With the IPA being the most popular craft beer style we’re still making our way through the catalog, so today we’ve got the limited Daisen G India Pale Ale, along with the fan favorite North Island IPA.
Daisen G India Pale Ale (大山Gビール・インディアペールエール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 35; hops – Citra, Northern Brewer
Pour – Quite amber red, healthy amount of foam that sticks around
Aroma – Lots of tropical fruit hops, very nice
Flavor – Solid malt base initially, a bit of citrus in the middle, bitter hop finish, slightly mild overall and becomes blander over time
Although we’ve reviewed a couple of their beers, we haven’t actually spent too much time talking about Daisen G so let’s do a quick overview. This Japan Beer Times article has a good rundown of how they got started, but the short story is that they’re a brewer in Tottori that was initially an offshoot of a sake brewer (and a high-pressure gas vendor?!). They have their own hop farm and grow some of their own ingredients, which include sake rice and barley in addition to their hops. Their homegrown sake rice, of course, is also used in their excellent Yago rice beer that we just reviewed, and they make another quality rice beer in the Gougin.
With their IPA, though, the brewing notes state that they are using Citra hops sourced from the US rather than their own hops. An IPA isn’t also what comes to mind immediately with Daisen G in terms of style – while they have the standard German beers (pilsner, weizen) as part of their regular lineup, they’re really known for their specialty beers. We’ve mentioned their rice beers, and their Wheat Wine (review here) is also excellent. We haven’t yet reviewed them but their Imperial Stout and Barley Wine are also well received here – all of this to say that although they are definitely a quality brewer, an IPA isn’t really something that seems representative of their style. That said, this is only a limited release beer, so let’s see how it stacks up.
The Daisen G India Pale Ale starts out promisingly, with a beautiful reddish appearance accompanied by a very nice and strong aroma of citrus and tropical fruit. Flavor-wise, it doesn’t quite hold up, but does have its strong points. Initially the malts are noticeable, and with the bitter finish feels nicely balanced. However, it doesn’t pack a lot of punch, and as it warms up it begins to lose whatever bite it had initially.
Overall it’s a decent but fairly run-of-the-mill IPA, and at the 648 yen I paid for it I can’t really say it’s worth that price. If you are interested in trying it though, I bought mine at Shinanoya in Shibuya, which was unusual in that they normally don’t stock Daisen G beers (I’ve seen some regular Daisen G beers there once and that’s it). Normally Tanakaya and Liquors Hasegawa will have some seasonal Daisen G beers on hand, although this is the only time I’ve ever seen this beer for sale. So if you’re a big Daisen G fan you might want to try it, but otherwise I think it’s too expensive for what it is.
North Island IPA (ノースアイランド・インディアペールエール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Amber orange, moderate carbonation
Aroma – Sharp, tart citrus aroma, a bit dirty, nice combination, malts as it opens up
Flavor – Sweet malts that transition into grapefruit that transitions into a hoppy bitter grapefruit finish
In some ways North Island are quite similar to Daisen G in the way that they are also somewhat hard to pin down stylistically. Like Daisen G they feature the requisite weizen and pilsner as part of their lineup, and some of their best beers aren’t really standard styles. Their Coriander Black is one of my favorite beers in Japan (and a very unique beer even from a global perspective), and their Cinnamon Ale X’Mas Beer is another solid one. Of course, their Haskap Blonde collaboration with Mikkeller might be my favorite North Island beer, but it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing that one again. All of this to say that like Daisen G, they’re a good brewer but as they aren’t really know for their hoppy beers or for their American-style beers, there isn’t necessarily much reason to think they’d make a great IPA. Except that…
The North Island IPA is a fantastic IPA, and perhaps the best standard IPA in Japan. The malts are definitely there, but the grapefruit and hop punch are definitely there in a big way to balance that out. It’s a big big flavor on this beer, which at 7% ABV straddles the line a bit between regular IPA and imperial IPA, but that big flavor is also balance extremely well. For me the star of the show is really the grapefruit aspect, and how it manages to stay in there basically the whole time to balance out the hops and malts. I’m a bit biased perhaps because I’ve had this beer numerous times and always loved it, but yes, this is a great local IPA.
The only caveat I would add to that is the price for the bottled version – I bought it for 630 yen at Le Collier, and it would run you more than that at Liquors Hasegawa. They do stock it sometimes at Hokkaido Foodist, but the price is about the same as at Le Collier. Is it worth it? Hard to say – given that the Daisen G is basically the same price and nowhere near as good (not to mention the Swan Lake IPA, which is even more expensive and not as good as the North Island), it may not too overpriced, but given that you can get a Tamamura Honten House IPA for less than 500 yen you can’t really call it a bargain either. My strategy? I don’t buy bottles of the North Island IPA that often, but if I see it on tap I try to order it. Price aside, this is a great beer, so definitely try it if you haven’t already.
We haven’t done a formal IPA ranking yet, but if we did the North Island IPA would certainly rank near the top. The Daisen G isn’t bad but also isn’t very memorable, and given the choice of quality IPAs even in Japan there isn’t too much of a compelling reason to pay that much for it
We’ll try to get to the popular imperial IPAs in Japan (the Baird Suruga Bay and the Tamamura Honten House IPA), and if we can also get the Swan Lake IPA and the T.Y. Harbor IPA we should most of the widely available IPAs covered, so onward and upward!