did feature, they were very faint though.
Taste (3/10): The initial taste was a very close relation to the nose with tonnes of tomatoes opening and dominating the early going before some basic sweet malts and a tiny bit of citrus started to come through towards the end with subtle grassy flavours too.
Palate (2/5): Surprisingly this one was quite a thin bodied beer with a lot more carbonation than expected too, it was quite a lively but ultimately a basic beer on the way down. There was some touches of sweetness towards the end thanks to the malts but that was about it really.

Overall (5/20): Not a great beer at all, this one was basically an alcoholic tomato juice that was miles behind even a poor Bloody Mary. The beer did have some basic sweet malts and hints of citrus and grassy flavours further on with the taste but it was almost completely dominated by tomato juice flavours and was a struggle to drink. Definitely one that I’d avoid in future, even if you’re usually a tomato juice fan because I can’t see how anyone would enjoy this when the real stuff is probably miles better as well.

Brewed In: Tokyo, Japan
Brewery: Asahi Breweries
First Brewed:  circa. 2012
Type: Fruit/Vegetable Beer
ABV: 3.5%
Serving: Can (350ml)
Purchased: Don Quijote (Sihinbuya, Tokyo)
Price:¥153 (£1.01 approx.)

Sapporo That’s Hop Mosaic & Citra

November 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.2

The second beer in Sapporo’s Innovative Brewer That’s Hop series now, this one a Mosaic and Citra pale ale that follows on from their Nelson Sauvin version that I reviewed here last after picking both up on the same day from a Tokyo Family Mart store while nearer the end of my time in the city. To be honest, this one wasn’t a beer that I was expecting a lot from but like its predecessor I picked it up because it was one of the few Japanese beers left in the store that I hadn’t already tried at some point over the previous two weeks so I thought I’d give it a go.

Appearance (3/5): A touch lighter than the brewery’s Nelson Sauvin offering in this series but only just, the beer is a golden amber colour that has a half centimetre, bubbly white head with some foamy areas but it holds relatively well initially and covers the majority of the surface too, with only a tiny patch missing at the side too.
Aroma (4/10): Opening with some nice citrus notes and quite a resinous, almost pungent nose that has quite a lot pine coming through in the early going as well. It’s a somewhat skunky offering that seemed slightly unbalanced in the early going, although there was some biscuit and earth notes towards the middle as well. It was lighter and more basic than anticipated and there really wasn’t a lot to the nose in truth.
Taste (4/10):
Subdued citrus flavours with the pine and resinous notes from the nose taking more of a backseat this time around, it also seemed a lighter beer than the nose indicated. Around the middle there was again some biscuit and earthy malts with some grassy hops coming through as well but not much else until some grapes and the odd tropical fruit flavour featured at the end.
Palate (2/5):
Medium bodied, perhaps a little lighter at times with some citrus showing and a floral bitterness throughout as well. The beer was basic and didn’t have the best balance with it seeming gassy at times, although it did remain drinkable for the most part but it’s not one I’d go back to.

Overall (8/20): Quite a basic beer and one that sadly wasn’t that enjoyable either, the beer was actually a lot like the Nelson Sauvin in this Sapporo series that came before it and one that was more difficult to drink than I’d have liked. It was an unbalanced offering with some citrus and pine flavours but little else coming through for the most part expect the usual grassy hops and biscuit malts; a cheap and poor offering that I’d avoid in future.

Brewed In: Tokyo, Japan
Brewery: Sapporo Breweries
First Brewed: 2017
Full Name: Sapporo Innovative Brewer That’s Hop Zetsumyo no Mosaic & Citra
Type: American Pale Ale
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Can (350ml)
Purchased: Family Mart (Shin-Okubo, Tokyo)
Price: ¥262 (£1.74 approx.)

Sapporo That’s Hop Nelson Sauvin

November 23, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 2.35

The first of two Sapporo beers I tried in Tokyo last month that fall under their Innovative Brewer That’s Hop series, this one being a Nelson Sauvin American pale ale from the brewery that I picked up at a Family Mart store near our accommodation in the Shin-Okubo area of Tokyo towards the end of my holiday in Japan. The beer is one that I’d spotted once or twice while in Japan but had overlooked in favour of most well-known offerings but with only a day or two left in the country I opted to give it a go and see how it compared to other Japanese craft beers that I tried when in the country. The beer looked to be quite a new offering from Sapporo and the first reviews online are only dated from around the time I tried the can so I can only assume it was a new release when I picked it up and I can’t be sure if it’s a seasonal, limited release or year-round offering either but it’s definitely not one that I’m glad I picked up sadly.

Appearance (3/5): This one sits a golden amber in the glass with a large, centimetre and a half tall head that is frothy looking and white but it took quite an aggressive pour for it to reach such heights. There was okay retention that followed with the beer topped with a thin surface lacing after a minute or so with a tiny bit of break up at this point too.
Aroma (4/10): The beer opens with strong, almost pungent citrus and pine hops that seemed a little harsh and uneven but at least it wasn’t a weak offering. There was some grape and lemon with lighter grassy notes towards the middle and some fusty notes as well sadly. Towards the end I got some biscuit malts and a few more earthy hops which made for quite a strange nose overall.
Taste (5/10):
Following on in a similar vein to the nose, although thankfully a little better tasting, this one opened with some citrus and a couple of pines hops with an almost resinous taste but one that was less pungent than the nose seemed to be. There was some background fruits with touches of grapefruits, some tropical flavours and a hint of grape but none really seemed to jump out at you. The taste was rounded off with some biscuit flavours and a floral bitterness and although an improvement on the nose, it still wasn’t all that good of a beer.
Palate (2/5):
Light-medium and quite hoppy to start, the beer was fresh initially too but soon faded towards the middle and seemed slightly weaker at this point too. There wasn’t much in the way of balance with a pungent hop nose kicking things off and lots of resinous pine dominating the taste early on too, sadly it was also a little gassy with the carbonation levels almost seeming overdone which made it quite a disappointing beer overall.

