Following on the the heels of the IPA, Porter, Pale Ale, and IBA, we’re finally getting to the last of our Tamamura Honten fresh hop series reviews (we skipped the Miyama Blonde Harvest Brew this year). We’ll look at the Tamamura Honten Harvest Summer Saison, and with it try the Stillwater Artisanal Why Can’t IBU.
Tamamura Honten Harvest Summer Saison
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Good carbonation, cloudy medium gold
Aroma – Earthy yeast, dirty hops
Flavor – Very spicy initially, followed by subtle mellow hops, then finishes very spicy dry bitter with a hint of citrus
Tamamura Honten doesn’t brew a fresh hop version of their Indian Summer Saison (which makes sense, given that that beer relies heavily on New Zealand hops), but in its place they’ve made this Harvest Summer Saison for two years running now. If this year’s is the same recipe as last year’s then the fresh hops used here are Centennial and Willamette, for those who are curious.
The key word with the Harvest Summer Saison is spicy. From the first sip to the finish, dry and spicy is what this beer is all about. You can get a bit of the hop influence just barely in the middle, and most noticeably on the citrus bitter tinge on the finish, but the hops do kind of get lost amidst the spiciness.
I’m a big saison fan, but while I enjoyed the yeast in the aroma, I think this beer is too one-dimensional. The spiciness really just overwhelms everything else, and doesn’t leave a lot of room for the fresh hops to shine, nor for much of anything else. If you like dry beers you might like to try this one, but for me this is one of the weaker efforts from Tamamura Honten.
Stillwater Artisanal Why Can’t IBU
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Misc: IBU – 23
Pour – Nice pale gold color, mild carbonation
Aroma – Citrus and floral hops, yeast, a nice combination
Flavor – Mellow hop fruitiness at first, then some yeast and fruit, then a very long dry finish that goes back to the hop citrus and bitterness, also a bit of spice
We’ve looked at a couple of other Stillwater beers before (the Cellar Door and the Existent), and they’ve both been quite good. Today’s Stillwater beer is the Why Can’t IBU, whose name makes a bit more sense if you’re familiar with Stillwater’s philosophy. Basically, for Stillwater, no matter what kind of beer they make it’s still a saison. This beer, then, is their non-IPA IPA – it’s a hop-forward beer but is essentially a saison and low IBU at 23.
So what does it taste like? It’s pretty interesting in that it is essentially a very hoppy and bitter saison – the yeast and earth are quite strong in the aroma, but there’s also the citrus hops there as well. In terms of the flavor, the hops actually dominate versus the saison-like aspects, with a hop fruitiness and a bitter dryness being the most prominent aspects of the beer. The saison characteristics are also there though, especially with a dry spiciness.
However, while it’s certainly an interesting beer, it probably falls a bit short of their other brews. It may not necessarily be fair to them but because they make much better beers even though the Why Can’t IBU is a good beer, it still disappoints a bit relatively speaking.
Stillwater products are neither rare nor common in Tokyo – Tokyo Liquor Land (where I bought this one) usually has something of theirs on hand, and they also show up at Tanakaya, Deguchiya, and Liquors Hasegawa. I haven’t seen them on tap here though.
So today we had a couple of decent saisons, but nothing earth-shattering. The Stillwater was far better than the Tamamura Honten, but both Stillwater and Tamamura Honten can do better, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more stuff from them both. In fact, I have a Tamamura Honten saison blanc waiting in the wings so we’ll have a look at that sometime soon.