Total Score: 7.55/10
This is one I had a while ago, intrigued by the addition of Sanshō (aka Japanese pepper) – an ingredient I was wholly unaware of until I tried this beer (an enlightening minute of Wikipedia later and I’m buffed with information on this curious spice). I’m a big fan of craft beer crossing cultural boundaries, some of my favourite beers have come from Japan, and a great deal of my favourite beers come from Belgium – just look at my top-100, it’s a who’s who of classic Belgian brews. So when a Japanese brewer like Kagua (otherwise known by the unimaginative and slightly self-conceited name of Nippon Beer Co.) decides to mix an East-meets-West style brew I’m definitely going to give it a go, how could I not?
Poured from a classic 330ml Belgian-style bottle into a Duvel tulip.
A: Cloudy deep bronze body with a pretty dense beige head that leaves light lacing inside the glass. Appearance a bit cloudy given the style, but otherwise this beer looks moreish. 8/10.
S: Yep, that Sanshō has an unmistakable and difficult to describe aroma that stands out loud and clear from first whiff – it’s like a mix between pepper, ginger and clove that really piques my interest as a lover of spice (they say “spice is the spice of life”). Background hints of dark fruit (plum mostly) and a cider apple character mingles with a caramel malt and musty yeast layer. There’s a decent amount of complexity going on here. 8/10.
T: Flavour hits you with a bang of spice – pepper, ginger, clove – right from the off, before bringing in a boozy Christmas cake dark fruit centre, some light caramel malt sweetness drops in, herbal notes towards the finish – which is dry and a touch boozy. Maybe it’s the Sanshō, but the flavour profile comes across a tad prickly, but otherwise this is a tasty drop. 7/10.
M: Medium bodied with a nice dense (though not creamy) texture, yep – ticks all the boxes, could be smoother and less carbonated, but otherwise excellent. 8/10.
D: Totally worth trying this beer just to experience Sanshō for the first time – it’s definitely different to anything I’ve ever tasted before and it numbs the mouth a little (like Kava, but less intense). As far as the beer itself goes – it’s a bit of a marriage of slightly disparate flavours, but thankfully it’s not a marriage that ends in divorce, in fact it gets better as I become more accustomed to the Sanshō character. Not a “10/10 would try again” brew, but then again what is? 8/10.
Food match: Hmmm, this is a tough one… I’m going to say: abura soba with ichi-mi.