Since we love Tamamura Honten we can’t go too long without posting about one of their beers! I’ve paired these two because these are two slightly different takes on an IPA. The Indian Summer Saison is one of my favorite beers in Japan, and while RateBeer calls it a saison it’s also been called by Tamamura Honten themselves as a Belgian IPA. The No. 10 Anniversary IPA is both a local and RateBeer favorite here in the IPA category, and is quite different from their usual IPA.
Tamamura Honten Indian Summer Saison
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 50
Pour – Straw gold, lightly carbonated
Aroma – Beautiful citrus melon hop aroma, but grassy saison aroma is also strong
Flavor – Initially some grassy earthiness but cuts quickly to lemon citrus and then transitions to dry bitter finish
So what’s the difference between a hoppy saison and a Belgian IPA? In some part it depends on who you ask – a lot of beers are called Belgian for a number of reasons, but who knows if the Belgians would agree? It’s also not entirely clear that a style category called hoppy saison exists, although saisons that are hoppy clearly exist, like this one. So in order to avoid confusion, we’ll take Tamamura Honten at their word and call this a Belgian IPA rather than a saison.
They do in fact use saison yeast for this beer, and it is hopped generously with New Zealand and American hops. Also while this beer is not pasteurized and has live yeast, it is not bottle-conditioned like their Yama-Bushi series (difference between non-pasteurization and bottle-conditioning here). For those interested here are some more brewer’s notes for the Indian Summer Saison.
Overall I love this beer every time I drink it, and this time is no different. I find it to be wonderfully balanced, with the IPA-like hops mixing with the saison yeast to create a very pleasant mix of grass, citrus, and bitter in both aroma and flavor. What’s more, this beer is regularly brewed, widely available both on tap and in bottles, and is cheap (I got this one for 390 yen at Le Collier). Whether you call it a hoppy saison or a Belgian IPA, it has elements from both and they come together fantastically here.
Tamamura Honten No. 10 Anniversary IPA (其の十)
(Update 2017/05/14 – new label released a while ago but just got around to the photo)
Availability: Year-round (semi-regular)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 75
Pour – Gold, low carbonation, similar to Indian Summer Saison
Aroma – Fruity hops, but a bit more mild, also a slight hint of dirt
Flavor – Crisp and smooth, then dry, bitter finish, also some sweetness in the aftertaste, some zest
The No. 10 Anniversary IPA is a bit of a unique take on an IPA, mostly due to the fact that it contains rice! We talked a bit about the rice used in our Miyama Blonde review, but we didn’t go too much into the topic of rice in general so let’s get into it a bit more.
Rice in beer is actually a somewhat misunderstood topic, largely due to the average craft beer drinker’s hatred of Budweiser. Budweiser uses rice in its beer (and is actually the single largest purchaser of rice in the US), but it’s not a cost-cutting move as a lot of people are inclined to think. It is actually done for quality reasons, and that is the part that is mystifying to many since it’s hard to associate Budweiser with quality. Of course, the reality is that Budweiser pay a lot of attention to precision and quality, even though most of us may not enjoy the product that results from said attention to quality. For those interested in further reading, this forum thread that discusses Budweiser and rice is actually quite informative and entertaining.
So what is the impact of rice on beer? For the most part, especially with American beers, rice can lighten the beer and increase crispness, which is what Budweiser uses it for. It doesn’t really have a strong impact on the flavor, which again is why it is a desired adjunct – it gives Budweiser a certain look and feel but won’t reveal itself in the flavor.
However, that also depends on what kind of rice you’re talking about. In the US rice is rice, and the rice that Budweiser uses is basically the same rice that you might eat. In Japan, however, there is a whole category of rice specifically developed and grown for use in brewing sake called sakamai (酒米), and this kind of rice is not the same as table rice. It is usually more expensive than the rice that people eat here, and while sake can be made from regular rice (and the cheaper sake brands usually are), good sake is made using only sake rice. There are a huge number of sake rice varieties, and they will all have slightly different characteristics.
As for the No. 10 Anniversary IPA, the sake rice used here is Tamamura Honten’s homegrown Miyama-nishiki rice (the same rice used in their Miyama Blonde), which is one of the more popular kinds of sake rice. It was developed relatively recently in 1978 by irradiating a blend of two other sake rice varieties, and is most strongly associated with Nagano-ken but also grown in other places around Japan. So what are the characteristics of Miyama-nishiki? Sake made from this rice is usually described as crisp, and we can see that in this beer as well, which is quite smooth.
In terms of hops it uses four different kinds of American hops. The IBU rating at 75 indicates something in between the Indian Summer Saison (50 IBU) and the House IPA (95 IBU). Even with the usual IBU caveats in mind I felt that the Indian Summer Saison and the No. 10 Anniversary IPA had about the same levels of perceived bitterness despite the difference in IBU. I’m curious as to whether this similarity in perceived bitterness is a result of having rice in the beer – rice will make it crisper and lighten the body, but does that mean it would also lower perceived bitterness despite a high IBU reading? I suspect this is true but I can’t find anything out there to confirm that, so perhaps that would be worth confirming with them.
The release notes for the No. 10 Anniversary IPA are here, and they talk a bit about how this beer came to be their 10th anniversary beer (it involves the fact that they love IPAs but since they already make lots of different IPAs they wanted to make one that would be uniquely Japanese). While this beer was originally brewed as a limited release it’s been quite popular, so they’ve added it to the semi-regular rotation. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see a nice custom label for it rather than the generic one-off beer label it currently has (I think they have really nice labels, by the way, except for the unfortunate camouflage AfPA label).
While I personally prefer the Indian Summer Saison for a slightly more interesting mix of flavors, both of these are very nice beers. Tamamura Honten are a great brewery, and these are both pretty representative of their strengths (hoppy, saisons, IPAs). They do of course try a lot of new things (you can never go wrong trying every new beer they release), but in the meantime if you come across the Indian Summer Saison and No. 10 Anniversary IPA they’re both quite good.