Today we’re taking a look at a couple of unusual fruit beers – the Minoh Cabernet and the SanktGallen Strawberry Chocolate Stout.
Minoh Cabernet (箕面・カベルネ)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Very dark but bright red, almost like Minute Maid fruit punch, thin carbonation
Aroma – Musty grapes with dirt, caramel, raisins
Flavor – Medicine mixed with punch, sugar, acidic, very strange medicine bitter aftertaste
As a relative skeptic when it comes to Minoh, I was a bit wary of buying the Minoh Cabernet, but as a quite unusual beer style I felt compelled to buy it and review it. As the name suggests the beer is intended to be a cross between wine and a beer, and includes a heavy dose of cabernet grape juice in the recipe. Whether this sounds good to you or not may depend on whether you trust Minoh to make a hash of it or not, but here’s our impression.
The Minoh Cabernet is one of the strangest and probably most unpleasant beers I’ve had. It’s very medicinal in a sweet and sugary way, with a strange fruit punch bitterness. It’s supposed to be tart with some wine aspects in there, but there wasn’t much of the good parts of either. There isn’t a whole lot to say about it except that the entire experience was a bit off and mostly unpleasant, and it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to drink this one again.
It’s certainly a unique beer as far as that goes, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that you shouldn’t try it. It’s not good by any means though, and I’m never paying money for this one again. If you are interested in it, I found mine at Tanakaya and haven’t seen it anywhere else. Let’s hope the SanktGallen fruit offering fares better.
SanktGallen Strawberry Chocolate Stout (サンクトガーレン・ストロベリーチョコレートスタウト)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 25; OG – 1.070; hops – Columbus, Willamette, Gargoyle
Pour – Very dark brown, opaque, lots of foam that stays
Aroma – Roasted chocolate is strong, also lactose
Flavor – Like aroma roasted chocolate is strong, slight fruit aftertaste with roast bitterness, but lactose is very strong
SanktGallen release four beers every January – ostensibly they release them with Valentine’s day in mind, although of course in general winter is imperial stout season. Three of the beers are released annually, which are the excellent Imperial Chocolate Stout, the less-than-excellent Orange Chocolate Stout, and simply a repackaged version of the also excellent Sweet Vanilla Stout. The fourth beer changes every year and is usually also some kind of chocolate stout – two years ago it was a Mint Chocolate Stout, last year a Smoked Chocolate Stout, and this year a Strawberry Chocolate Stout.
They blogged about the making of the beer here, and it’s quite interesting. First of all, as with most of their fruit beers (and SanktGallen make quite a few, although I can’t say I’m a huge fan of most of them), they insist on using fresh fruit rather than processed fruit, so there are lots of pictures of them cutting up strawberries. They were also trying to decide between just using them fresh or cooking them first, and after some trial and error decided to cook them first. What they were left with was basically a very thick, chunky strawberry jam, and the filtered version of this jam is what eventually made it into the beer. And a drum roll for the results…
The SanktGallen Strawberry Chocolate Stout is a mixed bag overall. The roast chocolate is fairly prevalent in both the aroma and flavor, so so far so good. There isn’t so much strawberry in there – a hint on the finish, perhaps. But the one aspect of the beer that becomes stronger and stronger throughout is the lactose, and it begins to overwhelm the beer in a not-so-pleasant way. The finish especially begins to feel quite milky and chalky, and it’s not something that I particularly enjoyed.
As an annual tradition I enjoy trying the mystery fourth SanktGallen Valentine’s Day beer, but last year’s Smoked Chocolate Stout was more enjoyable than this year’s Strawberry Chocolate Stout. Interesting for me, what did this beer is was not so much the strawberry, which is usually the trap that most fruit beers fall into, but the lactose, which is also noted in the ingredient list. Ultimately it was too milky, and that really distracted from the chocolate and strawberry effect.
For those who are interested the SanktGallen seasonal stouts are relatively widely available – I purchased mine at Aeon Liquors for a reasonable 540 yen, but I’ve also seen it at Liquors Hasegawa and Shinanoya at basically the same prices, so it’s worth picking up to see what they’ve done this year with their annual chocolate stout.
In terms of overall tasting, unsurprisingly the Minoh Cabernet is a fairly poor effort, while the SanktGallen Strawberry Chocolate Stout is a bit more successful but ultimately not a spectacular beer. Awesome fruit beers are tough to come by in Japan, with the North Island/Mikkeller Haskap Blonde collaboration as the only great one that comes to mind, so I commend brewers that try it. However, as we’ve just seen, the learning curve remains steep.