Today we’re looking at a couple of beers with local ingredients. First we have the Iwate Kura Egoma IPA and after that we’ll try the Ise Kadoya Uramura Kaki Stout.
Iwate Kura Egoma IPA (いわて蔵ビール・エゴマIPA)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy amber, lots of sediment, carbonation sticks around a while
Aroma – Sweet grassy hops, caramel
Flavor – First smooth bitter hops, then begins to turn sweet and herbal, then butter, then bitter herb finish
This is a bit of an unusual beer in a couple of different ways. First, of course, is the egoma, which is an herb that is part of the mint family and closely related to shiso. Shiso, of course, is a well-known and not uncommon ingredient in the West now, but egoma is still somewhat under the radar. Like shiso, egoma is supposed to be a very healthy ingredient and is used in oil form and also leaf form for flavoring.
The other quite unusual thing about this beer, however, is that it was made as a collaboration with Natural Lawson (yes, the convenience store). Iwate Kura actually got an inquiry from Natural Lawson about whether it would be possible for them to develop a beer together, and if so a healthy one. Thus the Egoma IPA was born, only available at Natural Lawson and with a production run limited to 3000 bottles.
The Iwate Kura Egoma IPA is a surprisingly complex and well-executed beer. The hops are definitely there enough to make it an IPA, and while I find the overall hop quality to be a bit more grassy or earthy than normal for an IPA they add a good amount of bitterness. There’s also a bit of caramel sweetness to it, which isn’t too strong and works quite well. Of course, the big thing here is the egoma, and it works well in combination with the hops – it brings its own kind of bitterness, albeit of an herbal variety, and it really manages to add kind of that shiso bite to it without overwhelming the other characteristics of the beer.
Overall it’s a very nicely done beer, and I would certainly recommend it. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, this was a limited run produced just for Natural Lawson, so I’m not sure if we’ll ever see it again. If you do, give it a try – a great example of a beer that uses local ingredients in an interesting and successful way.
Ise Kadoya Uramura Kaki Stout (伊勢角屋・浦村牡蠣スタウト)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 30; OG – 1.056
Pour – Dark cola black, little carbonation
Aroma – Nice deep bitter roast chocolate smell
Flavor – Quite fizzy, taste is initial quite salty, then eventually moves on to a slight hint of chocolate and bitterness, then a seltzer and salty finish, texture a bit thin
We actually did a review of the Iwate Kura and Songbird takes on oyster stouts some time back, and while this isn’t the first time I’m having the Ise Kadoya version of it it’ll be a good chance to compare notes from the previous review. I’m especially curious to compare it to the Iwate Kura one, as I really like that one and these are two are the most well-known oyster stouts in Japan.
Just as the Iwate Kura uses oysters local to their region, Ise Kadoya also uses local oysters from Mie-ken, where they are located (Iwate Kura, of course, is in Iwate-ken, which is on the northern part of the main island, whereas Mie-ken is in the central-southern part of the main island). One of the big differences with the Ise Kadoya version, however, is that they take the fresh oysters and then actually cook them before throwing them in the brew, whereas the Iwate Kura (and most other oyster stouts) use them raw. They’ve also added some smoked malts, so let’s see how everything comes together.
The Ise Kadoya Uramura Kaki Stout is actually a better beer than I remember, but also not really one of my favorites. The aroma is actually very wonderful, and while there isn’t a whole lot of oyster in there it has a very deep roast smell that works very well. The flavors, however, are mostly missing the stout qualities – the roast chocolate goes MIA, and the salt is actually quite overwhelming. As it warms up it also becomes a bit more seltzer-ish, and the texture is fairly thin.
I do appreciate that the salt is quite prominent so it’s not just a thin stout, but ultimately it’s a bit too much. Comparing this to the Iwate Kura Oyster Stout, the Iwate Kura take is much more subtle, with the oyster adding a bit of ocean and salt to what is at heart a very nicely done creamy, roasty, bitter stout. In this way the Ise Kadoya one comes across as a less mature product, and that basically aligns with my general perception of them as a brewer – while I don’t think they are terrible, they rarely make beers that are both exciting and well-balanced at the same time.
So oddly enough, with today’s tasting consisting of Iwate Kura’s Egoma IPA and Ise Kadoya’s oyster stout, Iwate Kura wins on both counts – their Egoma IPA is a very nice example of an herb IPA, and I’m reminded of how much I like their oyster stout as well. The Ise Kadoya is not terrible and certainly worth trying, but personally I have a strong preference for the Iwate Kura version. For those interested in picking one up you can find it at Deguchiya or Liquors Hasegawa, among others. The Ise Kadoya is only available in the winter so it won’t be on the shelves for too long.
Next time we’ll take our first look at Japanese IPLs, so stay tuned!