I thought we’d finished our imperial stout reviews for this year, but as Tamamura Honten released their limited Takashi Imperial Stout not that long, we’ll have to try it. But first, before we get to it we’ll review the Daisen G Imperial Stout limited release as well.
Daisen G Imperial Stout (大山Gビール・インペリアルスタウト)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Very black and solid, good amount of foam
Aroma – Lots of roasted malts, hint of plum, fair amount of chocolate and nuttiness, nice
Flavor – Smooth texture, a bit of coffee and chocolate, a soft licorice sweetness that leads into a mild and coffee bitter finish, more licorice as it warms up but also a bit medicinal
It’s mostly a coincidence but we’ve been covering a lot of Daisen G beers lately. This isn’t much of a chore as Daisen G are a pretty solid brewer, and the Imperial Stout is one of their most highly-rated beers. It forms part of their annual special beers that they release in the spring (although I’ve seen them for sale at various times throughout the year), along with the Wheat Wine and Barley Wine. I can’t find a lot of brewing notes for it with much of interest, so I’ll just note that the label prominently features a giant “9” for the 9% ABV (the Wheat Wine has a similar label but red instead of black), in case you buy your beer strictly by ABV (which naturally I do).
The Daisen G Imperial Stout is quite a smooth beer, and while it generally plays nice it doesn’t pack a lot of punch in the flavor. The aroma is quite nice, with roast, fruits, nuts, and chocolate on top of the malts. However, the flavor doesn’t quite live up to the aroma, and while you might say it’s balanced it’s also quite unmemorable. It is smooth and doesn’t have any glaring flaws, so I suppose you could call it a solidly mediocre beer. Not terrible, but not one of their standout efforts.
Tamamura Honten Takashi Imperial Stout
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 78
Pour – Foamy and creamy, usual imperial stout black
Aroma – Interesting combination of bright aroma hops with chocolate
Flavor – Chocolate and nuts at first, roast, some chocolate sweetness, but then big hop bitter finish, as it warms up a bit of licorice and malts
While Tamamura Honten are in general an awesome brewer (maybe even the best overall in Japan), they aren’t really know for their dark beers. They have a porter which, to be frank, is pretty middling, and other than that don’t really foray much into the black beer category (other than the occasional black IPA, which is more in line with their IPA-or-bust philosophy). The Takashi Imperial Stout, as well, isn’t released regularly – it was actually last released two years ago in 2014.
Of course, being Tamamura Honten, they’ve still used the same amount of hops that they would have on an IPA. It clocks in at a hefty 78 IBU; just for reference, looking at the imperial stouts we’ve reviewed here so far, the Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout tops the IBU charts at 80, although that one actually doesn’t play quite as bitter. The relatively bitter Minoh Imperial Stout, SanktGallen Imperial Chocolate Stout, and De Dochter van de Korenaar Sans Pardon weigh in at 60, 50, and 50 IBU respectively, so the 78 IBU of the Takashi Imperial Stout is a relatively high value. Of course, we’ve seen with the Baird that it doesn’t have to be overly bitter just because of IBU, but Tamamura Honten like their bitter IPAs so we’ll have to see.
Just a quick mention on the name – it’s named after the main person in charge of their hop farm. With other high-ABV winter beers bearing such mythical creature names as the Yeti Imperial Stout or Bigfoot, they felt compelled to come up with something as fearsome sounding, and came up with Takashi-kun. I’m not sure how he’d fare against the abominable snowman, but it appears they were a bit afraid of him for a while, even as he led their hop charge.
The Tamamura Honten Takashi Imperial Stout is a pretty interesting take on an imperial stout that in many ways profiles more like a strong black IPA. Out of the bottle the hops are very very prominent, and throughout there’s a good amount of bitterness, although not overly so. The roast qualities are there, and especially as it warms up there’s a bit more of the imperial stout plum aspects. Overall, though, it’s mostly a nice black IPA, with a good dose of fruit hops. I really like it and found it quite pleasurable, although it may depend on some degree to what you expect out of an imperial stout – I happen to love black IPAs, so an imperial stout that behaves like a black IPA is just fine in my book.
Before we get to the current rankings, a quick purchasing note – the Daisen G Imperial Stout is priced like their other special beers, which is to say a bit expensive at 756 yen (at Tanakaya, it’s a bit more at Liquors Hasegawa). Tamamura Honten, though, tend to always keep the price of the beer in mind, and even this limited release only cost 540 yen at Shinshu Osake-mura. Great price for a great beer.
So reviewing the overall rankings, let’s see where to slot in the great black IPA-ish Tamamura Honten Takashi Imperial Stout and the somewhat bland Daisen G Imperial Stout:
- Swan Lake Imperial Stout
- Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout (import)
- De Dochter van de Korenaar Sans Pardon (import)
- Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout
- Tamamura Honten Takashi Imperial Stout
- SanktGallen Imperial Chocolate Stout
- Minoh Imperial Stout
- Daisen G Imperial Stout
While the Tamamura Honten doesn’t really fit the classic imperial stout profile, I liked it enough to put it behind the other imperial stouts that really have a bit more plum/licorice character to it. The SanktGallen and Minoh focus too much on the bitterness, whereas the Tamamura Honten has the bitter hops but in a more rounded fashion (like a bitter but not overly so IPA). However, imperial stouts like the Swan Lake and the Baird have more of the fruit character that make them more interesting on the whole. The Daisen G, unfortunately, brings up the rear here.
So this, I think, is the end of this year’s imperial stout releases, although I did just see the Baeren Vintage Chocolate Stout 2016 for sale – so perhaps it won’t be too long before our next imperial stout review!