Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest Japanese style Russian Imperial Espresso Stout 7%
Japan is famous for many things: sake, sushi, sumo wrestling, cars and electronics to name just a few. But not perhaps beer. The Japanese consume a reasonable amount of beer (43 litres per person) compared to 66 litres per person in the UK. Beer has been brewed commercially in Japan since 1869 and the big breweries are Kirin, Asahi, Suntory and Sapporo. Their beers can be found in the UK but are not that interesting. Restrictions on small breweries in Japan were relaxed in 1994 and Japan now has around 300 craft breweries with many exporting to the USA, Australia, Far East and Europe.
Kiuchi Brewery were founded as Sake brewers back in 1823 and in 1996 they diversified into beer production. They produce a wide range of bottled beers including white, pale, stout, red rice and IPA. The beers are sold under the Hitachino Nest brand. Coffee beers are made by adding a small amount of freshly brewed strong coffee to the beer just before the bottling stage.
Espresso Stout pours a very dark brown and has a freshly roasted coffee aroma. This is a smooth beer with a very pronounced coffee flavour in addition to the malt/toffee/molasses taste one would expect from a porter or stout. I would try this with a pork dish, perhaps a BBQ or with a rich chocolate dessert. Whilst stouts and porters have been around for a long time the idea of adding coffee to beer began in the USA in the 1990’s. Many US brewers and a few UK craft brewers also offer a coffee porter or stout.
Strictly speaking Espresso Stout is not really strong enough to be an Imperial Stout which are usually around 8 -10 % abv. Imperial stouts were originally brewed in the UK in the 18th Centruy for export to the Baltic region and Russia. These beers are strong but very smooth and complex in taste. They also keep for a long time. Imperial Stouts are often the highest rated beers on beer websites such as www.ratebeer.com and www.beeradvocate.com Hitachino Espresso Stout is a good example of a coffee porter/stout and it has more pronounced coffee flavour than versions that I have tried by British craft brewers.
Japan has a flourishing rock music scene but its bands aim at the local market and few have made any inroads in the West. One of my favourite Japanese type songs was by the British New Wave band, The Vapors, whose single, Turning Japanese got to No 3 in the UK charts back in 1980. The meaning of the lyrics is open to debate but if you consult Wikipedia you will be offered a possible interpretation. Pour yourself a glass of Espresso stout and singalong to the Vapors and you will soon be turning Japanese.