I’ve been meaning to post something on this tasty Japanese brand for months now, but I guess mid-summer is just about as good a time as any for a beer write-up.
The first Hitachino Nest beer I ever tried was during this past April, when some of my industry friends and I were wrapping up our hectic week at Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival by celebrating at Uva Wine Bar, and a new acquaintance, Anthony Burée of Perseus Winery in Naramata, kindly bought me a Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale.
Smooth, rich, spicy, full-bodied and full of flavour, the intriguing Belgian-styled brew was mouth-wateringly satisfying and left me wanting to discover more.
Made by Kiuchi Brewery in the Japanese town of Naka-shi in the Ibaraki prefecture, the Celebration Ale is one of 10 beers available in the Hitachino Nest line.
Don’t let the cute little red owl logo fool you – these are serious beers for serious sipping.
Kiuchi Brewery started way back in the 1820s as a sake brewery, and didn’t start making beer until 1996. It is now not only a manufacturer of sake and beer but also wine, with some vineyards growing on the Kiuchi property. I’ve never tried Japanese table wine before – now that’d be another interesting blog adventure!
I’m happy to report that my search for more Hitachino was brief – three beers from the Hitachino line are available at Brewery Creek Liquor Store. Sadly, none of them is the Celebration Ale, but they are just as delicious.
Below are two of the three available at Brewery Creek. I did also try the White Ale on another occasion, which is very fragrant and tasty, but I forgot to take photos before I guzzled it down.
I highly recommend getting your hands on a few bottles to quench your thirst during what’s left of summer in Vancouver!
Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale
Made from fermented red rice along with hops and barley, this cloudy beer is a vibrant rhubarb in colour and expresses warm strawberry rhubarb pie aromas on the nose. The red fruit is more subdued on the palate; while it’s still a fruity ale, there is plenty of malt and hop flavour, and it’s not at all sweet, although it does taste soft and round. I’m pretty sure the texture and body of the beer, thicker than most, are due to some of that starchy rice quality coming through in the final product. It’s not a very fizzy beer – this is very ale-like in its low foaminess. I recommend this with a steaming bowl of char siu (Chinese honey BBQ pork) on rice, char siu bao (BBQ pork buns) or perhaps a lap cheong (Chinese “waxed” sausage) dish. You can tell where I’m going, right? Anything slightly sweet and porky. $4 for a 330 ml bottle.
Hitachino Nest Classic Ale
This is made in an IPA (India Pale Ale) style, with rich, thick malty flavours and plenty of hoppy bitterness, and sure enough, there are British hops in this recipe. Clear copper in colour, lifted aromas of hops and grain meet the nose. On the refreshing palate, loads of bracing, bitter, fresh flavour are packed into one little robust, full-bodied package. Lots more foam here, with gentle persistent carbonation on the tongue that adds to the refreshing nature. I’d pair this with an assortment of Japanese kushi skewers – crunchy chicken gizzards and fatty pork, soft and rich livers, or savoury bacon-wrapped garlic shoots – the sky’s the limit! $4 for a 330 ml bottle.