Today’s edition of BeerEast features a couple of dark beers with somewhat unusual ingredients for dark beer – the Locobeer Coconut Porter and the North Island Coriander Black.
Locobeer Coconut Porter (ロコビア・ココナッツポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Very smooth, dark cola black, healthy foam that stays
Aroma – Roast tootsie roll, yes, some coconut, a bit of chocolate
Flavor – Tootsie roll is strong, candy, finish is bitter but still with candy sweetness to it, a bit of roast chocolate as it warms up
We’ve reviewed just one Locobeer release before, which was the somewhat mediocre Saison de Siegle. Today’s is another limited release, the Coconut Porter (the label in English says “LOCO-Nut Porter”, but in Japanese it says Coconut Porter and this is what I see it referred to as in English in other places online), which I see on tap around Tokyo from time to time but have never tried before. This is the first time I’ve seen it in bottled form (at Le petit L’ouest, by the way), so I picked one up to try. The brewing notes are not too informative, but from what I gather from looking around the internet and from the ingredient list is that they are not using real coconut, but a coconut additive or flavoring. They’ve also added lactose to the beer as well. Let’s see how it all plays out.
The Locobeer Coconut Porter is not a great beer, unfortunately. The tootsie roll effect is quite strong and for me unpleasant, and while it does get a bit better as it warms up with a bit more roast chocolate it’s not enough to undo the early damage. There’s just a kind of candy sweetness and stickyness all over this beer, and it tastes quite artificial. Definitely not a keeper, and at 670 yen it’s way way overpriced for what it is. Let’s move on.
North Island Coriander Black (ノースアイランド・コリアンダーブラック)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Good amount of foam, solid black
Aroma – Very nicely balanced spice and roast, smells sweet, spicy, and chocolatey at the same time
Flavor – Initially subtle bitterness, then spice grows into it, and finally finishes with a bitter coriander spice and roast finish, also nuts
North Island is actually one of the brewers that I really like in Japan, but somehow on BeerEast so far we haven’t managed to review any of my favorite North Island beers. The Coriander Black is definitely my favorite regular North Island beer, and is a beer that is fairly unique but doesn’t trade just on novelty factor. They have a corresponding Coriander White summer release (review here), but that is a nicely done but relatively standard Belgian wit beer, whereas the regularly-brewed Coriander Black is a pretty rare dark coriander beer. I can’t find the reference to link here, but I recall reading that the Coriander Black was also brewed initially with the intent of just having it be a limited release, but people really loved it and kept asking for it so they made it part of their regular lineup. That makes sense if you look at the rest of their regular lineup, because the others are basically just very established styles (stout, IPA, pilsner, etc.), and this regular beer jumps out as being somewhat different.
The North Island Coriander Black is a very nicely staged and balanced beer. It’s quite subtle in many ways, but also has strong enough flavors. The bitterness mixes with the coriander very nicely, with neither of them dominating, and also with a mellow roast to add to the mix. The finish especially highlights all of those flavors at the same time very well, and it’s a wonderfully balanced and flavorful beer.
This is one of North Island’s best efforts, and one of my favorite beers in Japan. It’s part of their regular lineup, and while North Island distribution is a bit spotty you can usually find this at Liquors Hasegawa if you check there regularly enough, and also occasionally at Tokyo Liquor Land. The one that I bought, though, I saw at Le Collier, which was interesting in that that is the first time I’ve seen North Island beers at Le Collier. It’s slightly cheaper at Le Collier than Liquors Hasegawa, but I don’t know if they’ll continue to stock it. In any case, this is an awesome beer, and although like all North Island beers it’s not cheap, it’s definitely worth a taste.
Here’s hoping that North Island release their Mikkeller collaboration Haskap Blonde again this year (it was around this time last year [March 2015] that they released it for the first time, although I wonder if that was a marketing ploy to build up interest in the Mikkeller Tokyo that opened up later, which happened to close down recently – in any case, the Haskap Blonde is a fantastic beer). I don’t really expect them to, but if they do we’ll be on it!