Today’s edition of BeerEast brings to you two somewhat unique flavored IPAs – the local limited release North Island Coriander Black IPA and our first Taiwanese craft beer, the Taiwan Head Brewers Taiwan Jasmine IPA.
North Island Coriander Black IPA (ノースアイランド・コリアンダーブラックIPA)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 75
Pour – Very dark, stout-like pour, creamy with lots of foam
Aroma – Roast is strong, also definite spice, citrus hops, very nice
Flavor – Initially bitter roast chocolate, then followed by mellow citrus hops, then sweet coriander licorice bitter roast finish
We’re generally big fans of North Island, and in particular with their IPA and their Coriander Black being perhaps the two best beers they brew, it was pretty exciting to see a bottle of their limited Coriander Black IPA for sale. This beer was originally brewed as as collaboration with Widmer Brothers when North Island visited Oregon in July 2016 for the Oregon Brewers Festival. After they returned to Japan they brewed it once more with a modified version of the recipe, and this is the result.
The North Island Coriander Black IPA is an amazing beer, and one I hope is added to their regular lineup soon. I would say it really picks up the best parts of both the IPA and the Coriander Black – the fruity bitterness of the IPA with the roast chocolate and spice of the Coriander Black. I would say that this leans more to the IPA side then the Coriander Black side, with the coriander effect slightly less prominent compared to the regular Coriander Black. While I like the coriander in the Coriander Black, the citrus hops and bitterness here combine really well with the coriander to round it out, even if there isn’t as much straight up coriander. In short, this is a fantastic beer, and possibly the best one they brew, which is no faint praise.
I was surprised to see this beer in bottles, as their blog mentioned keg sales but didn’t say anything about bottles. I found it at Tanakaya though for 606 yen, which is a pretty good price for the North Island seasonals. Tanakaya is the only place I know of in Tokyo that carries North Island seasonals, and I’m not sure if they still have this one in stock – but if they do, definitely give it a try. An amazing beer, probably the best from North Island (will have to try the Haskap Blonde again if they ever release it again), and I’d say one of the best beers outright in Japan. It would be awesome if they add this to their regular lineup – they added the Coriander Black to their regular lineup after it was brewed as a limited release but met with an overwhelmingly positive response, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Taiwan Head Brewers Taiwan Jasmine IPA (啤酒頭・大暑啤酒)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 52
Pour – Hazy gold with a bit of amber, not much carbonation
Aroma – Sugary flowers, herbal candy, some hops
Flavor – Very herbal, somewhat medicinal, flash of bitter at very end of finish, tea-like quality to it, some passion fruit verging on tootsie roll
This is our first chance to try a Taiwanese craft beer, and it’s all thanks to our good friend SuzumeCollege, who brought this beer back from a visit to Taipei. I don’t know that much about Taiwanese beer, so this should be a good opportunity to find out a little bit about it. It appears that like the rest of the world, craft beer is on the rise in Taiwan – even enough to get Evil Twin to make a trip over there to establish a Taiwan branch! They even went so far as to open a taproom called Brklyn, although it didn’t last very long.
Our beer today is from a brewery called Taiwan Head Brewers, which in English sounds like a trade association for brewmasters. In Chinese it’s written as 啤酒頭, with 啤酒 (píjiǔ) meaning beer and 頭 (tóu) meaning head, which leads me to believe the name of the brewery is something more akin to “hophead” than a head brewers association, although who am I to tell them what their brewery should be called?
Taiwan Head Brewers are new, having only been in business since 2015. One of their founders used to head up the largest Taiwan homebrew club (hence the trade association?), and their focus does indeed seem to be on somewhat more experimental beers. In fact, they have a whole Taiwan Tea Ale series, which makes established styles but also infusing local teas such as oolong, Oriental Beauty (an oolong varietal), and Jing Xuan (another oolong varietal). If you’re looking for non-tea local ingredients they also have a Winter Melon Ale (although I must admit that I am not familiar with winter melon other than the Iron Chef episode featuring it).
Our beer today features jasmine flowers, and in Chinese is named 大暑 (Dàshǔ), which is the hottest solar term of the year and runs from around July 23 to August 7. As any of you living in East Asia can verify that is indeed the hottest part of the year, and the “Major Heat” English translation of this beer name that they have on their website is indeed both descriptive and generally accepted as the primary translation of the term. On a side note, we didn’t really talk about the solar terms, but the main series of beer they brew is called the Solar Term series, and the beers do derive their names from the names of the solar terms. I’m not that familiar with solar terms myself, but it’s basically an ancient Chinese lunisolar calendar that divides the year into 15° swaths along the ecliptic, with each term then roughly corresponding to two weeks. They haven’t actually brewed one for each solar term yet, but maybe they’ll get there? Anyway, let’s see how they did with the hottest term of the year.
The Taiwan Head Brewers Taiwan Jasmine IPA is an interesting brew, but ultimately probably a bit too herbal and sweet to really be considered a great one. I don’t want that to sound like a slight though, because it’s definitely intriguing. It’s kind of like a bitter jasmine tea – floral, herbal, pleasant for the most part except for the medicinal and tootsie roll bits of it, although to be fair those negative aspects of it aren’t that strong. I wouldn’t necessarily say it all works together 100%, but it works enough to applaud their effort in trying something new, and if refined a bit I can really see their beers being both very interesting and also wonderfully-tasting. I wouldn’t say they’re quite they’re yet, but I am definitely cheering them on.
I don’t know where you would find this outside of Taiwan, but if you get a change to go to Taipei it shouldn’t take too much effort to track it down – SuzumeCollege says this one was purchased in just a regular supermarket. I’m certainly looking forward to trying more beers from that part of the world in general, and given that this was a good beer I’ll definitely look out for more from Taiwan Head Brewers.