Beer: Hitachnio Nest Anbai Ale
Brewery: Kiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki, Japan)
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
7.5% ABV / 10 IBU
The Kiuchi Brwery has been continuously in operation since 1823—incidentally, six years prior to the founding of Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the U.S. The Kiuchi Brewery is perhaps best known for a line of beers called “Hitachino Nest,” first introduced 25 years ago and now ubiquitous at upscale Japanese restaurants. The Hitachino Nest line encompasses everything from saisons to stouts, but Anbai’s most decorated beer is the Hitachino Nest White Ale, a spiced witbier that won gold medals in two different iterations of the World Beer Cup.
Hitachino Nest White Ale is a solid offering in a very crowded class, and thus an extremely appealing alternative to Asahi or Sapporo, but not really remarkable. But Hitachino Nest Anbai Ale, which transforms the White Ale base into a salt and slightly tannic sour, dares to be different. As its name implies (and literally translates as), Anbai is “just right” in its execution. And even though it’s still on the more sour side and a little boozier than your average gose, the way it pays homage to the ancient German brewing tradition while championing ingredients that are distinctly Japanese, is terrific.
The wild card with Anbai Ale is the inclusion of Japanese sour green plums (ume). Combined with sea salt, the flavor is pungent and striking, much like umedoshi, dried Japanese plums that are both salty and sweet. When you add in some bitterness from the coriander and orange peel additions in the White Ale base, Anbai Ale is one of the few beers that totally embodies most of the basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Only thing missing here is umami, but to borrow a phrase from Meatloaf, four out of five ain’t bad.
For more info, check out Kiuchi Brewery here.