Daisen G Belgian IPA / De Ranke XX Bitter

We’re keeping up our Daisen G streak here with a look at their Belgian IPA, and we’ll pair it with the De Ranke XX Bitter.

Daisen G Belgian IPA (大山Gビール・ベルジャンIPA)

DaisenG_BelgianIPA

Vitals:

RateBeer

ABV: 6.0%

Availability: Limited

Package: 330mL bottle

Review:

Pour – Pale cloudy straw gold, good fluffy carbonation

Aroma – Very spicy yeast, banana and pepper

Flavor – Malty at first, spicy with a bit of earthy hops in the middle, citrus lemon tang on the finish

Are Belgian IPAs really a distinct style? Hard to say, and very few Belgian brewers market beers as such. It is, however, beginning to become shorthand for a Belgian pale ale that’s a bit hoppier than normal. There aren’t too many examples in Japan, although Swan Lake make one occasionally, and Tamamura Honten sometimes describe their excellent Indian Summer Saison as kind of a Belgian IPA. Interestingly, the Daisen G Belgain IPA and Tamamura Honten Indian Summer Saison both use New Zealand and American hops, with the Daisen G using Motueka and Chinook hops here.

The Daisen G Belgian IPA is a fairly interesting beer, and while the hops aren’t too prominent it’s a flavorful beer. Certainly the spice and pepper are very prominent, but so are the malts initially. You get a slight hint of hops in there, although they are quite subdued, but the lemon citrus on the finish is very noticeable. The lemon citrus gets stronger as it warms up, and you can really see the impact especially of the Motueka hops, which are known for their citrus/lime effects.

It’s interesting to compare this to their Grand Saison, which we just reviewed a couple of weeks ago. They both have the same spicy yeast base (which is not surprising as it’s probably the same yeast) and a slight tart citrus finish. The Belgian IPA has a bit more malts and hops to it whereas the Grand Saison was more yeasty, but they’re actually quite similar in profile. I think overall I slightly prefer the Grand Saison, but I think the Belgian IPA is a very well-done beer as well.

Like the other Daisen G seasonals I found this at Tanakaya for 648 yen, and again, they’re the only place to reliably find Daisen G seasonals in Tokyo. It’s certainly a bit on the pricey side for a local beer, but it’s a solid take on the Belgian IPA.

De Ranke XX Bitter

DeRanke_XXBitter

Vitals:

RateBeer

ABV: 6.0%

Availability: Year-round

Package: 330mL bottle

Misc: IBU – 60; hops – Brewers Gold, Hallertau Mittelfrüh

Review:

Pour – Fluffy and creamy, lots of carbonation, cloudy orange

Aroma – Earthy pilsner hops very strong, malty

Flavor – Very fizzy and tangy, lots of bitter earthy citrus in there, finish is very dry and bitter, orange peel and grapefruit

You’ve probably heard of De Ranke, as they are certainly one of the more well-known modern breweries to emerge from Belgium. However, they occupy a bit of an interesting space in the sense that they are not one of those very old traditional Belgian breweries, but also not one of the super recent newcomers that sprang up out of the current craft beer boom. They started home-brewing in the ’80s, and then established the De Ranke Brewery in 1996 and have been expanding ever since.

As far as brewing philosophy goes, they are pretty much in line with the hipster ethos that pretty much defines craft beer today – all natural ingredients, local hops, unfiltered, unpasteurized, etc. They take it a bit further and use only 100% Belgian hops, and also only use whole-hop flowers. In case that isn’t enough hipster cred, they even have solar panels at the brewery for renewable energy! Hipsterism aside, though, they make excellent beers, so it’s certainly no chore to review their XX Bitter.

The De Ranke XX Bitter is a wonderfully fruity and bitter beer. It’s actually a somewhat surprising combination of flavors, in that the bitterness is not the usual West Coast hop bitterness but a pilsner kind of earthy bitterness, and the fruit flavors are not a tropical fruit flavor but more of a zesty orange peel effect. It’s an unusual mix but it works quite well, and it certainly does emphasize the bitterness. For a Belgian bitter beer (they don’t really call it a Belgian IPA), there may be some who prefer a bit more yeast or spice, but De Ranke really haven’t gone in that direction. It’s very hoppy and bitter, almost in an imperial pilsner way, and I personally really like this combination of flavors, although I also understand those who say it is really just too bitter.

De Ranke beers are not so uncommon in Tokyo, and although this one I bought at Tokyo Liquor Land (for 598 yen), I’ve seen their beers at Tanakaya and also at Toyojiro in Toritsu-daigaku. Pigalle also carries their beer sometimes, and you will also see their beers on tap at Belgian places here and there. Overall they’re a very good brewer, so I’d say any of their beers are worth trying.

Comparing it to the Daisen G Belgian IPA, they’ve both got some citrus, which is nice, but the hops and bitterness of the De Ranke XX take it to a slightly higher plane. It actually makes for an interesting comparison with the Tamamura Honten Indian Summer Saison, in that while both have the citrus effect the hops used are quite different. The De Ranke uses Belgian hops that produce a bit more of an earthy effect, whereas the Tamamura Honten uses New Zealand and American hops that give it more of a West Coast IPA hoppy effect. That would be nice tasting session to compare – perhaps we’ll get around to that one day.

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