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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.)

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Yabai Yabai Strong Scotch Ale

November 14, 2017 2 comments

Rating: 4.0

My fourth ever Baird beer now and the second of four that I managed to try in Japan as well, this one is a Scotch ale from the brewery that I picked up from the Sinanoya liquor store towards the end of my trip after failing to find any new beers from the 1001 list in the store. The beer is one that I later found on-tap during my trip when I visited the brewery’s Harajuku taproom on my last full day in Japan but I opted to try something new at that point. Yabai is a Japanese slang word that can be roughly translated as ‘risky’ according to Google, or even ‘awesome’ and the former would certainly sum up this fairly strong offering if you end up having a couple. This one is a fairly strong, 8% abv. offering that I hadn’t actually heard of before but following on from the brewery’s highly enjoyable Rising Sun Pale Ale that I tried a few days previously, I decided to give this unknown offering a try to see how it compared.

Appearance (4/5): Fairly dark, sitting a mahogany brown colour in the glass with a centimetre tall, foamy head that is a light tan colour and holds well initially with little early movement and a touch of lacing on the sides of the glass to start things off well.
Aroma (8/10): Fairly strong on the nose with plenty of caramel sweetness and toffee in the early going, as well as some subtle touches of alcohol. There is some further sugars around the middle of the beer with a few darker fruits coming through as well, most notably some plum and raisins as well as a hint of apricot before some rich, dark malts and roasted notes see things out.
Taste (8/10): Quite a strong and malty beer like the nose suggested, the taste opens with a lot of caramel sweetness with the toffee from the nose not too far behind either. There was a solid sweetness to the beer from the start with a nutty taste around the middle and some rich, darker fruits featuring around this point too; a combination of plum and raisin upfront with some dates following on behind. Towards the end there was a few more sweet malts and the odd subtle spice to see things out nicely as well.
Palate (4/5): Full bodied and quite a thick beer with a smooth and strong feel to it, this one had some alcohol coming through early on but thankfully nothing overpowering, it just provided a nice kick and slightly warming, boozy feel to the beer as things went on. Carbonation levels were relatively soft here and it was surprisingly easy to drink despite the alcohol showing, the sweet malts and dark fruits partially masking it at points. The beer was quite an enjoyable one with a complex feel to it and plenty variety but it was still well-balanced throughout.

Overall (16/20): Another fine Barid offering that opened with a lot of sweet malts, caramel and toffee flavours as well as some darker fruits that helped keep things balanced and mask at least some of the alcohol content of the beer, although there was still a little showing in the early going. It’s quite a strong beer with a lot of flavour and complexity but it remained easy to drink and is definitely one of the better Scotch ale’s I’ve tried, although it’s not a style of beer I’ve drunk many of recently but this is definitely one that I’ll keep my eyes peeled for in future given how much I enjoyed this bottle.

Brewed In: Numazu, Shizuoka, Japan
Brewery: Baird Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2006
Type: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
Abv: 8.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Sinanoya Food & Liquor (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
Price: ¥507 (£3.36 approx.)

Minoh Pilsner

October 30, 2017 2 comments

Rating: 3.65

The second of six Minoh beers that I managed to try on a recent trip to Japan, this being the first of five bottles from the brewery that I managed to pick up at the Yamaya Nagahoribashi store in Osaka after discovering they has one of the better beer selections in the city. The beer follows on from the keg serving of the brewery’s Momo Weizen that I managed to try at the Two Dogs Taproom in Tokyo early on into my trip and being a brewery that I’d read a little about before my trip, I was eager to pick up a few more of their beers if I could.

