Post-Christmas Drinking

9 Jan

If you are at all familiar with this blog, you know that Miranda, Michael, and I all got each other beer for Christmas (shocking, I know).  We all vowed to drink and post the bottles that we received, and since I am now finally feeling caught up from a whirlwind holiday of Roast Goose, Posole, Prime Rib, Miranda’s cookies, and grotesque amounts of beer…well, I figured now was as good a time as any to get crackin’! 

The first of my two beers to drink is the Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout from Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki, Japan.  This little puppy clocks in at 7.5% ABV and is described on the bottle as a Japanese Dark Ale brewed with coffee beans.  I have always been intrigued by the Hitachino beers I see in the bottle shops and various markets I frequent, but I have never tried any.  My exposure to Japanese beer starts and stops with Sapporo, Asahi, and Kirin Ichiban, all of which are nice dry lagers for that spicy Chinese/Thai/Japanese/Korean meal you might have.   But Japanese craft brew?  Never had it. 

Appearance:  The beer poured a dark black with a brown head that started to dissapate within 30 seconds.  There was a nice rosy pink tint to the head as it ran up against the side of the glass.  I love dark beers that do that.  Reminds me of a sunset. 

Aroma:  The smell was striking, in that it was almost all chocolate and alcohol.  The espresso was almost non-existent to my nose, but as I let it sit a bit, I started to get hints of licorice.  I was more suprised about the alcohol shining through considering it was only a 7.5% beer.

Taste:  Here is where the espresso was found, but still only in small amounts.  The chocolate and roasted malts just dominate the flavor, along with the alcohol I picked up in the aroma.  The bitterness seems to be more from the hops than the actual espresso.  If pressed, I might say it tasted more like a latte or mocha.  It had a real sweet quality to it that did not make me think of coffee beans.  More like blackstrap molasses.  There was also a grassy quality at the end.  Not bad, but weird.  Can’t really say what that was about or what I thought of it…just that it was weird.

Mouthfeel:  This was not overly carbonated, which I liked.  This allowed the chocolate, and small amount of espresso, flavors to shine through.  Any more carbonation would have probably combined with the astrigency of the alcohol to make this too harsh on the palette to enjoy.  The beer had a nice thickness to it that coated the tongue, but didn’t hang around the mouth for too long after.

Overall:  Happy I received it.  I wanted to start trying their beers and think this was a nice introduction.  Not sure how often I would go back to this beer considering the plethora of espresso stout choices I have in Portland.  Black Dawn, for instance, is coming out next week from Lompoc (shameless Lompoc plug, I know) and that beer is a fantastic example of the coffee stouts I have at my disposal.  However, this would be a fine stout to have if you ran across it at a bottle shop and wanted to see what it was all about.

Food Pairing:  Too sweet for many savory dishes, but I could see it doing well with a coffee-rubbed duck breast or venison loin.  The coffee rub would help enhance the lack of espresso flavor in the beer.  But if I was being honest, this would probaby be best after dinner with a gigantic piece of Black Forest Cake or huge slice of Crack Pie.  If you don’t know what Crack Pie is, click here.  Make this pie and then prepare to eat the entire thing.  With a Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, of course.

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