Today we’re taking a look at two different variations on their Miyama Blonde saison – the Baby Blonde Miyama and the Harvest Brew fresh hop edition of the Miyama Blonde.
Tamamura Honten Baby Blonde Miyama
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 28
Pour – Very pale blonde, not much carbonation, looks thin
Aroma – Clean floral hops, yeasty, some citrus
Flavor – Crisp, floral, yeast in the middle, also some sweetness, finishes bitter and dry
As we mentioned in the intro, the Miyama Blonde has a few different variants. We reviewed the standard version and the Shoubu Miyama Blonde earlier here, and enjoyed both, although the regular version was better balanced. The concept of the Miyama Blonde was to make a local saison that used homegrown hops and sake rice, and it was successful enough to make it into their regular lineup, even if it isn’t as popular as their IPAs. The original version though, while well-balanced, is a beer that not only has a fairly bold range of flavors but also weighs in at 6.5% ABV. With this Baby Blonde Miyama, the idea was to make a scaled-down version of it that would be a nice accompaniment to any meal (they mention specifically ramen, tapas, or Italian). As such, this beer clocks in at only 5% ABV, and is slightly paler in color than it’s more hearty elder sibling.
One interesting brewing note is that they’ve made use of the relatively new Loral hop. For me, Loral didn’t really ring a bell, but in their notes it explains that Loral is now the new name of what was formerly the HBC 291 experimental hop. Tamamura Honten have actually used this hop before in one of their coffee beers, and the newly christened Loral hop is known for having both floral and citrus characteristics.
Compared to the original Miyama Blonde, the Baby Blonde Miyama falls a bit flat in that it doesn’t quite have enough of the meat of the original beer. While it’s decent with a nice dry and bitter finish, I would have liked to have seen more yeast and spice and citrus, which the regular version manages to achieve. This mini-version ultimately falls a bit short of their standards, and while it does share some characteristics with the original it’s basically just too light, and even the bitter hop finish seems a bit out of place here.
While I personally found this beer to be a disappointment, Tamamura Honten seem to harbor high hopes for this beer, to the extent of actually making a real label for this beer. Their one-offs have just the label without a real design, and this beer was released previously with one of those generic labels. When they first released it with that generic label I didn’t think it sounded like a great beer so I never bothered picking one up, but I will admit that when they gave it a real label, which essentially means it is now at least part of their semi-regular lineup, that was enough for me to finally give it a try (side note – they basically gave the Baby Blonde Miyama a proper label at around the same time they gave the much better and much more popular No. 10 Anniversary IPA a proper label).
So clearly they intend on producing this beer regularly, although I think this is for me one of their poorest offerings that have a proper label. In any case, if they do make it regularly it shouldn’t be hard to track down – it’ll be at the usual places that carry Tamamura Honten beers such as Deguchiya, Liquors Hasegawa, and Shinshu Osake-mura (which is where I got mine), and it should be priced the same as their other non-special beers like the Indian Summer Saison and regular Miyama Blonde.
Tamamura Honten Miyama Blonde (Harvest Brew)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Pale straw gold, cloudy, fluffy foam that dissipates relatively quickly
Aroma – Faint mellow fruity hop aroma, bready malts
Flavor – Mild hops initially, finish is mildly bitter, a bit of tang on the finish as well as it warms up
We didn’t review too many of their Harvest Brew series this year, but since we missed the fresh hop version of the Miyama Blonde last year we didn’t want to skip it again this year. As far as brewing notes, there isn’t a whole lot to say other than that it uses fresh home-grown Shinshuwase hops, so on to the beer!
The Miyama Blonde Harvest Brew does, like the rest of their Harvest Brew series (and expectedly), emphasize the hops more than the regular version. The hops really take center stage, and the spices and malts are lost a bit compared to the original. It definitely feels more bitter than the original without those other aspects to mix it up a bit, and while it’s perhaps not too far from the original the perception of the hops takes over and alters the overall flavor. I personally enjoyed the original version a bit more for its combination of spice and citrus and malts, and while the hops in the Harvest Brew version weren’t necessarily so in-your-face they really masked the other elements present in the original and made it a less interesting beer.
So interestingly with the Miyama Blonde, even with three other variants I find the original to be far superior, with a broader range of flavors that works quite well. The Shoubu variant was interesting but too spicy, the Baby version too thin, and the Harvest Brew edition too focused on hops. As always, though, I find them to be a good brewer overall so I would definitely recommend doing your own comparison of all four versions to see what you like and don’t like about them. It’s also worth noting that many of their Harvest Brew beers are better than their original counterparts, so yes, try them out!