I've had nothing but good experiences with Hitachino beers so I jumped at the chance to pick up a bottle of their winter seasonal Commemorative Ale. The label isn't terribly informative so I wasn't real sure what to expect from this beer. All I knew at the time of purchase is that this beer is 9% alcohol and was brewed with coriander, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. Sound festive? Yeah, not really... but it still sounds pretty good and considering Hitachino beers have been quite good to me so far, I took the gamble and got a bottle.
The Hitachino line of beers continues to surprise me. These unassuming little bottles of Japanese beer don't have exciting packaging or particularly exciting names, but each beer I've had has been absolutely amazing. This beer, the XH, was "matured in Sake casks" and has a slick black limited edition style label. While pouring this beer into my snifter I could already pick up on the super sweet fruit aromas that were hiding in the stubby little bottle. My first thought was of blood oranges or kiwis. The fruity flavor component is much close to a ripe apple. The XH isn't a fruit beer though, it's a strong ale that has a hint of apple when you first take a sip. Also noticeable right off the bat are the hops. This isn't a strongly hopped beer, but the hops are apparent and nicely balanced by malts and an oaky flavor. That oaky flavor comes from this beers signature characteristic, the Sake cask aging.
This is the second Hitachino Nest beer that I've had this year. My first was the Red Rice Ale which really surprised me. I wasn't expecting a Japanese rice beer to be so flavorful and ...good. So when I saw the Hitachino Nest White Ale at the store a couple weeks ago I just had to get it. Part of me thought that maybe the Red Rice Ale was a fluke and the other beers from Kuichi will be more like what I'd expected. Today I finally decide to open up this White Ale and give it due diligence. I soon noticed that Kiuchi had done it again, first impressions of this beer were pretty surprising. The best way to describe the Hitachino Nest White Ale is to think of a traditional Witbier that has was brewed with a little bit of lemon and orange. The appearance of this beer is what you'd expect from other Wits, though it is a little darker yellow and slightly more opaque. All of the other flavors in the beer are signatures of the Wit style. This beer is sour and a little spicy but everything is balanced nicely by the sweet citrus flavors.
I was expecting a run of the mill Asian rice lager when I picked up a single bottle of the Hitachino Nest. The label on this beer looks like a trippy 70s Anime cartoon (I guess the kids call that a Manga...). So what does the label have to say about this beer? Well, there are some bits in Japanese... but other than that I just see the name of the beer and the importer's sticker. Red Rice Ale isn't a terribly descriptive name, but then neither is Hitachino Nest... unless that means something in the Japanese home market. After drinking this Red Rice Ale I'm convinced the Hitachino is a bird known for being slightly fruity, rich in flavor and it's red-orange color.