Today we’ve got an assortment of slightly unusual IPAs – the Ise Kadoya Grassy India Pale Ale, the one-off Tamamura Honten Narrow Escape IPA, and the Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye.
Ise Kadoya Grassy India Pale Ale (伊勢角屋・グラッシーIPA)
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Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 85
Pour – Darkish amber, not much carbonation for an IPA
Aroma – Blend of malts and citrus hops, also a bit of chocolate, more grass as it warms up
Flavor – Malts are strong, then a slight splash of fruit, followed by a bitter finish with a hint of chocolate, dry finish stays quite a while, solid texture
Somewhat surprisingly this is our first review of Ise Kadoya. Based in Mie, they are fairly widely distributed in Japan, focusing mostly on American style beers. To be honest I find most of their beers to be fairly middling, although there are some exceptions. Their Imperial Red Ale is great, and the Yuzunoka Ale is a pretty good Japanese fruit beer.
While Ise Kadoya do not have an IPA as part of their regular lineup, recently they’ve gone a bit crazy making different kinds of IPAs. These include the Mosaic IPA, Wheat Session IPA, Grapefruit IPA, Lush Hop IPA, Vic Secret IPA, and the Mt. Cook IPA. However, the one you see on tap most frequently is the Triple Hop IPA. I have to admit though that I’m not a big fan of their IPAs, and while they’re never offensive they’re usually not too exciting.
But let’s not let that cloud our judgment of the Grassy India Pale Ale! As the name implies, this time they were aiming for a grassy hop feel. While it’s only 6% ABV it also brings an 85 IBU to the scales, although this doesn’t quite play out in a straightforward manner. The malts are the most defining aspect of this beer, both in terms of aroma and flavor. The most interesting thing about it is perhaps the slight roast chocolate effect – in many ways the beer actually resembles a hoppy stout. So the hops are there and you do get a fairly bitter finish that lingers, but the malts keep the bitterness in check. I find the transition from the malts to the bitter finish a bit strange with a slight hop interlude that doesn’t quite feel right to me, but I can also see how others might find that interesting.
Overall, an odd mix of flavors for an IPA, but an intriguing beer. Ultimately I wouldn’t rate it as one of the top IPAs in Japan, but also more interesting than most of the Ise Kadoya IPAs. I purchased mine at Liquors Hasegawa for 600 yen, and although I’m not sure if it’s still available if you do find it it’s probably worth trying once.
Tamamura Honten “Narrow Escape” IPA (#10.2) (九死に一生)
Availability: Limited (one-off)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 75
Pour – Orange pinkish light amber, mild carbonation
Aroma – Tropical fruit and melon, dirt as well
Flavor – Initially fruity, but then caramel sweetness appears before it goes to a bitter finish
There’s an interesting backstory to the Narrow Escape IPA, which is that essentially it was a batch going horribly wrong due to technical difficulties but managed to be just barely saved. The details are here, and it’s a pretty interesting read so I’ll do a quick summary in English (for those not interested just skip the next paragraph).
They were brewing a batch of the No. 10 Anniversary IPA, but ran into a valve failure during the boil process, which meant they couldn’t accurately judge how long they needed to boil the wort. The boil process is quite key in beer, as it not only kills unwanted bacteria but also adds hop aromas and flavors, and can also impact flavor and aroma in quite negative ways if done incorrectly (good rundown here). To save the batch they ended up manually measuring the evaporation and basically had to extend the boil to over three times the planned length of time. While obviously not what they had planned and with different results, the batch did turn out OK, but since it wasn’t the same beer anymore they decided to at least alter the finishing hops used and slap a different name on it, although fundamentally the makeup of the beer is the same as the No. 10 Anniversary IPA. As an interesting side note, over 11 years and 1000 batches they’ve never had to throw away a batch, and with this save they’ve managed to keep that perfect record intact.
Just a brief naming note – normally Tamamura Honten don’t bother sticking a Japanese name on their beers, but they did for this one. In Japanese it’s called 九死に一生 (きゅうしにいっしょう), which while it does translate pretty much to “Narrow Escape” in English has some interesting kanji. For those that don’t read kanji here’s a quick translation of the kanji used:
九 = nine, 死 = death, 一 = one, 生 = life
So the kanji phrase (which, by the way, is actually a Japanese saying) basically means nine-tenths dead and then saved! Much more evocative than narrow escape, but then that’s the beauty of kanji.
In terms of the actual characteristics of the beer, it’s fairly similar to the normal No. 10 Anniversary IPA but not exactly the same. For starters, the longer boil gives this beer a much darker color in that it is more amber than gold. Aroma-wise it smells the same, with lots of fruit and some dirt. Flavor-wise, though, there’s a caramel aspect to it that doesn’t exist in the original, which also would be a result of the longer boil. Also, in some ways it feels like the effect of the rice has been dampened a bit, or perhaps altered – the sweetness is of a slightly different quality here (and overall much sweeter), and I feel like the original was a bit more crisp in texture. Of course, it’s hard to tell without a side-by-side tasting, but as this beer is a one-off we’ll never know!
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Misc: IBU – 80
Pour – Dark red-amber, healthy head of foam
Aroma – Malts quite strong, but also strong pepper, earthy hops also there
Flavor – Overall malty but also with metallic hops, caramel malt bitter finish, graininess
Bear Republic is a pretty well-known brewery in Sonoma County, with a heavy focus on hoppy beers. In fact, their Racer 5 IPA accounts for 85% of their production, which is a fairly tilted distribution, to say the least. They have a clear interest in auto-racing as well, based on their naming and design schemes.
The Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye is a rye IPA based on the above-mentioned Racer 5 IPA. It’s brewed with 18% rye malt, which is pretty much normal for a rye beer. I found the beer to overall be fairly malt-forward, but also balanced with some earthiness. Overall the rye lent a strong pepper aroma, but flavor-wise besides a bit of graininess I found that the malt-and-caramel feel was much stronger. The earthy hops also were quite prominent though, and while this beer definitely has strong flavors I thought they were blended nicely and balanced well. The bitterness certainly didn’t play out like 80 IBU, which was nice – bitter enough but not overpowering.
Bear Republic is making some strong inroads into Japan recently, and I find that Liquors Hasegawa and Tokyo Liquor Land usually stock their stuff. They’re reasonably priced for an import, and as rye IPAs aren’t so common here it’s a good one to try.
All three of today’s IPAs were fairly interesting – the Ise Kadoya Grassy India Pale Ale was a bit like a hoppy stout, the Tamamura Honten Narrow Escape IPA was a more caramel sweet version of their excellent No. 10 Anniversary IPA, and the Hop Rod Rye, which was probably the best of the bunch, was a nicely balanced but bold rye IPA. We’ve been focusing a lot on saisons and other European-style beers here so far, so it’s been nice to have a couple of IPA sessions of late. Hopefully we can get back to them again soon!