Overall (9/20): An interesting change up from the usual pale lagers and dark lagers that I’ve tried from Sapporo but ultimately this one ended up being another poor offering from the brewery and one that seemed unbalanced, cheap and a little basic at times. It started with some citrus and pine but both seemed overdone and didn’t help the balance of the beer much either. There was some background fruits and basic malts adding a little sweetness towards the end but it was over-carbonated and hard to drink at times; definitely not one that I’d pick up again I’m afraid.

Brewed In: Tokyo, Japan
Brewery: Sapporo Breweries
First Brewed: 2017
Full Name: Sapporo Innovative Brewer That’s Hop Nelson Sauvin no Shinzui
Type: American Pale Ale
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Can (350ml)
Purchased: Family Mart (Shin-Okubo, Tokyo)
Price: ¥262 (£1.74 approx.)

Grand Kirin IPA

November 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.4

The second beer in this series from the Kirin brewery now, this one is a new beer from them for 2017 that was released around the same time as their Grand Kirin White Ale that I reviewed here a short time ago. This one is actually a beer that I tried earlier on during my trip to Japan without review it but eventually I got around to it when I returned to Tokyo towards the end of my holiday and was struggling to find new beers in the local convenience stores late at night. This beer will be my sixth review of a Kirin beer here as well, with the majority of those being beers that I found in Japan so I imagine this will be my last new one from the brewery for quite some time too.

Appearance (3/5): A slightly darker than average amber colour for the style that had a clear body and a thin, foamy white head on top that was more of a surface lacing than anything else but it did at least cover the surface of the beer without any patches initially.
Aroma (7/10): Opening with some light hops and citrus, there was some grapefruit and lime in the early going with this one too and it had quite a zesty, fresh feel on the nose with some biscuit and bread malts coming through further on. Around the middle I got some pleasant grassy notes and a subtle tropical sweetness with the odd sugar in there too.
Taste (6/10):
Fresh and quite zesty tasting initially with some citrus, lime and orange flavours coming through alongside a resinous pine taste and some grapefruit. Towards the middle these flavours were backed up by a few tropical fruits; most notably some mango and apricot but neither were particularly strong. Towards the end some biscuit malts from the nose came through to see things out alongside some earthy malts too.
Palate (4/5):
Somewhere around medium bodied with a fresh feel than anticipated for a mass-market beer like this one but it was helped with the zesty touches and citrus that featured in the early going. There was a solid bitterness throughout the beer with a nice balance and a sessionable feel that had some nice sweetness from the middle on which made it a basic but easy-going IPA that I’d happily have again.

Overall (14/20): This one was definitely a better than expected IPA from Kirin , particularly when you consider they are more at home putting out cheap pale lagers but this one wasn’t too bad at all. It was quite a fresh beer with a liveliness about it that went well with a hop bitterness and citrus that featured from the start. It was definitely an easy beer to drink as well, going down nicely thanks to the balance with a subtle tropical sweetness leveling out the bitterness and some nice malts towards the end too; this is one that I’d have again.

Brewed In: Tokyo, Japan
Brewery: Kirin Brewery Company
First Brewed: 2017
Type: American IPA
Abv: 5.5%
Serving: Can (350ml)
Purchased: Family Mart (Sin-Okubo, Tokyo)
Price: ¥297 (£1.97 approx.)

Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.75

My sixth Baird offering and one that  follows on from their similar sounding Yabai Yabai Strong Scotch Ale, this one will be my second seasonal offering from Baird and another that I tried at their Harajuku taproom, having been on the look out for the beer before travelling to Japan. Unknown to me at the time, this one is a June seasonal from the brewery that is a cross between a pale ale and an IPA that uses a combination of Japanese wasabi and green tea in the brewing process to create a unique beer that I’m glad was available on my visit to the taproom.

Appearance (4/5): Copper amber in colour with quite a thin, foamy white head on top that fades to a patchy lacing on the surface after a few minutes whilst the beer itself is quite clear and still looking.
Aroma (7/10): Green tea and a few subtle hops kick things off with some biscuit notes and a nice bitterness towards the middle. The beer also had some citrus coming through with a faint spice and touches of wasabi at the end but it could have probably been a little stronger too.
Taste (7/10): Thankfully a little stronger than the nose was and some through slightly fresher too, the taste opens with a pleasant green tea taste that has some match in there and a subtle bitterness towards the middle too. It’s still not an overly strong offering but some spices and wasabi did feature with a few earthy malts and herbal flavours in there as well.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite earthy feeling with some herbal bitterness but it was still relatively fresh as well. The beer had strong carbonation and was easy to drink, although it was more basic and lighter than I expected with some subtle spice seeing things out.

Overall (15/20): Nice stuff again from Baird and one that I enjoyed despite the fact that it was quite a bit lighter than I’d hoped for going in, it was however a fresh offering with good carbonation and some nice green tea, match and wasabi flavours that you don’t find in a beer very often; it’s just a shame that none of them seemed overly pronounced. It was a pleasant enough offering with some hop bitterness at times too and the balance was a nice one but I doubt it’s a beer that I’d be in a rush to try a second time.

Brewed In: Numazu, Shizuoka, Japan
Brewery: Baird Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2014
Type: Herb/Spiced Beer
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Keg (250ml)
Purchased: Baird Tap Room Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Price: ¥600 (£3.97 approx.)