We reviewed a few of the Tamamura Honten Harvest Brew series last year, but this year this is our first Harvest Brew review. It’s a straight up comparison, so first we’ll have the regular Africa Pale Ale, and follow it up with the Harvest Brew edition of the same.
Tamamura Honten Africa Pale Ale
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 50
Pour – Very pale yellow, cloudy, very light carbonation that dissipates quickly
Aroma – Very deep fruit hop aroma
Flavor – Initially bitterness is very prominent, then some pine comes through with a hint of citrus, then an even more heavy bitterness on the finish that goes for a while, dry
With Tamamura Honten’s obsession with IPAs and their variants, you would be forgiven for assuming that the Africa Pale Ale is a little-known type of IPA. Alas, the name is just unfortunately an example of how people in Japan will exoticize certain places without much thought to the larger social implications of these things. Coupled with the somewhat distasteful label (so jungle camouflage is I guess strongly associated with Africa here in Japan?), I don’t think it would be wrong to call out the name and package of this beer as ignorant at best.
In terms of their thinking behind the concept of the beer, they brewed a session IPA and thought it would be clever to play along with the origin myth of the IPA, and imagined that their session IPA would peter out along on the way to India somewhere around the Africa part of the journey. At 5% ABV and 50 IBU, it’s basically a toned down version of their regular IPA, which carries specs of 6% ABV and 60 IBU (for comparison their House IPA is 8% ABV with about 95 IBU). Anyway, let’s see what the beer is all about.
The Tamamura Honten Africa Pale Ale is indeed a very good session IPA. I did wish for a bit more citrus in the flavor, but the fruit does come out quite well in the aroma. Flavor-wise the pine is quite strong and very nice, and it finishes with a good amount of bitterness and also is quite dry as well. This isn’t too far out of their norm in terms of the quality standard they have set for their hoppy beers, and it’s another winner. If you compare this to their regular Pale Ale, which actually carries more ABV at 5.5%, the Africa Pale Ale is definitely much more flavorful and the preferred pale ale/session IPA of choice for me from Tamamura Honten.
In terms of availability you can find it in most places that their regular beers are sold, and it carries the regular price tag. I purchased mine at Deguchiya for 443 yen, but you can also find it at places like Liquors Hasegawa and Tanakaya and formerly at Nomono, although of course they don’t exist anymore. Anyway, it’s a good beer despite it’s unfortunate naming concept, so depending on how strongly you feel about the name/package you may want to give this one a try.
Tamamura Honten Africa Pale Ale (Harvest Brew)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 45; hops – Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic
Pour – Similar pale yellow, but much cloudier with more sediment and even less carbonation
Aroma – Citrus hop aroma there but much fainter
Flavor – Much fruitier than the regular version, pine is also toned down a bit, finish is still bitter but definitely with more fruits
Last year we reviewed quite a few of the Harvest Brew fresh hop series (the IPA, Porter, Pale Ale, IBA, Harvest Summer Saison), so there aren’t as many for us to review this year! First up is the Africa Pale Ale, and this is the first time that they have released this in fresh hop format. The fresh hop used in this particular beer is their homegrown Cascade hops.
The Africa Pale Ale Harvest Brew edition make for a pretty interesting comparison with the original. It’s very close to the regular version, but as with the other fresh hop editions it emphasizes a juicy citrus hop aspect in the flavor, and renders it much less bitter. I found both to be interesting but probably have a slight preference for the original – the original one had lots of pine in it, which I really missed in the Harvest Brew version. The original also had a bit more bitter, so overall I’d have to choose the regular one. However, the Harvest Brew is also a good one, and as I said before, it’s interesting to try them both side by side.
At the time of writing the Harvest Brew editions are all gone from the shelves, but just for reference I purchased mine at Tanakaya for 402 yen. If you7re doing some comparison shopping you’ll note that Tanakaya is about 40 yen cheaper than Deguchiya, so if you buy a few of them (or other Tamamura Honten beers) you’ll probably make up the train fare even if you don’t live that close to Tanakaya.
The only other Harvest Brew beer we have lined up this year is the Miyama Blonde, so hopefully we can get that review out soon as well.