05 August 2008

Japanese Beers--Just in Time for Otakon!

Max's Taphouse, in their usual Tuesday night show, is unveiling four new bottled beers from the Baird Brewery in Numazu, Japan:

Rising Sun Pale Ale 5.0% ABV- American West Coast Style
Red Rose Amber 5.4% ABV- Inspired by the steam beer style
Angry Boy Brown 6.2% ABV- Bigger, bolder and Hoppier than most
Kurofune Porter 6 0% ABV- Classic dark English Style


Casey Hard, Max's cellar-master, informs me that the company's brewer is either English or American. With a name like Bryan Baird, I would hope so.

The extra-special bonus is that Otakon, the Japanese anime convention, is in town this weekend (same time as the Virgin Music Festival, sadly for some), bringing perhaps 15,000-20,000 hard-core anime and Japanese culture fans to town for three days. It's possible one of them might even make it to Fells Point for a beer...... maybe....... I must admit that sometimes they have to remind a scant few of those fans to eat, sleep, and/or bathe..........

Okay, beer-tasting notes:

Red Rose Amber Ale 5.4%: deep amber, bright with a touch of sediment in the bottle, lovely head retention.... nose very mellow hops, but initial sip is almost an India Pale Ale in hoppiness. This is an ale beer (which uses yeast that ferments at higher temperatures) that was fermented at lager temperatures (i.e. 10 degrees F colder than ale), according to the label........... wait a minute........ Steam/California Common is lager yeast at ALE temps! (We just looked it up to be sure!) So what do we really have here? a nice, VERY malty amber, with the vaguest hint of either oak barrel aging tartness or a touch of Belgian tartness and cloudiness. A terrific woody/piney hop balance and finish. Dry, almost chalky finish, very thirst-inducing........ beware. Great flavors, but not easily categorized.

Rising Sun Pale Ale 5.0%: Classic pale ale deep yellow, rich head retention, richly bottle-conditioned with plenty of yeast sediment. Nose lightly hopped. A dry interpretation of the style, right at home for Asahi converts. Well-balanced for a dry pale ale, bitter hops coasting on what seems to be a sea-foam-laced malt surf. (Okay, kill me, I've become Joe Metaphor!) Possibly the driest pale ale I've encountered in years. Dangerously thirst-inducing.

Angry Boy Brown Ale 6.2%: classic English brown, with a bit richer head. malty nose, slightly sweet, with a hint of hops. QUITE a character-filled (translation: yeast and hop flavors) brown, this comes off the way I would expect Hitachino to do a brown: a touch chalky, nicely hopped, rich mineral and yeast flavors, the latter alluding to Belgian yeast without being funky. Dang, this is good.

Kurofune Porter 6.0%: a touch light for porter color, moderate head retention, nose smacks of yeast initially...... a rich, complex porter, initially reminding me of Alan Eames' Flag Porter from ages ago..... a good rich medium/light roast flavor balanced with a fruity ale yeast, hints of iodine/seaweed and smoke in the finish. A nice one; I want more of this.

Now, just to keep the theme of the night going, because the style I order next is so popular in Japan......... Ridgeway Bad King John English black ale 6.0%: yes, black beer is different from stout even if it doesn't look it. Most black beer in Japan is lager, but this is an ale. So? Bright (clear) but still porter brown, a lighter body than most porters, excellent roast flavors, mellow finish.

And just to add to the fun, there are three MORE "Japanese" beers worthy of your attention: Three beers made by Rogue Brewery of Newport, Oregon in partnership with a Japanese brewery--Red Fox Amber, White Crane Bitter, and Buckwheat Ale. The label artwork is silk-screened onto the bottles and are largely in Japanese, as these bottles were actually intended for the Japanese market. These 12-ounce bottles are no longer made, and these are some of THE last bottles available for retail sale anywhere. If you like the thought of a Japanese beer collectible (better than a "Beer-Chan" t-shirt by far!), here's your chance! (Fewer than a dozen bottles total as of Wednesday night!)

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