Wheat IPAs are not so common in Japan, so I considered myself fortunate to find a bottle of the Johana Kagayaki Wheat Seven, also styled as the W7. It’s also a great excuse to get a bottle of the De Dochter van de Korenaar Crime Passionnel, so those are the two wheat IPAs we’ll be looking at today.
Johana Beer Kagayaki Wheat Seven (城端麦酒・輝W7)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 60
Pour – Rich gold, medium carbonation
Aroma – Grapefruit and citrus aroma is strong, hops also
Flavor – Fizzy and zest initially, then turns spicy and fruity, then bitter, then finally lots of grapefruit on the finish, overall very refreshing
Johana Beer is a relatively minor brewery based in Toyama, which is just west of Nagano and just east of Kanazawa. You might see their beer on tap here and there around Tokyo, but there isn’t much buzz about them, and their bottles are very rare (at least in Tokyo). In fact, this was the first time I saw any of their bottles for sale, and it’s actually the first Johana beer I’m trying – I’ve seen them on tap, but I’ve never gotten around to trying any of them beers until now.
The origin of this beer, as sometimes happens in Japan, was a tie-in with the new Hokuriku Shinkansen service, which opened in March 2015 and cut down the travel time from Tokyo to Kanazawa to about 2 and a half hours. The Kagayaki part of the name of the beer comes from the name of the fastest train service on that line, while the W7 part of the name refers to the W7 train set designed for this new service (capable of speeds up to 275 km/h! – fingers crossed that California does not bungle its HSR project).
So Johana could’ve stopped there and let the tie-in go as far as the Kagayaki W7, but they really went the extra mile here. The W7 here signifies more than just the new train set – the W is for Wheat, as in they’ve added wheat to this beer to make it an IPA, and the 7 represents the 7% ABV. They missed out on a chance to pump up the IBUs to 70 (or 77?) for the triple play, but it does clock in at a nicely bitter 60 IBUs.
Going back to the recipe a bit, there are a couple items of interest regarding the wheat. One, although this is an unofficial source there’s a mention here that the wheat accounts for only 10% of the bill, which is a bit low for a wheat beer. More interesting, though, is that they emphasize that the wheat they use is the locally grown Norin 10 wheat (農林10号). At first glance this probably means nothing to you, as it did to me, but it turns out that this wheat has a very interesting history (for a wheat, at least).
Norin 10 It was first developed in 1935 by an agricultural scientist named Gonjiro Inazuka, who was actually born in the town of Johana in Toyama. While the name Johana still lives on at least in the name of this brewery, the town itself doesn’t exist anymore, as it was merged with some others to form the current city of Nanto. Anyway, Dr. Inazuka created the Norin 10 wheat, which had a very important characteristic which set it apart from other wheat varieties of the time – it only grew to about 2 feet tall instead of 4 feet, which meant that it was better able to withstand wind and support itself without falling over. This turned out to be a key development, and Norman Borlaug used this wheat in his research to create crops with higher yield. This output of this research, combined with various agricultural technologies and programs, kicked off the Green Revolution, and Borlaug was (in some circles) credited with saving over a billion lives globally from starvation and eventually was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. So I can’t speak to how this wheat affects beer, but it’s an interesting footnote in the recipe of the W7.
So finally on to the beer! This is actually a very well-made IPA – the aroma is very heavy on the grapefruit citrus, as is the flavor. However, the flavor is balanced out nicely by some zest and spiciness, and also has a fair but not overpowering amount of bitterness. I personally don’t detect much of a wheat influence directly, but regardless, this is a very nice beer. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a whole lot from this beer given that Johana doesn’t have much of a reputation, but again, very well-balanced and interesting beer.
De Dochter van de Korenaar Crime Passionnel
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 50
Pour – Very foamy. very cloudy reddish orange
Aroma – Subtle aroma, sugary malts, caramel, citrus
Flavor – Caramel, pepper, malts and slight fruit on the finish, sugar and spices dominate initially, slightly boozy, not much hops, fruit presence increases as it warms up, especially on the finish
De Dochter van de Korenaar, which translates to something like “the daughter of the ear of corn” (original language: Flemish), is a relatively new Belgian brewery that has garnered lots of praise in a short amount of time. Although as the name of the brewery might hint, it’s not your ordinary Belgian brewery – it’s actually located in a town called Baarle-Hertog, which is a Belgian enclave geographically located entirely within the Netherlands – hence the Flemish name, rather than a French one as with most Belgian breweries.
The Crime Passionnel is nominally a wheat IPA, but a bit uncategorizable. It’s made with 45% wheat, and the German Saphir hops give it quite a spice. The recipe lists lots of typical IPA citrus/fruit hops like Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, and Nelson Sauvin, and the fruit presence does increase as it warms up. The bitterness is present more as a dry spiciness, without the typical IPA bitter bite. The copy for the beer presents it more as a cross between a weizen and an IPA, but because of the strong sugar caramel it seemed more to me like a fruity Belgian ale.
I’ve had the Crime Passionnel on tap before, and while I enjoyed this bottle tasting I felt that it was somehow more exciting before. It’s a fairly unique beer and a very good one, but wasn’t quite what I had remembered – I remember it having more bitterness to balance the sweetness/spiciness, so it’s definitely possible that this bottle didn’t travel well, although it is well within its expiration date. With two different impressions on two different occasions I’d definitely like to try it again. In this current round, though, I’d have to give the nod to the Johana Kagayaki W7 – nicely balanced, exciting fruit and hop flavors, a bit of spice as well; all around, a well-made beer, if very IPA-like. The De Dochter van de Korenaar Crime Passionnel does have that in its favor – it’s a combination of flavors you may not necessarily have had before, and whether it works or not is definitely something you should determine yourself. I bought my bottle at Tanakaya in Mejiro, but Pigalle also carries their stuff from time to time. Happy hunting!