Tamamura Honten have been on quite a roll recently with limited edition beers – in the last couple of weeks they’ve released a coffee collaboration beer, smoked brown ale, bastardized 10th Anniversary IPA, and the very rare Masaji the Great W-IBA. Before we get to all of those goodies though we still have the saison blanc from about a months ago, so let’s do that one first. With it we’ll try the Evil Twin Ryan And The Beaster Bunny farmhouse ale.
Tamamura Honten saison blanc
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Moderate carbonation settles quickly, very pale yellow
Aroma – Mellow citrus, lots of dirt and yeast
Flavor – Very peppery, yeast is very present, very dry finish with some bitterness kicking in, overall quite muted
We’re a big fan of the Tamamura Honten saisons (well, everything they do, I guess), so I was excited to see they’d released a new saison this year, According to their blog, they were aiming for something that would not necessarily be an overpowering beer in and of itself, but something that would go well with all different kinds of food. The image they had in mind was something like white wine, and to make a beer that wasn’t too hoppy or bitter or fruity or yeasty, they settled on a combination of two yeasts and two New Zealand hops to make the saison blanc.
Does it work? It does succeed in toning down the hoppy bitterness which is their trademark, although the hops do add a nice citrus effect to the aroma and also make their presence felt in the slightly bitter finish. The beer is mostly dominated by a dry and spicy effect, with some yeast and dirt in there.
In one sense, I would definitely have liked to see bolder strokes here, with stronger hops and citrus and yeast. It’s certainly possible to have stronger flavors with good balance, and this beer feels too muted to me. On the other hand, they’ve succeeded in achieving their stated goal, which was to brew a beer that would serve as a nice food accompaniment and not attract too much attention to itself. I personally think they could have also achieved this goal with a more exciting beer, but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if others appreciate this beer for what it is.
This beer isn’t available anymore as far as I know, but for reference I bought it at Deguchiya for 432 yen.
Evil Twin Brewing Ryan And The Beaster Bunny
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Pour – Orange amber, not much carbonation
Aroma – Yeast is strong, sugar, malts
Flavor – A very sweet honey kick, yeast is also strong, malts on the finish
The Evil Twin / Mikkeller story is a well-known one, but fascinating enough to recap with a quick rundown here (long version in a great NY Times article here): the founders of Evil Twin Brewing (Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso) and Mikkeller (Mikkel Borg Bjergso) are, of course, identical twins from a suburb of Copenhagen. They started out in the beer business together, with a tacit agreement that Mikkel would brew the beer and Jeppe would sell and distribute it. Legend has it that when Mikkel opened a Mikkeller taproom in Copenhagen that that violated that tacit agreement, and allegedly turned them into sworn enemies. After that Jeppe decided that it was no-holds-barred and moved to Brooklyn to start his brewery, which if you know the backstory has to be the greatest name ever for a brewery.
It all makes for great copy, although it’s hard to tell how much of this is being played up for PR purposes. And after all, they share a lot more things in common than just their last names – they are both client brewers, like to brew big and experimental beers (notwithstanding the gripes that Jeppe expresses about Mikkeller’s “undrinkable” beers in the NY Times article above), and are well-respected in the beer world.
Moving on to the beer, the Ryan And The Beaster Bunny is a relatively high ABV Belgian-style saison. It’s contract brewed at Two Roads Brewing Company in Connecticut, which also does contract brewing for Stillwater Artisanal among others. One interesting recipe note – the English description doesn’t mention anything about the ingredients, but in Japan the label must include the ingredient list, and the Japanese label tacked on by the distributor mentions honey.
The honey does definitely play a big part in this beer, and there’s kind of a honey sweetness from the first sip that extends to the finish. It mixes in with the yeast in the middle, and then the finish emphasizes the malts with a slight hint of earthy hops. It’s actually quite a complex beer, and the way that it manages to highlight different aspects of the beer through the flavor profile is very nice. I especially liked how the malts were very present in this beer, as that is somewhat rare for saisons. However, I find the honey to be ultimately a little bit too sweet, and I think it might be an even better beer if they dialed down the honey a bit.
Overall, though, it’s a good beer and well worth trying. I found mine at Tokyo Liquor Land (which stocks at least a few Evil Twin beers normally), and at 536 yen it’s fairly cheap. The complexity of flavors make it a clear winner over the Tamamura Honten saison blanc for me. However, the saison blanc is not without merit, and as far as local Japanese saisons go there aren’t many, so definitely worth a look for saison fans.