Today we’ll take a look at a couple of local limited release IPAs – the Nagisa India Pale Ale and the Swan Lake IPA.
Nagisa India Pale Ale (ナギサビール・インディアペールエール)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy orange-amber, mild carbonation
Aroma – Malts are prominent, but can also get some soft hops in there
Flavor – Refreshing, initially malty but soon has a good mix of tropical fruit hops in there, caramel, eventually malts win out
The only previous Nagisa review we have up is the excellent Heaven, which was a very nicely done Helles. As I mentioned in that review Nagisa have begun to ramp up recently, and have been trying to release more varieties of beer to add to their normal lineup of two beers (the American Wheat and the Pale Ale). One of those is this new India Pale Ale, and as we don’t have much experience with Nagisa outside of the aforementioned Heaven, we’re not sure what to expect from this beer.
The Nagisa India Pale Ale is a fairly well-done beer, although I would have preferred to see a bit more hops in there. It’s not that the hops aren’t there – they do make themselves known briefly and that moment is nice, but they fade quickly and the malts begin to dominate a bit too much. Overall, though, it’s a pretty good and refreshing IPA, with a lot to recommend in there. The malts and caramel are good, and it’s a nice first IPA release for Nagisa with some potential for getting better.
Another bonus with this beer is its price – I bought it for only 388 yen at Tanakaya. You may not be able to find their beers easily, but I have seen both regular and limited releases from Nagisa at both Tanakaya and Liquors Hasegawa. I’m actually relatively impressed by them so far, so here’s hoping they can continue to put out some good beers.
Swan Lake IPA (スワンレイク・IPA)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Reddish-orange, cloudy, a bit more carbonation
Aroma – Fruity hops, also a bit of pine, quite subtle
Flavor – A bit fizzy and tangy initially, pine and resin initially, malts in the middle, sweet and hoppy bitter finish with more pine
We haven’t reviewed a Swan Lake beer in a while, but in general while I would characterize them as kind of hit and miss they are more on the hit side, and capable of making some very very excellent beers (see Imperial Stout). Their IPA is surprisingly not part of their usual lineup, but although I haven’t kept too close track I feel like this beer appears out there periodically rather than on a seasonal schedule. There isn’t much information out there about this beer in terms of brewing notes, but it does note that they use dry hopping to emphasize the hops a bit more.
The Swan Lake IPA is a pretty decent IPA, especially if you like pine. As with the Nagisa IPA, a bit more fruity hops in the flavor would have been welcome, but I think the piney hops still impart a positive impression here. It’s a little bit one-dimensional from that perspective, but I quite like piney IPAs, and it definitely has its share of malts and hoppy bitterness here.
This is a solid IPA, and certainly one I would consider drinking regularly, although again the Swan Lake pricing does give me some pause. It cost me 702 yen at Tanakaya, which is more than even the North Island IPA, which is possibly the best regular IPA in Japan. Given that the North Island IPA is a better beer and priced at around the upper limit of what I would want to pay for a single beer, the Swan Lake, while a decent beer, definitely loses out there. The Nagisa IPA, on the other hand, is not quite as good as the Swan Lake but about half the price. I suppose my end recommendation would be to try these beers once, but the standing IPA recommendation is still this – if you come across either the excellent but mid-price Johana Kagayaki W7 or the even better but expensive North Island IPA, treat yourself to a bottle (you won’t find these that often so it won’t run you that much), and for regular consumption stick with the very good and very affordable Shiga Kogen IPA. This hasn’t changed in a while, but we’re still on the lookout for even better local IPAs out there.