Black IPAs are still relatively rare in Japan, so this is actually just our second black IPA review (first one here). Our local entrant is a new release from Minoh called the Bosszaru IPA, and the foreign entrant is the BrewDog Prototype Black IPA.
Minoh Bosszaru IPA (箕面・ボスざるIPA)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 65
Pour – Not much carbonation, black, lots of sediment
Aroma – Chocolate roast hops, very nice
Flavor – Smooth roast at first, then some bitterness and chocolate, followed by a burst of hops and then a bitter roast finish
The city of Minoh in Osaka is actually known for a large national park that has lots of wild monkeys. Dovetailing nicely with the monkey theme, they were also invited by Shiga Kogen to brew a beer for the annual Snow Monkey Beer Live music and beer festival that they host. So in 2013 they brewed an IPA called the Osaru IPA (おさるIPA, which translates to monkey IPA) for the Snow Monkey Beer Live. Since then they’ve been slowly adding to the monkey series, with a Kozaru IPA (こざるIPA, which means little monkey IPA – this is a session IPA) and now followed by the Bosszaru IPA, which they just released for the first time.
The Minoh Bosszaru IPA is a pleasant surprise, a very flavorful beer with a few different things going on. First of all, I liked the mellow hop smell on the aroma mixed in with the roast, and while the flavor mostly emphasized the roast and chocolate at first the hops were definitely also there. In fact, the finish was quite bitter, and not something I expected from Minoh. I like the way the flavor profile shifts from very smooth to chocolate bitter, then hops and roast bitter again. It’s quite nice, and far more complex than I find most of their beers.
Definitely more stout than IPA, but still works for me. I purchased mine at Deguchiya for 475 yen, which isn’t a bad price at all. I don’t recall seeing this anywhere else, but as Tanakaya and Liquors Hasegawa tend to carry Minoh seasonals pretty frequently they should probably have it there. I really like this one and think it’s one of Minoh’s best beers, actually, and to boot, it definitely has one of the best beer labels in all of Japan.
BrewDog Prototype Black IPA
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 40; OG – 1.052; hops – Simcoe
Pour – Healthy head of foam, black
Aroma – Lots of hops, citrus, melon, not much roast
Flavor – Very mild, mild hops, somewhat sweet, slightly bitter finish, some coffee roast bitterness, especially as it warms up, fruit on the finish as well
We covered the marketing machine that is BrewDog a bit in our earlier review of their excellent #MashTag 2015 black barley wine, so we won’t go into too much detail about the brewery itself. As we’ve seen, they’re pretty savvy in terms of marketing and social media and being “buzzy.” The #MashTag series (where they let social media determine what kind of beer they will brew by voting on elements of the beer) kind of exemplifies that savvy, and the Prototype Series is basically the same concept. With the Prototype Series BrewDog release a few “prototype” beers and they let the public vote on which one will become part of the regular lineup. One of the candidates for the 2015 version of the project is the Black IPA we’re looking at today.
So if the Minoh Bosszaru IPA was more stout than IPA, then the BrewDog Prototype Black IPA is definitely more IPA than stout. The Simcoe hop aromas are quite strong, but in contrast to that the flavors are very very mild, and run basically like a session IPA. There is some coffee roast bitterness that comes out over time, and while as I mentioned it’s quite mild the hops are definitely there. It’s got some bitterness, although not much, and the citrus qualities really shine through on the finish.
It makes for a decent IPA, but in a black IPA I want a bit more from the roasted part of it. The BrewDog doesn’t deliver so much in that aspect, and that really prevents this beer from being anything memorable. Not bad as a session IPA, not so great as a black IPA. Apparently I’m not alone in the lukewarm reception as well, given that this year’s winner of the Prototype Series by far was the Milk Stout, with the Black IPA running a distant third.
I bought this beer at Liquors Hasegawa for 500 yen, which isn’t bad. Surprisingly, I also saw this beer at Le Collier, which recently has started carrying a lot more foreign craft beer as well, although the prices for foreign beer are very very high compared to other beer stores. They don’t really lack distribution muscle so I’m sure you’ll be able to find this beer around town if you’re looking for it.
Overall, though, the Minoh Bosszaru IPA is much better than the BrewDog Prototype Black IPA. As I mentioned before this might be my favorite Minoh beer of all time, and while I don’t know if they plan on brewing it regularly I certainly hope they do – good black IPAs are hard to find here so I’d be very happy if they made this one available regularly.