There I was, in the bottle shop, buying my latest haul and I had collected some ales that I was keen to try. I was also trying to keep my weekly spend down (sad confessional fact here: since the shop opened I have never spent less than a tenner each week) and satisfied that I had what I wanted. The owner then mentioned this little number and how much he had enjoyed it. I realised at that moment two things: 1. I am such an easy mark; 2. I was going to buy it anyway. So I added Hitachino Nest to my haul and bought it, taking me over a tenner once again. I can't complain, ale is ale, right?
Anyway, it's a Japanese ale from Kiuchi Brewery and imported from the brewery itself. Of course I went for maximum casual racism and had it whilst cooking a Chinese-cuisine inspired meal. Would you like to know more?
I started with the onions, to brown them off in sesame oil, and took a deep sniff of the straw pale wheat ale in the glass. It had poured with some froth and activity, leaving a crisp white head atop a rather clear brew. Subtle aroma on this one, not strong at all, with hints of orange citrus, heading toward lemon, and something sweet there. It does say on the bottle that there will be coriander and there is a tell-tale dryness to it that suggests something that way inclined. If anything slightly heavy on the coriander overall.
Onto the tongue as I added the carrot and the beansprouts, the noodles were cooking nicely and I had the egg beaten and ready to add protein, and you get a fresh hit of pale wheat before it is subsumed by the nutmeg and the orange peel used in brewing this (according to the bottle). I shall be honest and say that I am glad that these flavours take the main part of the stage because I am not really that much of a fan of coriander in the ale itself. And this is a good combination. I was looking to make the food with some hot sauce so this has a calming and cooling effect. From here on in it was hard to take tastes between the cooking as the stir-fry did that thing that stir-fry does and cooked fast. Still, the orange peel slowly recedes as you keep sipping this one and the thin wheat really comes to the fore. Sadly, that coriander does come back with a vengeance and I had trouble picking out the nutmeg after a while. I'd expected more orange given that orange juice was also listed as an ingredient but there was simply less of it as time went on.
Willow opined that it was similar in lemon-y smell to the Neck Oil (here) from a while back, but I just don't see that. I assume she was referring to the rather odd citrus overload of the orange and the orange peel but I could be wrong. Combined with the smokey heat of the Szechuan-style sauce and the egg, this does alright. It does not punch at its 5.5% ABV weight either, feeling much more like the sort of daily ale one would get from Shepherd Neame or somesuch. That's not a criticism, just an observation. And this is a fruity little number with some twists and turns to it with all that coriander and nutmeg - more of that than the orange juice, so that may explain it - but it doesn't really 'do it' for me. I mean, it's nice and I am glad that I got it in to taste it, but it's not something that I'm going to be ensuring I seek out again.
Enjoy with actual Japanese-style food, maybe a soup with some udon to follow and some vegetable tempura dipped in a light soy. Sit properly as at a Japanese table and enjoy the sound of water running close by beneath an ornamental bridge. Follow, or accompany, with some herbal fizzy drink and just enjoy the sense of being. It is a contemplative little ale and one that can accompany big and deep thoughts over delicate and carefully selected food. Much closing of eyes will follow, and not in the slumbering sense, as one ponders the delicate mysteries of the taste and of life itself. If this is your bag you will want to get more of this than a single bottle.