Appearance (4/5): Golden straw in colour with a semi-clear body and a centimetre tall, foamy white head that had a little more lacing built up around the sides too and managed to hold well over the opening few minutes.
Aroma (6/10): Quite a fresh beer on the nose with citrus and lemon notes opening things up alongside a few biscuit malts and background fruits but for the most part the nose is quite a light one. There was some cereal and grassy hops further on with a little hay in there too that made for a pleasant aroma, although one that could have used being a touch stronger at times but it certainly wasn’t weak either.
Taste (7/10): Opening with biscuit malts and some sweeter ones too, the beer was relatively fresh with some lemon and background fruits coming through; mainly apples with a faint peach taste as well. There was a few grassy hops and hay with a little corn and citrus at the end too which all seemed to come through slightly stronger than it had with the nose.
Palate (4/5): Quite a fresh offering with a medium body and a fairly smooth, balanced feel to proceedings. The beer was sweet for the most part with a subtle tang and quite a dry feel towards the end but one that remained easy to drink throughout.

Overall (15/20): Quite an enjoyable beer from Minoh and probably one that was on par with their Momo Weizen that I reviewed here previously, this being despite the fact that I had expected this to be one of the poorer beers from the brewery that I picked up. The beer was a well-balanced and easy to drink offering that was quite fresh and sessionable, the nose was perhaps a little weaker than I’d have liked but it was a minor complaint with the rest of the beer seeming quite lively.

Brewed In: Osaka, Japan
Brewery: Minoh Beer
First Brewed: Brewery since 1997
Type: Pilsner
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Yamaya Nagahoribashi (Osaka)
Price: ¥410 (£2.72 approx.)

Premium Yebisu #127 Dual Smooth

October 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.45

Another Sapporo brewed beer and my second under their Yebisu brand, this one follows on from their Premium Yebisu that I reviewed here recently and is another from my recent trip to Japan. I picked this particular offering up on a day trip to the Arashiyama area of Kyoto after spotting it in a 7-Eleven shop and not recognising it as a beer I’d seen previously; this is apparently because it is an exclusive to 7-Eleven group shops in Japan. Released at the start of August this year, the beer is a reworking (or re-release) of their #126 Dual Smooth from last year and it wasn’t one that I was expecting a lot from but I was happy to pick it up given it wasn’t as readily available as some other Yebisu beers that I passed over for this one.

Appearance (3/5): Pale golden to amber with a half centimetre, foamy white head that held relatively well in the opening minutes and showed a lot of visible carbonation through a clear body.
Aroma (5/10): Light on the nose with a basic lager aroma to it, the beer had a lot of corn and cheaper adjuncts coming through with a subtle sweetness as well. There was some pale malts and touches of bread further on before some light biscuit seen things out but overall it was a basic smelling beer.
Taste (5/10): Like the nose, this one was a cheap tasting beer with a combination of rice and corn kicking things off alongside some background adjuncts. There was a faint sweetness with some grassy flavours and light bread as well but nothing really stuck out for me. Towards the end a touch of alcohol showed itself with further sweet malts but it wasn’t an overly enjoyable beer I’m afraid.
Palate (2/5): Light and fairly cheap with a smooth feel and minimal skunk at least but it was definitely basic. There was some sweetness throughout but it wasn’t as crisp or fresh as I’d have liked for the style and the touches of alcohol towards the end weren’t great either.

Overall (9/20): Another fairly poor Sapporo beer, this one was quite basic and cheap with a lot of adjuncts showing but thankfully it wasn’t overly skunky or undrinkable. There was some basic corn and a light sweetness throughout with some stronger lager flavours and light alcohol towards the end which meant I didn’t really enjoy it but it was far from the worst that I tried in Japan.

Brewed In: Ibaraki, Japan
Brewery: Sapporo Breweries
Type: Dortmunder/Export Lager
First Brewed: 2017
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Can (350ml)
Purchased: 7-Eleven (Arashiyama, Kyoto)
Price:‎ ¥255 (£1.69 approx.)

Minoh Momo Weizen

October 16, 2017 2 comments

Rating: 3.65

The first of several Minoh Beer offering that I managed to try on my recent trip to Japan, this one being a variation of the Weizen offering that I managed to try later on my trip and one that has had Japanese peach juice added during the brewing process. Minoh was a brewery that I’d read a little about before my trip and one of their beers even featured on the 1001 beers list so I was keeping my eyes peeled for anything by them, managing to find this one at a brewpub in Tokyo early into my holiday and quickly deciding to give it a try.

