Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hitachino Nest

After my first real-world paycheck (excluding agencies), I indulged and bought a shit load of beer. I bought two beers from Kiuchi Brewery because I thought, hey, why not buy some Japanese beers?

The first was Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Ale. Firstly, I love ginger. Any type of ginger - fresh ginger, gingerbread men, gingernut biscuits, ginger in stir fries, Jamaican ginger cake, whatever. I'll go mad for it. Most ginger beers I've tried (Crabbies etc and the like) are often way off the mark - incredibly sweet, no alcoholic flavour and definitely none of the intoxicating gingerness I'm after. For me, the perfectly balanced Old Jamaica Ginger Beer is what I judge every alcoholic ginger beer against, in an incredibly prejudicial way. Old Jamaica has the right balance - carbonation, refreshing and fiery at the same time.

So this is what the 7% Real Ginger Ale is up against. The aroma is definitely ground ginger - akin to gingernuts/ gingerbread rather than fresh ginger. There is a slight fieriness that awakens the nose (like snorting some pepper!). In the glass, the colour is a dark brown with an orange tinge. The beer has a strong malt flavour, and the ginger is quite subtle - you may not even notice it! It's more like a twinge of gingerness. There is a sweet aftertaste, it's a light beer with not much alcohol (deceptively drinkable). Overall, it's unfortunately a bit bland. I still have a long way to go to finding the perfect alcoholic ginger beer!

Next up its the 7% Red Rice Ale - what do you expect from red rice?! I've never had red rice - my palette of rice has extended all the way from white to brown (alright, I've had basmati). Really unusual smell, really unusual. I suppose it smells of rice?! The colour is much clearer - more orange with a light brown - it has an 'IPA' colour. The more I smell it, the more it smells of Budweiser. Brewing beer with rice goes back centuries in Japan, and I don't really want to compare this craft beer to Budweiser (which is alright, but really, no) , but that's what it smells and reminds me of. It has a very clean taste, though slightly sour. Nothing really stands out - its not malty or hoppy, its ricey.

Overall, would i buy them again?No - it was nice to try something new but wish i had bought some of their more standard beers, as these beers seem more like experiments (which are always worth having!). Nevermind, onto the next beer!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Hoppy heart

I live in somewhat of a craft beer desert. Yes, some cheeky BrewDog Punk IPA cans from Sainsburys or a shitload of U.K. microbrew online are a lucky lifeline but sometimes it's nice to physically get my hands on some of the UK most exciting brews and buy them there and then.

Sourced Market in St. Pancras Station always has a great selection of beers by The Kernel (and other beers from the U.K, USA and Europe). For those not in the know, they are one of the UK's most exciting microbreweries. Whatever there is in stock, I eagerly buy and get in the fridge as quickly as possible.

This time I got my hands on some single-hopped India Pale Ales. In order of alcoholic strength, Up first was Galaxy at 6.8%. Murky orange colour with an earthy but fruity (tropical) aroma. On the tongue, a tickling bitterness of tropical fruit from these Australian hops that go superbly with the malt. A moreish and well balanced beer. It's not "LOOK I HAVE HOPS IN ME", its "I have hops in to make me a tasty well-balanced beer". If only beer could talk... (and could have lasted longer)

Next up was Citra at 7.2%, seemimgly 2011's hop de jeur. This made me think of the wretched pints of Oakham citra I end up thinking "it'll be better this time" at my local 'Spoons (their fault! Not Oakham's, which I should strive to try in a bottle). This beer is definitely less malty and more hop driven, it obviously has an incredibly citrusy taste and aroma. A very bitter aftertaste and, in my opinion, a less well-balanced beer. This beer is a bit more 'harsh' than the Galaxy and a bit less enjoyable.

Last up was the big and boozy Stellar at 7.4%. On the nose, a sugary even flowery aroma. A bright and clean taste, with the alcohol coming through in spades as in stays on your tongue and in your throat. Definitely a hop forward character with a grapefruity bitterness and an alcoholic burn. Moreish like the Galaxy beer/hops but this beer is more heady, more 'fizzy' in a good way and has an alcoholic punch compared to the other two beers.

Which would I buy again? Galaxy first - I loved how the hops and malts were well balanced. The bitterness came through but wasn't too astringent or harsh, which I felt was to Citra's detriment. I liked the alcoholic punch of Stellar, but that was more percentage than the hops which I did enjoy. If I could only have one, it would be the Galaxy. Cheers to the The Kernel for making great beers and Sourced Market to stocking them, I know I'll see you both again soon!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Straight outta Iceland

Oh Beautiful Beer made me buy these beers. A couple months back they were on there and had to get my hands on them when they came to the U.K. I went to Iceland/Reykjavik in 2006 - I don't really remember much beer. I mean, I was 16 but my only beer/alcohol-realted memories include government-owned alcohol shops and drunken Icelanders cruising Laugevaegur around midnight off their faces.

So yeah, Einstok is a craft brewery (the only one?!) from Iceland - a country which had prohibition "in some effect" till May 1989! (Wikipedia told me so it must be true). Of all places, they're being distributed by Harvey Nichols (Maybe Craft Beer really is hitting the mainstream) and so I ordered a couple of each, which arrived in the most disgustingly un-eco friendly packaging I've ever seen. (Each bottle does not need a 1/2m of bubble wrap and 6 inches in a box to itself).

Anyway, Icelandic white ale with cor(r)iander and orange peel. Subtle orange peel on the nose with a incredibly thin and quickly dissipating head. Definitely get the slight spiciness of the corriander ,but also the fizzy 'Haribo' taste that I think defines a lot of Belgian-style beers. Maybe not the right time of year to enjoy a beer like this, but it was ok.

Icelandic Pale ale - definitely get maltiness and caramel on the nose and first taste. Quite sweet! However, I think i had a bad batch and there was definitely a strong diacetyl flavour which really wasn't to my taste. Slightly disappointing and I unfortunately drank as quick as possible.

Toasted Porter time! Oh yeah - rated highest on RateBeer for Einstok beers and I can see why. 6% with a quickly dissipating head, with a strong Marmite/Soy sauce aroma. Black as sin, with a strong mouth feel. Strong malt flavour from the toasted malts but also a strong bitter Marmite-y tang. Would definitely have another, plus I love Marmite!
Lastly it was the Doppelbock "xmas beer" with highly-suitable Red nose & antlers on the Viking symbol. At 6.7%, it's the highest in the range and you definitely get a boozy mouth-feel. Slightly sweet (raisin-esque) with a strong malt character and highly drinkable. A very "clean" and smooth taste and quite moreish.
Firstly, I would love to try all of these beers on tap via draught/keg as bottles don't always tell the true beer story. I don't know if they're planning on doing that any time soon (I don't get that impression) but would be lovely to try. Toasted Porter and Dopplebock were the clear winners of the range and worth a buy!