Our selection today consist of two local beers with local ingredients. First up is the Aqula Akita Ginjo Beer with a home-engineered yeast, and next we try the Daisen G Daisen Gold with local barley.
Aqula Akita Ginjo Beer (あくらビール・あきた吟醸ビール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Gold orange in color, not too much carbonation
Aroma – Lots of banana, a bit dirty as well
Flavor – Very fizzy, initially a bit of banana wheat, banana gets a bit stronger in the middle, then slightly bitter but also soda water finish
We’ve reviewed a few Aqula beers, but unfortunately we haven’t had anything too great from them (even their formerly nice draft-only Kiwi IPA turned into a bottled dud version called the Namahage IPA). As such, we don’t harbor massive hopes for the Akita Ginjo Beer, but as Aqula tend to be fairly involved in local development the background of this beer is probably worth delving into a bit.
You might have noticed the word “ginjo” (吟醸) in the name of the beer, and you may also recognize it as a sake designation. While sake designations are a bit confusing, ginjo essentially means that the sake rice has been polished to a minimum of 60%. The yeast used in this beer is actually a hybrid yeast developed by cross-breeding a ginjo sake yeast with beer yeast, and was developed jointly by Aqula and Akita Prefectural University (a relatively new local university). It even has a patent pending, so don’t even think about lifting the yeast and making your own beer with it!
As for the yeast characteristics, it’s supposed to have a fruity aroma to it, and in addition to their specially-developed yeast they also use wheat in addition to barley for this beer. In fact, they classify this beer as a wheat ale according to their product page. So with that as our background, let’s see what all of this adds up to in terms of the beer itself.
The Aqula Akita Ginjo Beer is a bit of an odd beer, with the banana and wheat definitely making their presence known. However, it’s a bit unpleasant with the soda water aspects becoming strong, and the wheat and banana aren’t really enough to overcome that part of it. Overall, it doesn’t have anything super tasty to recommend about it, and I’d say it’s a bust.
In terms of purchasing, I found this one at Tanakaya, which recently has started carrying Aqula beers somewhat more regularly. I also noticed that Liquors Hasegawa is now carrying this and other Aqula beers as well, so perhaps they are making a more concerted effort in terms of distributing their beer (probably also centered around their Namahage IPA, which they may have reasonably held some expectations for).
Daisen G Daisen Gold (大山Gビール・大山ゴールド)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Slightly orange gold, very cloudy, not too heavy carbonation but it stays
Aroma – Grassy wheat aroma is strong
Flavor – Very bread and crackers, lemon citrus wheat on the finish
Daisen G is a very solid brewery, and lately have been making some very good seasonals, such as their Dubbel and Grand Saison. The Daisen Gold seasonal is actually quite old and traces its origins back to 2003 when Daisen G first starting trying to work with local farmers to grow and source local ingredients for their beer. While now they also use locally grown hops and sake rice for use in their beer, the very first thing they tried to grow as a beer ingredient was this barley which they dubbed “Daisen Gold”, which naturally is used in this Daisen Gold beer. In addition to the local Daisen Gold barley this beer also makes use of wheat, so stylistically while they don’t term it such you can probably call it a wheat ale.
Overall the Daisen G Daisen Gold is quite bready and wheaty, with lots of wheat on the aroma. The flavor emphasizes a chewy bready quality to it, although you do get a good amount of lemon and citrus on the finish. It’s not an amazing beer but a decent effort, and while I don’t think it’s quite interesting enough to merit buying again I do think it’s worth trying once. I found mine at Tanakaya, which is by far the most reliable place to get Daisen G seasonals (I’m actually having trouble tracking down Daisen G regular beers!).
So today we tried two local wheat ales with locally sourced ingredients, and the Daisen G Daisen Gold was a clear winner. However, that probably speaks more to the mediocrity of the Aqula Akita Ginjo Beer then the excellence of the Daisen Gold. The Daisen Gold isn’t bad and certainly worth a shot if you want to try a local wheat ale, but also definitely not a can’t miss. There aren’t too many spectacular wheat beers in Japan, although the Johana Kagayaki Wheat Seven IPA is a pretty awesome beer that uses wheat. Go pick that one up instead!