Green tea and sake.
Those are usually the first two beverages that come to mind when I think about Japan; beer doesn’t exactly register in my mind, at least not right away. Sure, there are some big name brewing giants in the Land of the Rising Sun, but they profile more as easy-drinking, non-offensive beers, that pair adequately with Japanese cuisine. But what if you’re looking for something with a little more “zing” to enjoy with your sushi? Well you’re in luck! This week, we introduce you to two beers, from Japan, that are sure to take your teriyaki, sashimi, and takoyaki to the next level: Hitachino Nest’s White Ale and Red Rice Ale.
Brewed by Kiuchi Brewery, in Naka, by 8th generation sake brewers, Hitachino Nest offers a full lineup of classic beers, with a Japanese twist. Their name derives from the ancient Japanese province of Hitachi, famous for its fertile soil, that encompassed the area that the brewery is now located. Their beer has previously been seen in the Lower Mainland, at liquor providers and restaurants, and has triumphantly returned to Brewery Creek.
Witbiers, weissbiers, white, or wheat beers; whatever name you call them by, are not a favourite style of mine. There’s something about the body and the taste profile that doesn’t resonate with me, likely owing to my preference for thick, malt forward, beers. Hitachino’s take on this style was a pleasant surprise, however. With a light-straw colour, White Ale has a surprisingly fuller body than most wits, likely owing to the addition of orange juice. This mellows out the spice profile of coriander and nutmeg, making this a delightfully crisp and peppy brew that would pair nicely with your favourite donburi.
Red Rice Ale
Despite how refreshing the White Ale was, Red Rice Ale was my favourite of the two and the one I was admittedly more excited about. I really enjoy rice beer while eating sushi and was excited to try an ale, rather than the typical lager. Everything about this beer is delicate and refined. The rose pink colour is reminiscent of sakura, while the sweet, floral nose only adds to this experience. While there is an expected honeysuckle sweetness present in the flavour, the use of red rice to brew this beer imparts a slight nutty flavour. Red Rice Ale would be an ideal beer to pairing with more complex sushi rolls, as it could at once hold up to bolder flavours, while also acting as a great palate cleanser.
Overall, both beers are a . . .hit. . .
In all seriousness though, these beers are wonderfully crafted and show a lot finesse. The next time you’re fixing to cook up some tataki or ramen, snap up these beers as they will make your home dining experience truly ichiban.
[Photo Credit: Hitachino Nest]