A little while ago we looked at a couple of examples of the SanktGallen Sweets Beer series, which is probably the most recognizable part of their lineup. However, before they started targeting people who normally didn’t identify themselves as beer drinkers (if you read between the lines they mean women) with the Sweets Beer series, they made what they considered to be very American-style craft beer – that is to say, bitter, hoppy beers. In fact, SanktGallen started out brewing beers in San Francisco rather than Japan because back when they first started brewing beer you couldn’t get a brewing license in Japan as a craft or small-scale brewer.
The two beers we’ll look at today from SanktGallen fall into that category of American-style beers rather than sweet beers. The SanktGallen Pale Ale is, well, a pale ale and the SanktGallen Yokohama XPA is a bit of a tweener – it says IPA on the bottle but has XPA in the name. Let’s see how they fare.
SanktGallen Pale Ale (ペールエール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 36; OG – 1.058; hops – Nugget, Perle, Cascade
Pour – Amber gold, moderate carbonation, clear
Aroma – Caramel malts, bread, sweet
Flavor – Malty, spritzy and sweet in the middle, pine, hop bitter dry finish, finish lingers
As mentioned above, SanktGallen started brewing beer in the US before they were able to get a brewing license in Japan when the regulations loosened in 1994. The Pale Ale, in fact, was the first beer that they created and brewed in Japan after moving base to Japan. Because of that, the label for the Pale Ale is also a bit different from the other regular beers because the label was also designed in Japan whereas the other earlier beer labels were designed in America.
So going beyond the label, how does this rate as a pale ale? The maltiness of this pale ale stands out, especially in comparison to most other pale ales in Japan which aim for a more citrus/hop effect. In fact, this reminds me more of the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (which we reviewed here in our first Japanese pale ale roundup), except with a more bitter finish, which I suppose just makes it a cross between an American Pale and an English Pale Ale. I actually enjoy the piney malty pale ales (this one included), as in a way it suffers less from direct comparisons to IPAs (which will almost invariably be more hoppy, more bitter, and more exciting than the pale ale weak sister). This one isn’t quite as interesting as the Sierra Nevada, but if you’re looking for a Japanese malty pale ale this would be a fine if not too exciting choice.
SanktGallen Yokohama XPA
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 48; OG – 1.058; hops – Perle, Cascade
Pour – Copper gold, carbonation sticks around a while
Aroma – Also toffee pine, malts, but aroma very mild
Flavor – Malt base is prominent, pine, a bit more hops and citrus than in the pale ale, bitter finish
The first question is, does such a beast called XPA (or Extra Pale Ale) actually exist? It doesn’t officially exist as a style category, but unofficially it seems to be most commonly defined as the no man’s land between an American Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale. Oh La Ho here in Japan also produces an XPA, but in general it isn’t too common either here or elsewhere.
Whether you consider it an APA or an IPA (or I guess an XPA), the origin myth likes to emphasize the extra hops. Brewed for the 150th anniversary of the official opening of the Port of Yokohama in 1859 after the arrival of Commodore Perry and the Americans, it claims to in some part to revive the beer that Commodore Perry himself brought to Japan on his famed black ships. This is where they trot out the IPA story about adding more hops to survive the journey, except instead of beer going from England to India this time it is going from America to Japan (and they note in the ad copy that the extra hops help it survive the journey across the equator). I can’t be sure if they are serious about actually trying to recreate Commodore Perry’s beer, but I am assuming they just mean that they are adding hops to a pale ale to approximate what they think he brought over.
The local Yokohama aspect of this beer is the water. Actually, they make quite a big deal of this water, which is actually sourced from Doshigawa in Yamanashi-ken and serves as the one of the main sources for the Yokohama city water supply. In fact, this water, dubbed Hamakko Doshi, is the official water of Yokohama, for whatever that’s worth. From SanktGallen’s perspective, they like to play up the fact that this water has a clarity reading of 0.0000, whereas they claim that normal tap water has a clarity of 0.1. I’m actually not sure what measure of clarity they are using – they use the word 濁度, which most closely translates to turbidity, but units of turbidity measurements appear to be different. It could be a different kind of measurement, or a unit used only in Japan – I have no idea, but SanktGallen are very proud of using this water in their Yokohama XPA.
Of course, in practical terms, I’m pretty sure I can’t tell the difference between 0.0000 clear water and 0.1 clear water when used in beer (or maybe even drinking? or even looking at?), but they do say water is important in beer. Personally, I don’t notice anything different in this beer due to the water.
The flavor profile is quite similar to the Pale Ale, in that the malts and pine are very prominent, and it carries through a hop bitter finish. This one has a bit more emphasis on hops than the Pale Ale, and that perhaps makes it a little bit nicer, but it’s quite similar overall. Again, if this is an IPA instead of a pale ale or an extra pale ale, it feels more English than American.
However, it is also worth keeping in mind that the Pale Ale was conceived of quite long ago, before really bitter and hoppy beers became so popular. That is to say, these may in fact be American-style beers to SanktGallen, only that their definition of American-style is about twenty years old. It makes sense to some degree if you look at the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as a model for the SanktGallen Pale Ale – bold and exciting back then (and still revered today), but in terms of hoppiness and bitterness far surpassed since then. So with both the Pale Ale and the Yokohama XPA, these aren’t ground-breaking beers, but enjoyable enough for what they are.