Ginger is a sweet, tangy, heaty, spicy and potent root. So what is it doing in a beer? The better question is why not put it in a beer? Exactly. Why not, thats the beauty of craft beer. We can design and brew practically anything we want with anything we want! Hitachino Nest, an award winning brewery from Japan has created a Real Ginger Beer for the Japanese and North American Market.
This beer starts off in the usual manner brewed with marris otter, munich, crystal and chocolate malt. Hops added are chinook, perle, and styrian golding. But then raw ginger is added into the mix adding rich aromas and flavor to a beer that ends up at 7% abv with just 18 IBUs. I have had a few ginger beers before, and most of them have been light, pale yellow beers with very little character and a somewhat forced ginger flavor that does not meld well with the beer, or enhance its flavors. But I can tell you now that this ginger ale made it all the way over here from Japan for good reason.
The Ginger Brew comes in a short 33oml bottle and is available at the LCBO and much of the United States. I wans’t quite sure at what temperature to serve this beer at, but at 7% I knew it wasn’t going to be just another light and fizzy ginger beer. I have also had other beers from Hitachino Nest before, so I had faith in the craftsmanship.
I opened it up cool around 8C (45F) and poured it into a tulip glass. The pour was smooth and clean with a slight oil like consistency. It build a gorgeous deep amber brown beer with rich copper reds and golden shades of brunt orange and brown sugar glowing out from it. A sturdy and densely packed one and half inch head build up an egg shell, creamy white foam with a frothy cap. A slight haze and deep rich color prevented much light from getting though proving a richly focused beer. This was really a striking beer that so far and had me very excited.
The nose was warming and malty sweet with a perfect blend of rich caramel and brown sugar malts and the distinct smooth heat of ginger. Warming spices come in off the back end of the beer and hints at herbs, soft fruits, and a touch of yeast. Whats most prominent is the melted caramel scent that has been invigorated by the power of the ginger, and the blend is just perfect.
Like the nose, the taste is perfectly paired. Warm malts wash smoothly over your palate with an oil like creaminess and a big round mouthfeel. The malt is widely complex and shows flavors of fresh grains, brown sugar, dark toffee and consistently a heat and spice from sweet ginger. Go grab some ginger, and peel off the skin with a spoon, then just smell the oils that are present in the raw golden white and yellow flesh. That is the fresh, mellow sweet, slightly spicy, and warming sensation that the ginger contributes to this beer.
Rather than trying to go it on its own, the ginger is worked masterfully into the deep flavors of this beer and has actually created a remarkable brew. Hop flavors are restrained but do add some herbal and floral aromas, and the touch of bitter balanced out sweet malts and a honey like sugar. Biscuit and slightly tart dried fruits make their way in the back of this beer as well adding further layers of flavor and depth.
Thats the key to this beer. It is not a one sided ginger beer – it has depth and complexity showing ginger essence on every level. The mouthfeel fits the beer perfectly too with a light carbonation but overall a creamy smooth, and lightly thick texture that coats your palate and sooths your tongue. A touch of earthy dry hops help the beer quench rather than stick, finishing off with hints of spice, heat and sweet ginger.
This was very well done, and is easily the best ginger beer I have ever had. I will be very excited to try it with Asian dishes made with ginger, but also burgers, steak, roast beef, and sharp cheeses will work fabulously with this fascinating and enjoyable beer.