Appearance (4/5): Quite a cloudy looking yellow to golden colour with a body that is almost opaque, the beer has a thin and foamy white head on top that is about quarter of a centimetre tall but manages to cover the surface well. It’s a nice start from this beer although the head wasn’t exactly as large as I’d have expected from the style.
Aroma (7/10): Strong clove and wheat aromas kick things off here with some citrus and lemon coming through soon after. The beer seemed semi-sweet on the nose with some coriander and touches of Belgian yeast coming through alongside some faint tart. The beer was fresh on the nose and became a little lighter once it had settled but it was an easy-going, nice start to this one.
Taste (7/10): Fresh like the nose, the beer opens with some lemon and wheat with the clove that featured earlier making an appearance here too. There was a few lighter malts and touches of bread towards the middle but nothing was particularly strong really, there was some yeast and banana to round things off though.
Palate (4/5): Medium and smooth, the beer was fresh and fairly light which also made it an easy on to drink. There was a slight bitterness towards the end but it was fleeting, the balance also proved to be a decent one and it was well-carbonated too.

Overall (13/20): This one was an okay wheat beer despite the fact that it was definitely lighter than anticipated and the head was quite poor for the style. It opened with a nice citrus and wheat combination that was backed by some clove and touches of yeast, the malts and bread flavours nearer the centre doing well to balance things out and help it down easily. It was a pleasant enough offering though but I’m not sure it’s one that I’d go back to a second time.

Brewed In: Osaka, Japan
Brewery: Minoh Beer
First Brewed: 2009
Also Known As: Minoh Kokusan Peach Weizen
Type: Hefeweizen
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Keg (473ml)
Purchased: Two Dogs Taproom, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
Price: ¥1000 (£6.62 approx.)

Fugli

July 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.65

My tenth Oskar Blues beer nwo and my first new one of 2017, the last from the brewery that I reviewed here being their Mama’s Little Yella Pils that I sampled back in October of last year when I tried it on-tap at a local Brewdog bar. This one is a fairly new beer from the brewery, having been first launched in early May this year so I’m surprised that it has made it to the UK whilst still relatively fresh. The beer is a summer seasonal from Oskar Blues that uses yuzu and ugli fruits in the brewing process, both fruits that I’d never heard of before picking this one up. Yuzu is apparently a Japanese citrus fruit that is quite similar to a lemon whereas ugli is a Jamaican fruit that was created by crossing an orange, tangerine and grapefruit with the result fitting the name well. Being so new when I picked this beer up meant it wasn’t a beer that I was familiar with but I always like to pick up new beers from the brewery when I get a chance and I’ve since noticed a couple more of their beers making it the UK lately so beer number eleven from the brewery might not be too far behind this one.

Appearance (4/5): Bright amber in colour and fairly clear looking, the beer is topped with an excellent looking head that sits about three centimetres tall initially before losing a little of its height. The texture of the head is a foamy looking one with a few bubbles showing, there is some visible carbonation rising through the body of the beer too and eventually the head settles about half a centimetre tall after thirty or forty seconds.
Aroma (6/10): Fresh on the nose with some subtle pine and citrus hops coming through alongside some grassy ones in the early going but it’s definitely not as strong as I’d been expecting for an American style IPA, especially an Oskar Blues brewed one. there was some lighter malts near the middle of the nose but for the most part there citrus dominated, mainly orange and grapefruit but there was also a little mango or apricot too. Nearer the end I managed to detect some sweetness coming off the back of the malts with a few touches of bread sneaking in as well to help keep the beer balanced down the stretch.
Taste (7/10): The taste here was a strange one that opened with a combination of grassy hops and pine ones, naturally there was a lot of citrus flavours backing these up though but the malts from the nose featured a lot earlier than I’d expected and were quite strong this time around too. The beer was still a fresh one with the grapefruit and orange coming through the most pronounced but they were definitely more subdued than they were with the nose. Towards the end some faint caramel malts and a couple of bread ones featured before a further tropical burst of fruits seen things out, although these weren’t overly strong this time around; the beer was a nice one at this stage though.
Palate (4/5): Fresh and quite tangy with a lot of citrus throughout which also made the beer seem quite crisp and sharp. Carbonation levels were good with this one and it seemed lively too but remained balanced thanks to the lighter malts and touches of sweetness that followed them. An easy beer to drink and one that stayed interesting until the end without being a standout offering.

