Japanese wheat beer? In my Tesco? It’s more common than you think.
This certainly wasn’t what I expected to find when I popped out for a a bunch of bananas. Aside from the initial surprise, however, much of Hitachino’s White Ale is as expected. The label is very nicely designed, using a black text/blue background mix reminiscent of a Ghibli opening credits sequence. And the owl! I am in love with that cute little owl. I’ll be keeping the cap to put on my pinterest or whatever.
White ale is not very white. It’s made from a wheat beer base, but to that Hitachino has added orange zest and nutmeg. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that it pours pale orangey yellow and cloudy, with a smell like oranges and nutmeg.
The first taste is overwhelmingly of nutmeg, then orange, then bitterness that tastes more like it comes from orange rind than from hops. It’s a little sour, but again that feels like it comes more from the addition of citrus than any yeasty byproducts. A while afterwards, I smack my lips and come across a quiet, biscuit aftertaste almost too small to notice.
People often mention balance when they’re talking about beer (or at least I do). It’s far from being the most important factor – there’s plenty of great beers where the flavours don’t balance out at all; some are even great precisely because they’re unbalanced. But there’s a limit. Hitachino’s White Ale tastes like someone has grated nutmeg into fizzy, bitter orange juice. As much as I love the owl on the label, I can’t bring myself to love this beer.
It’s cute, and a nice novelty. But I’d recommend just appreciating the label, rather than actually trying to drink any.