I hoisted a special beer tonight – the Hitachino Commemorative Ale, sometimes called Celebration Ale. It’s the New Year’s offering from little Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki, Japan. If that place sounds familiar it’s because you’ve probably heard it in the news this last week – it’s a Prefecture in Northern Japan, just a little South of Sendai. They’ve had a rough time of it, and I don’t know what state the brewery is in. Guys, I raise my glass to you with my sincere best wishes – kanpai.
As for the beer itself, it’s a fascinating one – a strong (9% ABV) spiced winter ale very much in the Belgian tradition. It pours a pale amber with a thick tan head that quickly recedes. In the glass it’s thick and full-bodied, but doesn’t taste too heavy or boozy – the full mouthfeel is balanced by a nice acidity and tart fruitiness. The beer is flavored with all sorts of things – among them vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel. You can’t really taste any of those individual notes, but they come together to give the beer a wonderful complexity that keeps it interesting all the way to the bottom of the glass. The spice elements, slight sweetness and yeasty quality put me in mind of Orval, though this beer is lighter in both color and intensity. A winner.
If you’re lucky enough to find this locally (I found it at BevMo) pick up a bottle. I always believe in supporting small brewers who put out a good product, but especially now these guys can use all the support they can get.