Style: Belgian Pale Ale
Brewery: Kiuchi Brewery
Having recently tried a beer using the Japanese-developed Sorachi Ace hop I decided to continue the trend and review a beer from one of my favorite breweries – Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. Nipponia is a Belgian Pale Ale that combines two ingredients native to Japan: an ancient barley known as “Kaneko Golden” and the “Sorachi Ace” hop. Kaneko Golden was the first beer malt in Japan and the Kiuchi Brewery had to reproduce it in order to create this beer.
The malt was developed by Mr. Kaneko 180 years ago when brewing beer in Japan was beginning to rise in popularity. Mr. Kaneko found that by mixing Shikoku, a barley used in noodles and Golden Melon, an American barley, he could create a very good barley malt. He named it after himself and the color that the malt created and thus “Kaneko Golden” was born. However, despite its popularity, the barley was lost due to the push for more economical farming after World War II.
Mr. Kiuchi (the current owner of Kiuchi Brewery) was able to get 16 seeds of Kaneko Gold from the Department of Agricultural History in Japan. The 16 seeds were planted on a 2 sq. foot area 5 years ago. After each harvest the brewery planted new seeds and continued to do this until last year’s harvest that yielded 6 tons of Kaneko Golden.
The color of this beer definitely lives up to the barley’s name and pours a fantastic, unfiltered golden, straw-like color. A large white head formed after a semi-vigorous pour and died slowly leaving a small amount of lacing as it faded. The aroma was gentle but filled with many different notes such as yeast, bread and citrus.
The first sip produced a unique malty and bread-like taste and ended with hints of lime. There were only small traces of hop bitterness at the beginning but were almost undetectable and dissipated quickly. The flavors were gentle but complex, making a very drinkable summer beer. The alcohol content (6.5% ABV) was a non-factor and didn’t impact the flavor of this beer in any way (a great thing).
Overall, I’m glad this malt was reproduced and used to its full potential. Many ancient beers I have tried in the past are over-spiced and complicate themselves with too many flavors competing with each other. Nipponia may have many flavors but they compliment each other beautifully. It would pair very nicely with red curry chicken or other spicy foods. A wonderful beer with a rich history.
Song Pairing: Hurt Me Soul – Lupe Fiasco
An amazing hip hop song from one of the great lyricists today. The strings and bass line create perfect harmony as do the hops and barley used in this beer. The lyrics are thoughtful and able to transport your mind. The complex writing and thinking by Lupe Fiasco fit perfectly into the composition of this beer. (Warning: this song contains explicit language)