Overall (15/20): Another enjoyable Oskar Blues offering that was dominated by the tangy hops and citrus flavours, particularly in the early going and with the nose but there was some balance to the beer thanks to the lighter malts and touches of sweetness that featured from the middle on. The beer was fresh and quite lively too, thanks mainly to the good carbonation levels also the citrus touches again too. It’s an interesting beer and probably the first I’ve tried with either yuzu or ugli fruits in it and both seemed to work well and impart a little flavour on the beer along the way too; decent stuff and well worth trying too.

Brewed In: Longmont, Colorado, United States of America
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery
First Brewed: 2009
Type: American IPA
Abv: 5.8%
Serving: Can (355ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £3.10

Saku Porter (345 of 1001)

April 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.8

Only my second ever beer from Estonia now, this one follows on from the bottle of Viru from the country that I reviewed here way back in June 2013 having been impressed with the nice bottle design but ultimately being disappointed with the beer itself so I was hopeful this one would be better. The beer is a Baltic porter that appears in the 1001 beers list as one of only two Estonian offerings featured so I fully expected this one to be a decent offering when I picked it up on my last day in Warsaw when visiting the city last month. Brewed once a year as a winter seasonal, this one was originally brewed in the town of Saku before production was moved to the Aldaris brewery in Latvia in the winter of 2009/10, since both are now owned by Carlsberg but naturally I’ll still list this one as an Estonian beer. It was at this point that the beers alcohol content was reduced from the original 7.5% to its current 7.0%, although the bottle I picked up came in just under that at 6.9% abv. for the winter 2016/17 edition of the beer.

Appearance (4/5): An opaque offering that was a dark brown to mahogany colour and came with a few red tinges running through the body as well. There was a light beige head on top that started off quite bubbly, sitting about a centimetre tall before fading to leave a slightly patchy lacing after about thirty seconds or so with the odd bubble rising from the base of the beer too.
Aroma (7/10): Quite a malty offering with a lot of chocolate notes coming through in the early going alongside some vanilla sweetness and touches of caramel. It was a sweet beer but some earthy bitterness featured early too which helped to give the beer a nice balance on the nose, some coffee smells featuring too but they were definitely more subtle. It was quite a strong beer on the nose with some grain and hints of alcohol coming through nearer the end but overall it was a pleasant smelling beer.
Taste (7/10): Starting with a combination of sweet malts and chocolate in the early going, there was some dark malts and caramel sweetness too with the odd sticky flavours towards the middle. I could detect some liquorice and an almost cola like taste with plenty of sugars coming through soon after and then a couple of roasted malts down the stretch before some hints of alcohol seen things out.
Palate (4/5): Medium to full-bodied with quite a creamy, smooth feel to proceedings and plenty of sweetness too. The beer was syrupy and sticky at times with plenty of malt bitterness and the odd touch of alcohol towards the end giving it a slightly warming feel that seemed stronger than the 6.9% abv. of the beer.

Overall (16/20): This one was quite a big, strong beer that opened with a lot of sweetness thanks to the chocolate and caramel flavours sitting on top of a sugary base and some warming alcohol nearer the end. There was a nice complexity to this one as well as a good balance, I felt it was slightly stronger than a 6.9% beer should be but it was still highly drinkable and one well worth trying; I’d go as far as to say that I’d have it again if it was more readily available in the UK.

Brewed In: Saku, Harjumaa, Estonia
Brewery: Saku Õlletehas
First Brewed: circa 1990
Type: Baltic Porter
ABV: 6.9%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Carrefour Express (Warsaw, Poland)
Price: 9 PLN (approx. £0.80)