Today we’re looking at two Japanese Belgian stouts – the Minoh Godfather 4 (part of the Masaji Beer Project) and the Shonan Beer Belgian Stout.
Minoh Godfather 4 Belgium Stout (箕面・Godfather 4 Belgium Stout)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Dark brown, looks quite smooth, fair amount of carbonation but settles quickly
Aroma – Strong roast chocolate with slight hint of citrus, tootsie roll, very nice
Flavor – Very tart and tangy, fizzy, lots of orange and yuzu rind in the middle, slight chocolate near the finish but tartness overwhelms again at end
Not long ago we looked at a couple of Masaji Beer Project beers, so this one is the third beer in the series we are reviewing. As Minoh’s contribution to the Masaji Beer Project, Minoh decided to combine what they felt were two of the most representative beers that their departed head honcho brewed – the Stout and the Yuzu White (Ohshita was also quite fond of yuzu harvest time). The Godfather 4 (as the name suggests, this is the 4th iteration of the beer) is a stout brewed with Belgian yeast, and adds homegrown yuzu and coriander to the mix.
Unfortunately, I think the concept of this beer far outstrips the execution. The aroma, actually, is very interesting in that it presents lots of roast chocolate but with definite hints of citrus, and if the flavor could have kept the promise of the aroma it would’ve made for a great beer. As it stands, though, in the flavor the zest of the yuzu dominates everything else and makes the whole thing taste a bit like soapy rind. There’s only a slight hint of chocolate on the finish, and if they could manage to bring that out more I think they’d have a winner on their hands.
Let’s move on to the Shonan Belgian Stout and see if that one holds up better.
Shonan Beer Belgian Stout (湘南ビール・ベルジャンスタウト)
Package: 300mL bottle
Pour – Very thick, almost black, nicely carbonated
Aroma – Nuts, chocolate, booze, roast, plum, very nice
Flavor – Sweet and spicy, roast chocolate, some malts in the middle, also dark spice, then very bitter and dry finish with more roast
Shonan Beer make some of the best beers in Japan, and this is definitely one of them. Their Imperial Stout is also great, but I think I prefer the Belgian Stout. This beer is absolutely a wonderful one, and incredibly complex. Starting off with the aroma, it’s a great combination of nuts (walnuts? almonds?) and chocolate, but there’s also alcohol and plum and roast. I’m not entirely sure that the boozy smell is a plus, but I like this beer so much I’m saying it’s a plus.
The flavor follow up on the aroma with a similar mixture of tastes – you get the Belgian fruitiness and spiciness, which is great, and then that’s followed closely by a malty and roasted chocolate middle. The finish brings it all together nicely but this time adding some bitterness to it all, and it all works incredibly well.
While this is a relatively fresh one, I’ve also had a 1-year-old version on tap before, and this is a beer that also ages well. From what I recall the plum and spice aspects became more prominent, with still a healthy dose of roast chocolate but with less bitter. Bottles of this are actually somewhat hard to find (is this a seasonal? limited? definitely not regular), but if you do find one out there snap it up. And if you see it on tap drink it – a tremendously delicious beer, and you’re not likely to find something else like it made in Japan.
Belgian stouts are not so common in Japan, and the only other one we’ve reviewed so far is the Swan Lake Grey Stout. Among today’s offerings, the Minoh was quite a disappointment (although by now you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of theirs), while the Shonan was awesome, as is to be expected. Bottles don’t exist yet but I’m sure Kyoto Brewing and Songbird will do something soon in this are so we should see some more Belgian stout offerings in the future.