Today we’ve got a couple of limited release beers brewed by Tamamura Honten for the 2016 edition of the Snow Monkey Beer Live festival – the Drunk Coffee (Kibiru) and the Imperial Indian Summer Saison.
Tamamura Honten x Trunk Coffee Drunk Coffee – Kibiru
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 34
Pour – Deep gold, very cloudy, not much fizz
Aroma – Citrus hops, slight peppery coffee
Flavor – Initially lots of soft citrus, then some coffee bitterness which then becomes infused with hop bitterness, then some spice on the finish as the bitterness lingers
This is the second in the Tamamura Honten collaboration series with Trunk Coffee of Nagoya. The first release used Limoncillo coffee from Nicaragua (reviewed here), and this one uses Kibiru coffee from Kenya. Actually, Kibiru is the farm in Kenya that is growing the coffee, and the actual coffee type is a blend that consists of 99% SL-28. SL-28, it turns out, is a celebrated coffee variety from Kenya that has very sweet and fruity flavors, and is considered a very high-quality and flavorful coffee bean. The name, incidentally, comes from Scott Labs, which was hired by the Kenyan government a long time ago to develop local coffee strains and identify which would be most viable. Lucky number 28 was determined to be one of the best candidates, and that has turned out to be basically right.
In addition to using a coffee that sounds like a robot, this beer also uses a hop that sounds like a robot – the new HBC 291 hop. This hop (as the name suggests) was also developed by the Hop Breeding Company (we discussed them a bit in the SanktGallen Un angel review, which uses the experimental HBC 342 hop), and this particular new hop is described as being earthy and floral in addition to the expected citrus. A google search indicates that this hop was patented in 2012, so it is indeed very new. Let’s see how they all come together in the actual beer!
The Drunk Coffee Kibiru is a fairly interesting beer, and a bit different to its Limoncillo sibling. The Limoncillo was very spicy and peppery, and while the Kibiru also exhibits some of those qualities (especially in the aroma), it also has a much stronger citrus presence, and the coffee astringency and hop bitterness are also much stronger here. However, none of the elements get out of balance, and I found it to be a very flavorful and interesting beer. You can color me impressed with this coffee pale ale series, which takes high-quality coffee and uses them in a way that isn’t so common in the beer world – namely with tons of hops in a pale ale rather than in a stout. I’m also very appreciative of the fact that the Limoncillo and Kibiru are quite different from each other, so the series seems to have merit in highlighting different coffee beans and different recipes. I’m definitely looking forward to the next release in this series, whenever that comes.
Tamamura Honten Imperial Indian Summer Saison
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 83
Pour – Cloudy pale gold, almost like apple juice, not much foam
Aroma – Lemon, dirt, yeast, hops, sugar, quite sharp
Flavor – Lots of candy and sugar at first, then very sweet malts, tart lemon on the finish, very very dry
The regular Indian Summer Saison, which we reviewed quite a while ago here, is one of my favorite beers in Japan overall – yeasty, earthy, bitter, hoppy, citrusy, all at once! Bold, and to boot, very cheap and widely available. So I was quite excited to hear they’d brewed an imperial version of it, with specs of 8.5% ABV and 83 IBU (compared with 7% ABV and 50 IBU for the original version, although it certainly tastes much more bitter than that).
The Tamamura Honten Imperial Indian Summer Saison is, however, too sweet initially to really compare to the original. At first the sweetness drowns out the earth and grass and hops, and we’re left with the sweet, malty base of the beer with some lemon tartness. In other words, it takes out some of the best aspects of the original and replaces them with, well, sugar. As expected as it warms up the sweetness subsides a bit, and while you start to get a bit of the earth you might see in the regular version by far the sweetness, albeit a little bit diluted now, still dominates even after some time. Overall it’s far too sweet and definitely a step down from the regular Indian Summer Saison.
So today with these two Tamamura Honten Snow Monkey specials, we find that the Drunk Coffee Kibiru is a very interesting beer, while the Imperial Indian Summer Saison is way too sweet and far inferior to the regular Indian Summer Saison. I do think it’s good that Tamamura Honten are keeping up their record of constantly experimenting with new beers, so while today’s tasting is a bit of a mixed bag I’m still certainly interested in seeing what they put out next. A barrel-aged version of the Dieu du Ciel Issek Nicho beer is also on its way, so we’ll be looking out for that one.