By: Benjamin Welton
Like a lot of people my age, I have a “thing” for Japan. Some of my earliest memories involve watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Dragonball Z after school, then, after my parents finally buckled and bought me my first video game console, I discovered Castlevania, Mountain Dew, and sleepless nights. I am still surprised that I made it out alive.
As I got older, my fascination waned. Then, sometime in college, I got tired of reading literature that had been written originally in the English language. So, I hit Google and came up with names like Edogawa Rampo, Akimitsu Takagi, and Seichō Matsumoto. Next came Kurosawa, then, after signing up for Uncle Sam, I got heavily into Edo poetry, The Book of the Five Rings, and Yukio Mishima. It seems that I can’t escape the Rising Sun.
Well, I guess my drinking life can, for besides Yamazaki whiskey, I haven’t found a single Japanese product worthy of repeat imbibing. The Kiuchi Brewery’s collection of Hitachino Nest beers might change my tune, especially a tasty little bottle called Japanese Classic Ale. Let’s let the owl be our guide…
First Impression: This label is so adorable that I hate it. Blame Occidental customs concerning masculinity, but beer labels shouldn’t suggest Hello Kitty or other animated animals. That said, gripping this squat bottle proved more pleasing than expected, although it promised less bang for my buck.
Pour: The pouring action on this beer is fairly uneventful. No snap, crackle, or pop; the Japanese Classic Ale just spills itself right into your cup. Aroma wise, there’s not much going either, and even when I put my big Jimmy Durante nose all the way into the glass, I still couldn’t really make out notes or hints, no matter how obvious.
Taste: Although this beer is whiskey-colored, it tastes like sugar. Not pure sugar, but it’s sweeter than most pale ales you’ll taste this year. Also, according to the back label, the Japanese Classic Ale is based on an India Pale Ale recipe that found its way to Japan during the nineteenth century. That’s funny, because there’s nothing bitter or hoppy about this beer. It’s smooth, but not watery. Overall, it’s a hand-to-mouth beer: you put it in your hand, then you shove it in your mouth without a second thought. No filigree and no aesthetic lip smacking; the Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale is all function.