One of my personal favorite beers in Japan here, and perhaps the only one from Ise Kadoya that I really really like, is their Imperial Red Ale. We haven’t had it for a while so we’ll try one today along with another hoppy red, the AleSmith Double Red India Pale Ale.
Ise Kadoya Imperial Red Ale (伊勢角屋・インペリアルレッドエール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 85
Pour – Nice deep dark reddish-brown, healthy carbonation
Aroma – Big tropical fruit hops, but also caramel malts, very nice
Flavor – Initially malty with a bit of caramel sweetness, then very fruity in the middle, followed by big hop bitterness on the finish with caramel aftertaste
While at BeerEast we never get too excited about Ise Kadoya (although I’ve noticed that we do review their beers somewhat frequently even though we’re not big fans), this is the one beer of theirs that is really top-class. It’s described by them as an “American-style Double Red Ale”, which essentially is a red IPA.
A couple of minor brewing notes – it was first brewed in 2011, and it’s been one of their most popular beers ever since. At first it was only available in larger 500mL bottles, but in that last couple of years those have been replaced by the standard 330mL bottles. Strangely enough, they describe it as being a limited release, but you see it fairly often throughout the year, so I’m not sure exactly when they release this. Finally, as for the specs of this beer, they are very proud of the 85 IBU, which is plastered very conspicuously on the label, and as we’ll see those 85 IBUs certainly get their work in.
The Ise Kadoya Imperial Red Ale is a very very good beer, with the right doses of the red ale aspects (caramel, maltiness, sweetness) but aided by very fruity and juicy hops. Really what makes this beer is the right balance between sweet and bitter, and even those those two elements are very present and strong, neither overpowers the other. This is by far Ise Kadoya’s best beer, and at 6% a reasonable go-to beer to have on hand.
As I mentioned above this is available at pretty regular intervals throughout the year, event though they mark it as a limited release. You can usually find it at Deguchiya, Liquors Hasegawa, and Tanakaya, and it will normally run you around 600 yen (510 yen without shipping on the Ise Kadoya website!). Again, this is a very good beer, so definitely try to find this one if you can – the best red beer in Japan!
AleSmith Double Red India Pale Ale
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Misc: IBU – 80; OG – 1.090
Pour – Lots of sediment, cloudy, a brighter orange-red, moderate foam
Aroma – Lots of pine and resin, fruit hops as well, some caramel malts
Flavor – Very smooth and creamy texture, initially quite strong on the pine and sweet malts, some bitterness and fruit hops on the finish but somewhat subdued there, a bit of caramel at the end that lingers
We haven’t covered any AleSmith beers here yet, so even though you are likely familiar with them as they are generally considered one of the best breweries in the world we’ll do a quick overview. They’re based in San Diego (Miramar, to be more precise, which of course is also the backdrop for perhaps the greatest-movie-ever-starring-F-5s-masquerading-as-MiGs), and started up in 1995. Even within the gaggle of great breweries in the area (Green Flash, Alpine, Stone, etc.), AleSmith stands out as one of the best. While most of the other San Diego breweries are associated with the West Coast IPA and that kind of aggressively hoppy beer, AleSmith have focused more on Belgian style beers, with a strong barrel-aging program and a lot of high-ABV releases in 750mL wine bottles.
Our particular AleSmith beer today is their take on the red IPA, now called the Double Red IPA. It used to be known as the Winter YuleSmith and was only available during holidays season, but now with the new name is now available all winter. In case you’re wondering their Summer YuleSmith has also been renamed to a much more generic sounding Double IPA, but there you have it – a win for truth in labeling, a loss for creativity (in Japan it’s most common to just name the beer for the style, but that’s not much fun, is it?).
The AleSmith Double Red India Pale Ale is a good beer, but actually plays more as just a very good strong malty IPA – which is not really a surprise, as their regular AleSmith IPA is essentially a very good strong malty IPA. The question here is whether it does enough with the “Red” part of it, and I guess I don’t see it so much. There is a lingering caramel aftertaste to it, but on the whole it’s quite strong on the pine and resin, with a heavy emphasis also on the malts. As such, it probably is more fair to label this a double IPA with some slight red ale characteristics, rather than as a red IPA.
Comparing to the Ise Kadoya, the Ise Kadoya does a better job of combining the IPA and red ale aspects, with a strong sense of both caramel sweetness and hop bitterness. Interestingly they both boast about the same IBU (in the 80s), but with the stronger alcohol and piney nature of the AleSmith Double Red IPA, the bitterness is masked much more, and the Ise Kadoya Imperial Red Ale has a lot more tangible bitterness to it. The nature of the hops is also quite different – piney with the AleSmith, fruity with the Ise Kadoya. With two very different approaches to the style, it’s hard to directly compare, but I’m comfortable saying that overall I prefer the Ise Kadoya Imperial Red Ale. It’s got caramel, fruit, and bitterness all rolled in one, and is just very well-balanced. The AleSmith is also of course a good one, but as a malty double IPA it doesn’t have the style characteristics I’m looking for here.
Quick purchasing note on the AleSmith – they’re making a fairly big push in Japan recently, so you might see bottles and cans of theirs at various shops around town (I’m even seeing cans at Aeon Liquors!). In general their beer is not cheap though (about 2000 yen for a 16 oz. can of their admittedly awesome Speedway Stout!), and the Double Red IPA set me back 862 yen at Tanakaya for a regular 12 oz. bottle. Even considering that AleSmith is awesome in general, that’s pretty steep, so I certainly won’t be buying this regularly over on this side of the Pacific at least.
Anyway, both beers today were very good in their own way, so I’d definitely call this a successful tasting. Trying them both together is an interesting way to see two very different takes on an imperial red ale, so if you can track these beers down it’s worth doing.