Cheers to Special Agent Richard for the intelligence that Dublin's landmark Japanese restaurant Yamamori is now selling beers from the Kiuchi brewery. It took a few months to get round to it, but on Monday last I met up with Dave and Laura for an evening of sushi, sake and Japanese ales.
I'll leave the food aside, only to mention that the four course set menu is great value and the sake tasting tray is well worth it. There's also soju, and a few other, more sedate, Asian beers. But the main reason we were there was for Kiuchi's Hitachino Nest range, with their dinky 33cl bottles and impossibly cute owls on the label.
First up the White Ale. It's surprisingly spicy for a witbier. A look at the ingredients shows that, along with the coriander and orange peel, they've added nutmeg and it really adds an extra dimension. A bit more typically there's a lemony perfume to it which balances the spices without being overpowering or artificial. Witbier with a twist, this, and a great match for my tiger prawns.
The Weizen is a long way from its purported style. Bavarian heritage and banana flavours are promised, but I couldn't find them. Laura got lemons from this one, and I think she's closer than the label copy is. It's piquant to an unusual degree, while also pumping out earthy, funky vibes. Add this to a brown body, lighter and fizzier than your typical weizen, and the word that springs to my mind is saison. And who wouldn't prefer a saison to a plain old weizen anyway?
The funk jam continues with the Japanese Classic Ale, though it's no louder for the beer being 7.5% ABV. The chilled glassware in Yamamori did a lot to take the edge of the flavour (as, in fairness, did the banoffi pie). After a few minutes' warming and a palate-cleansing sake, however, the complexities were more apparent. More saison-like spice, but it's deeper and edgier with strong elements of incense and aftershave. Had I read the label, the reason would have been obvious: it's aged on cedar. I don't think I've knowlingly had a cedar-aged beer before (Baladin Nora, maybe?) but I approve.
I'm very pleasantly surprised with this lot. Given what generally passes for Asian beer around here Yamamori's imports are a welcome addition. It would be great to see them in off licences and more restaurants.