It’s hop harvest time, so last time we looked at the SanktGallen fresh hop version of the Yokohama XPA. In today’s post we’ll look at the first of this year’s Tamamura Honten Harvest Brew fresh hop series, which is their regular IPA. Let’s try it side by side with the standard version to see what the fresh hops do for it.
Shiga Kogen IPA (志賀高原 IPA)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 60
Pour – Good carbonation, orange-amber in color
Aroma – Hops quite prominent, also citrus
Flavor – Initially a bit of sweetness, then you can taste the hops coming through, followed by long bitter finish, also some sweetness in the finish, turns a bit spicy as it warms up
Tamamura Honten are known in Japan for their IPAs – if you count just the ones they bottle regularly, they brew five different ones: – the IPA, House IPA, Indian Summer Saison (a Belgian IPA of sorts), Africa Pale Ale (session IPA), and now the No. 10 Anniversary IPA. Of course, the regular IPA is where it all started, and back when they first made it part of their regular lineup from the start it was still rare in Japan to feature an IPA like that.
Of course, a lot has changed since then, and not only are they brewing five different IPAs, I think some of those IPAs would compete for best beer in Japan (I’m thinking of the House IPA, the Indian Summer Saison, and the No. 10 Anniversary IPA). In that sense it’s interesting to go back to the original IPA and try it again.
Revisiting the IPA, I find it now to be a solid effort. The first time I tried this beer was after I had already tried their House IPA and Indian Summer Saison, so I was a bit disappointed in the regular IPA. It is, of course, not quite on par with those two beers, but it is pretty decent for a standard IPA. It’s definitely got the hops and the bitterness, and while it’s not the most exciting or balanced IPA of all time, it’s pretty good, and it is a good representative of their motto of making beers that they themselves want to drink.
So now that we’ve established a baseline, on to the Harvest Brew!
Shiga Kogen IPA (Harvest Brew)
(No Ratebeer entry)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 60
Pour – More grapefruit color compared to regular version, almost no carbonation, very flat
Aroma – Very very subtle aroma, hops are almost undetectable but faint orange citrus aroma is featured more
Flavor – As with the aroma, the hops are more subdued here, almost lemony citrus flavor with some earthiness is most prominent, finish is still bitter but not quite as bitter as regular version
Tamamura Honten, unlike most brewers have, have their own hop farm, and it’s fairly sizeable. One of the interesting things about them is that you can actually go down there and participate in the hop harvest! I haven’t been, and the pictures just look like hard labor (which is what harvesting usually entails) but for those who are interested in trying it out you’ll get some free refreshments on top of the experience. This year they grew and harvested 7 different kinds of hops – Centennial, Willamette, Cascade, Golding (they did mention this may be the last year they grow Golding), Shinshuwase, and two others which I can’t find specific reference to.
Since they have their own hop farm, they are fairly into this whole wet hopping business. They typically release at least a few different beers in their fresh hop series, and so far this year they’ve released the IPA, IBA, Porter, and Pale Ale. In the past they’ve also done harvest saisons and a harvest Draft Pale Ale, so you can see they are not shy about taking advantage of their hop farm. In fact, as they walk the hops over after harvesting from the farm to their brewery, they boast that it may well be a record for the fastest harvest-to-brew time!
If you read that post on the Tamamura Honten blog about wet hopping, you’ll see a reference to some kind of gadget (OK, a huge machine) called a Hopnik. It’s a specialized piece of equipment produced by a German company called Rolec that is designed specifically to make brewing beer with whole cone hops (including fresh hops) easier, and it appears they have pretty good traction with some well-respected brewers (and also Baird in Japan). It’s also true that they are the only company in the game, so they have a defacto monopoly on this kind of equipment. My favorite part of it is that it gets its moniker from its resemblance to Sputnik.
The Harvest Brew edition of the IPA is the same spec-wise as the regular version in terms of ABV and IPU, but is made with the addition of fresh Centennial hops as an aroma hop. It’s interesting how the addition of fresh hops in this beer actually make the hops a lot more subtle – the aroma is very weak, but has more orange/grapefruit citrus than hops. Similarly, the flavor also plays down the hop bitterness in favor of a more earthy citrus tone, and the finish is familiar from the regular version but not as bitter. Even the appearance has changed significantly – there is almost no head, and the color is lighter. From my perspective it’s basically a whole different beer.
It’s surprising how the fresh hop version of the Shiga Kogen IPA actually plays down the in-your-face aspects of the hops, but gives us more of the citrus effect of the hops. With the SanktGallen XPA fresh hop version, we saw an increase in the standard hop effect, but it appears to be more common to see more delicacy or subtlety as a result of fresh hops, which is what we’re seeing here.
In any case, we are basically getting a different beer with the Harvest Brew edition of the Shiga Kogen IPA. I prefer the Harvest Brew edition for it’s balance, but there are many out there who appreciate the straight-up IPA-ness of the regular version. My recommendation? Try both, preferably side-by-side.
In terms of labeling, all of the Tamamura Honten Harvest Brew beers have a neck ribbon which identifies it as such:
I purchased mine at Liquors Hasegawa, but I’ve also seen it at Tokyo Liquor Land, and I’m assuming they also carry it at Deguchiya and Shinshu Osaku-mura, and probably Shinanoya and Tanakaya as well. Tamamura Honten also release a Harvest Brew IBA black IPA, which is actually something of a rarity – they don’t brew the regular edition very often, so if you are looking for a black IPA from them this is all you’ll get, and it won’t be available much longer.
We’ll take a brief break from fresh hop beers but hopefully we’ll check out the other Tamamura Honten fresh hop beers in not too long, so if you like the fresh hops check back here again soon!