Today we’ll continue our fresh hop series in our third installment (following the SanktGallen Yokohama XPA and the Shiga Kogen IPA) with a look at the regular and Harvest Brew editions of the Shiga Kogen Porter. Although I’m a huge fan of the brewery, I’m actually not a huge fan of their regular Porter, but let’s revisit it along with the fresh hop version.
Shiga Kogen Porter (志賀高原ポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cola brown/black, not much carbonation
Aroma – Very nice roasted malts and chocolate aroma
Flavor – Actually somewhat fizzy in the mouth, mild roast, some harsh coffee bitterness, some roast and also sweetness on the finish
Tamamura Honten don’t really produce much in the way of dark beers, although the Porter has been one of their regulars from the very start. Compared to their other regulars, which consists mostly of hoppy beers, it doesn’t get much attention, and perhaps rightly so.
The aroma starts off very nice, with the requisite roastiness, but the flavor is a bit disappointing. The roast effect is very mild, and the coffee bitterness in the middle too harsh for my tastes. The lingering bitterness and a sweetness on the finish stay a while, and it doesn’t work too well in my opinion. As it warms up the combination of coffee bitter and sweetness becomes more unpleasant. Overall, it’s not a great porter, and while I think there’s a dearth of good regular porters in Japan, the Baird Kurofune Porter is a great one and a much better buy versus the Shiga Kogen Porter.
But let’s hope that having some fresh hops can add a different dimension to it!
Shiga Kogen Porter (Harvest Brew)
(No Ratebeer entry)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Similar in color to the regular version, cola black, almost no carbonation
Aroma – Less roast, almost no chocolate, very mild aroma
Flavor – Less of a coffee effect, very soft, slight roasted malts in the middle, definite hop bitterness on the finish
Compared to the regular porter, the Harvest Brew edition has a much softer, rounded feel to it. The harsh coffee bitterness and sweetness are gone, it’s less fizzy, and while the roast is also turned down it’s been replaced by a pleasant soft hop bitterness. It’s actually quite similar to the effect of the fresh hops on their IPA (review again linked here), where it essentially rounds out the beer, removes the more in-your-face aspects, and gives it balance. With the IPA, the original version is also a nice beer so while the fresh hop version gives you a different take they are both good, but with the porter I think the Harvest Brew edition wins hands down. The unpleasant harshness of the regular edition is softened up by the fresh hops, and while that still doesn’t make for a great porter overall it’s better than the regular one.
For those of you who are interested the fresh hop used is Goldings. It’s actually a bit unusual to have a fresh hop version of a dark beer, since most brewers want to highlight fresh hops with, well, hoppy beers. In that sense it’s interesting to do a side-by-side tasting of the Shiga Kogen Porter with the Harvest Brew version, and you can see the softening effect. Worth doing if you’re interesting in exploring the effect of fresh hops on a porter, but if you’re just looking for a good porter to drink, you could probably find better elsewhere.