With Philly Beer Week in full swing, I couldn’t let the week pass without discussing the brews of and inspired by Japan. You don’t have to be a regular at yakitori Tuesdays to know the big Japanese brands: Asahi (in it’s superest driest form), Sapporo, and Kirin (of the number one variety) are all widely available at Asian restaurants and area distributors (at least those with a decent import section). Loyalists for each will argue the superiority of their favored brand, but we’ll save that debate for another post.
And with all due respect to some of the lesser known brews (sorry Orion, Yebisu, andCoedo), I’m going to introduce beers that Philadelphians can enjoy without a flight. In no particular order, Here are two options for making your weekend more Japanese (and less sober):
Hitachino (warning: flash site) Nest Beer is produced by the Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki prefecture. While it isn’t all that well-known in Japan, the brand has been catching on strongly in the Delaware Valley thanks to a deliciously potent line-up. TheJapanese Classic Ale, Amber Ale, and Espresso Stout are all solid offering with deservedly high reputations. The Real Ginger Beer is one of the more unique brews I’ve ever tried, but given a choice I always dither between the White Ale andXH (Extra High).
The White Ale is a Belgian white ale or witbier brewed with corriander, flaked barely, and flaked wheat, creating a delightfully citrusy beer with a nigori-esque consistency. It pours a cloudy pale yellow and has more spice and body than a typical Japanese beer. It’s a great summer beer that goes well with grilling. The XH is a strong Belgian black ale which is matured for 3 months in shochu casks. It pours golden brown and has a more complex flavor palette than the White Ale. It’s a great sit-and-sip beer that deserves your full attention. Both are remarkably delicious, making for difficult choices.
Portland, Oregon based craft beer powerhouse, Rogue has partnered with Philadelphia’s most famous Japanese restaurateur, Morimoto to produce a line of specialty brews. There are four varieties Soba, BlackObi Soba, Imperial Pilsner, and Hazelnut. I haven’t had a chance to try the Black Obi Soba or the Imperial Pilsner, but based on the others and the Rogue reputation must say they are worth trying.
The Soba has a slightly cloudy composition and the expected notes of soba (buckwheat). It has a lighter body and is complex without being overwhelming, making a nice pairing with lighter flavored dishes. The Hazenut ale is sweet with rich nutty tones with a fuller body and complexity than the Soba. The Hazelnut Ale has a smooth finish make it ideal as a desert beer, but at 6% ABV it packs a decent punch. So be careful.
Where Can I Get These?
So now that you’ve worked up a thirst, how to quench it. Good question. The beers are available at some Japanese restaurants (Morimoto ales at Morimoto), and bars with big bottle lists (Monk’s, Eulogy, and too many others to count). If you’re looking to sample them in the comfort of your own home (probably a smart move given the high alcohol content) you can buy single bottles at take out beer places. Your best bet is The Foodery, although I’ve seen them at other places around Center City.
Ok beer lovers, it’s 5 o’clock in Philadelphia and time for all of us to go enjoy a tasty brew. Have a great Beer Week(end) and try to sample some delicious Asian brews!