We haven’t reviewed a porter in quite some time, so today we’ll go with a new brewery for us in the Rokko Porter and try it along with the Harvestmoon Christmas Porter.
Rokko Porter (六甲ビール・ポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 17
Pour – Very dark brown-black, very low carbonation
Aroma – Nice strong roast chocolate and burnt coffee
Flavor – Initially strange seltzer quality, a bit of roast in there in the middle, ends with roast plus medicine
Rokko Beer is a new brewery for us as far as reviews here on BeerEast go. They’re basically a quite little brewery located in Kobe, and although they’ve been around since the first wave of craft breweries in 1995, they aren’t really an influential player in the craft beer scene over here. Their stated goal is to make beer that fits the Japanese palate, without regard to adhering to a particular brewing tradition. As such, they aren’t really an English-style or German-style or anything-style brewery, and their standard lineup consists of a pilsner, English IPA, and porter. There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about either the brewery or this particular beer, so the only note I’d like to point out is that they are quite proud of their grain mill, which they designed and developed themselves! It’ll probably be very difficult to tell if this is going to lead to higher quality beer, but let’s see what the Rokko Porter is all about.
The Rokko Porter has a very nice aroma, but the flavor unfortunately doesn’t live up to it, and is quite an odd-tasting and not super-tasty beer. It has a lot of seltzer to it, which usually doesn’t portend good things, and while it does eventually have a bit of roast and chocolate to it the seltzer persists throughout and dooms the beer. To top it off it gets a little medicine-y at the end of it all, and makes for a fairly poor tasting experience.
The above review probably isn’t going to make you want to rush out and go find this beer, but if you are interested in trying it you can find their beers fairly regularly at Izuya, which is where I purchased mine for 560 yen. That puts it in the pricey range given the quality of beer, but I’ve also bought their beers before at Tanakaya for less than that, so that’s probably the best place to buy it if you can find it there – Tanakaya doesn’t always carry their beer though, so you’d have to check periodically.
Harvestmoon Christmas Porter (ハーヴェストムーン・クリスマスポーター)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cola brown, decent carbonation but not too foamy
Aroma – Slight whiff of plum, almost nothing (is that caramel?)
Flavor – Initially a bit sour and nutty, soft chocolate roast in the middle, some plum on finish, quite thin and watery especially as it warms up
Harvestmoon isn’t a brewery that we normally get too excited about, besides the fact that they’re located right next to Disneyland. We’ve been conditionally but mildly impressed with their Barley Wine and Black Barley Wine, but for the most part they’re a somewhat forgettable brewery from our experience so far. With that in mind, the brewing notes don’t shed too much more light into what we might find with their Christmas Porter, other than the fact that despite the fact that people don’t eat turkey here and Christmas turkey is definitely not a Japanese tradition, they expect this beer will go well with Christmas foods such as turkey.
The Harvestmoon Christmas Porter probably would not go so well with turkey, and is a bit of a strange porter, especially with a little bit of a sourness in there. I wouldn’t necessarily say the sourness works here, and I’m not even sure that it’s intentional. It does have a bit of roast and nuts and plum, but it kind of gets canceled out by an overriding thinness to it that gets much worse as it warms up. I’d say that this one is definitely not a winner and certainly not very Christmasy, so if you are going to fire up a turkey then you might be better off with a nicer holiday beer (the Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale is certainly much tastier and might do the trick).
So today we had a couple of uninspiring porters, and while the style itself is perhaps a bit staid what with all of the crazy stouts coming out these days, these two particular examples were both quite poor. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the Japanese porter – in fact, we’ve already found a great one previously in the Baird Kurofune Porter, so hopefully we can find other local examples that are worthy of pointing out.