Today we’ll be looking at one of the more popular rice beers in Japan – the Daisen G Yago, along with its aged Daisen G Yago Aki-agari cousin.
Daisen G Yago (大山Gビール・八郷)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Creamy pale gold color, foam sticks around
Aroma – A bit of wheaty banana, yeasty, almost like a weizen
Flavor – Slightly sharp, mild sweetness with yeast in the middle, spicy peppery finish
Given that this is Japan, naturally rice beers are a lot more common here than in the States or Europe. That said, as most brewers here are still following either an American or European tradition of brewing, they aren’t necessarily so common either. We talked a bit about the impact of sake rice on beer in our Tamamura Honten No. 10 Anniversary IPA review, and that beer was a wonderful example of how rice can add a bit of softness and mellow sweetness to even what is a relatively bitter and strong IPA. However, the Daisen G Yago is more of a straight-up rice beer rather than a beer with a dedicated style that uses rice, so isn’t necessarily apples to apples here.
The sake rice that the Yago uses is the Yamada-nishiki (山田錦) grain. Yamada-nishiki is, in fact, famous in Japan for being the best sake rice, and has such illustrious nicknames as the King Of Sake Rice (酒米の王様) and White Diamonds (白いダイヤモンド). For those interested in doing armchair cultural analysis you can’t help but note that our white gold is cocaine and their white diamonds are rice. While at one point in time there was no such thing as quality sake made from anything else, recently with the advent of craft sake, if you will, people are experimenting more with other rice varieties, but Yamada-nishiki still is the most popular sake rice by volume.
Daisen G actually grows their own Yamada-nishiki rice for this beer, along with their own hops, although the Yago doesn’t use their homegrown hops. The rice is grown and harvested with the help of local farmers, and as such the beer is named Yago, which is actually what they called the rice-growing area around the Daisen G brewery a long time ago. It should also be noted that while it tends to be romanized as Yago (Daisen G don’t seem to have an official English name for this beer), in Japanese it is actually 「やごう」, with an extra う on the end.
So let’s get to it! The Daisen G Yago is somewhat unique, and ends up playing like a weizen/saison cross. There are lots of yeast elements in both the aroma and the flavor, but a strong banana component in the aroma gives it a weizen touch. The finish is quite dry and peppery, even while the yeast lingers much longer. As it warms up it starts to lose its touch just slightly and thins out a bit, but still keeps its pepper. Overall this is quite an enjoyable beer in its fresh state – let’s see what happens to it with a bit of aging.
Daisen G Yago – Aki-agari (大山Gビール・八郷～秋あがり～)
(No Ratebeer entry yet!)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Similar to Yago, creamy gold, but this time with lots of sediment
Aroma – Banana is almost all gone, faint yeast, but now a licorice aroma is the most prominent
Flavor – Body has lots of plum and licorice followed by dry and peppery finish
The Daisen G Yago Aki-agari is essentially the same beer as the Yago, but kindly cellared for you by Daisen G at the brewery before releasing it for sale. Aki (秋) just means fall in Japanese, so Aki-agari essentially means available in fall. Normally the regular Yago is released in the winter – this year’s version was first released on 2016/01/30, although they must release this multiple times as the one that we just tried was bottled on 2016/03/16. They bottle the beer at that time together with the ones for normal winter release, and then just squirrel some away for release later on the fall. Based on what I can gather it sounds like they’re basically just saving you the hassle of cellaring it yourself.
Our particular bottle was packaged on 2015/03/14 (and purchased 2015/10/09, so it was really sold in the fall!), so ours is aged a little over one year now. That should make it a good comparison to the relatively fresh Yago we just tried, so let’s see how they differ.
The aged Daisen G Yago Aki-agari is an even more interesting and flavorful beer than its fresh counterpart. It loses most of its weizen aspects, sheds most but not all of its saison yeasty aspects, keeps its peppery spiciness, and adds a lot of Belgian fruitiness to it. In short, a very impressive beer from Daisen G, and especially one that ages well. I love the sharp dryness mixed with the plum-like Belgian ale elements, with a mild sweetness in there. A great balance of flavors, and certainly one of the best offerings from Daisen G.
The expiration date on both the regular and the Aki-agari Yago is stated as 2 years past the packaging date, and as it seems that with the Aki-agari Daisen G are basically just storing it in a refrigerator on the premises, it’s something that you could just as easily do at home. The price doesn’t differ, though, so there’s certainly no harm in buying the brewery-aged version, even if there doesn’t seem to be any obvious benefit either. I’m tempted to buy one and age it for closer to the 2 years or even longer to see how it changes, given that the one-year aged version we tried here was a smashing success.
In terms of purchasing details, I bought the Aki-agari version first at Tanakaya for 648 yen, and the regular version at Liquors Hasegawa for 700 yen. That price difference is about normal comparing those two liquors shops, and there is no premium for the aged version. Pick them up if you can – it’s pretty good fresh out of the bottle, and even given that much better aged. Age it for longer if you can!
Daisen G also release a Gougin rice beer, so we’ll see if we can get our hands on that one as well when it’s released. In general they’re a quality brewer, so it’s definitely not a burden to review their products – hopefully we can get our hands on the Grand Saison which should be coming out soon.