We don’t see too many abbey tripels in Japan, so it was nice to find the relatively new brewery Kazakami with their Manseiteki Sanka Belgian triple. For reference we’ll put it up against one of the most well-known triples, the Westmalle Tripel.
Kazakami Manseiteki Sanka (風上麦酒製造・慢性的賛歌)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Copper in color, not too much foam, cloudy
Aroma – Ginger is very strong, cinnamon, medicinal
Flavor – Again ginger is super strong in the flavor, cinnamon and medicinal gauze also quite strong, spices are way way too much, becomes unpleasant quickly
Kazakami is a quite new Belgian-style brewery based in Kawasaki – in fact, they only just got their brewing license in July of 2016. I don’t know much about them, but according to them because they understand the science of brewing they’ll be able to brew awesome beer very soon – this is where we interject to say, “We’ll be the judge of that!”.
Before we move on to the beer itself, some quick language notes – they don’t really have English translations of either their brewery or beer names, so we’ll do a quick translation. Kazakami translates to upwind or windward, and this particular beer name breaks down as something like “chronic praise” – 慢性的 (manseiteki) is chronic, and 賛歌 is kind of a paean or song of praise. I can’t really say whether that’s a good or bad name for a beer, but there it is.
While most Belgian tripels are not brewed with additional ingredients, this beer is, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a result of their only having a happoshu license, which would require that they add some non-barley/hop ingredients to it (one of the strange quirks of Japanese brewing license laws). The additional ingredients they list are linden, camomile, and ginger. I was actually not familiar with linden, but it appears to be a deciduous tree whose leaves are commonly used as medicinal herbs and also in tea. It’s supposed to have a sweet flowery aroma, so let’s see how it affects it.
The Kazakami Manseiteki Sanka is really just dominated by the ginger, so whatever contributions the linden is making to the beer really go unnoticed. In their product description they try to play up the linden, but they do also mention that this beer is basically a ginger beer, and that is very accurate. The beer tastes like a gingerbread cookie and is way too heavy on the spices, rendering it hardly drinkable. The aroma as well is very much ginger and medicine (is that the linden or the ginger? or both?), and it reallyl makes this a one-dimensional beer. It’s a shame because this brewery seems to be focused on making Belgian style spice beers, but this is too much, way too herbal and medicinal. Let’s hope their other beers manage to rein in those spices a bit.
As mentioned above this is quite a new brewery, and I’ve only seen their beer available at Le petit L’ouest in Shimokitazawa. It was relatively reasonable priced for a Belgian tripel at 580 yen, but again this is by no means a good beer, so hard to say it’s worth it.
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Pale orange with very very fluffy foam
Aroma – Lots of yeast tinged with caramel sugar
Flavor – Surprisingly grassy and earthy on the finish, initially yeasty but with good malts, turns quite dry and bitter, some spice as well, more fruit as it warms up, creamy texture, very nice
We haven’t reviewed a Westmalle product before, so a quick introduction is warranted. They are one of the officially authorized Trappist breweries, although the monastery was first founded in 1794 and only become a Trappist abbey in 1836. They started brewing beer shortly thereafter and are often credited with brewing the first ever tripel in the world, which is this one we happen to be reviewing. They also basically coined that term, and now essentially and strong Belgian golden ale is referred to as a tripel, all thanks to Westmalle.
So given that the Westmalle Tripel is the original tripel, let’s see how it plays out. It’s got a lot going on there, with a lot of earth and dirt really stealing the scene here. It’s got a good amount of dry and bitter, and the spices and fruits come in more as it warms up. However, comparing it to the Chimay Triple, the Chimay had a much wider range of flavors that included much spice and yeast and plum in addition to the bitterness, which really made it a great beer. The Westmalle, while certainly a very good beer, focuses a bit too much on the earthy dirtiness, and therefore is just a notch below.
While Westmalle is said to export only about 2% of their beer production outside of Belgium, their Tripel isn’t that hard to find in Japan. I found mine at Bon Repas in Naka-meguro for 550 yen, which is a good price, and I recall also seeing at places like Yamaya in Shibuya. It’s a good beer and I would definitely recommend it, even though I have an even stronger recommendation for the Chimay Triple. In any case, it’s certainly far superior to the Kazakami Manseiteki Sanka, which I can’t recommend at all. We haven’t found too many Japanese triples (we did review the Kobushi-hana Grand Cru in the same review as the Chimay), so hopefully we come across some more to check out.