Beers of Japan – part 5, Spring Valley Brewery

One disadvantage of drinking beer in Japan is that serving sizes are usually very small, so you don’t get to enjoy each beer for very long.

One advantage of drinking beer in Japan is that serving sizes are small, so you can try more different kinds.

And so having already tried four different beers today, I move onto another brewery two streets down to subject myself to a six glass tasting platter. The sacrifices I make for this blog, eh?

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From left to right: 496, Copeland, Afterdark, On the Cloud, Daydream, Jazzberry

496 6.5%

The enigmatically named 496 claims to defy categorisation, with a description asserting that it is unlike any other kind of beer.

This IPA is pale amber and clear, and gives off aromas of mandarin orange, straw, and pine resin. There’s more mandarin on the palate to start, with a little more resin joining later on and a sweet orange juice finish. It’s certainly orangey. I’m less convinced by its claims to be a new genre of beer. 2/5

Food pairing: meat miso macaron. Honestly, this pairs really nicely with the beer. It’s just weird as hell eating miso and meat inside a meringue shell.

Copeland 5.5%

This pilsner is gold and very clear. The hints of butter and corn on the nose were expected. The tomato notes were more of a surprise. It’s like I’ve just opened a bag of Tangy Toms.

Tangy-Toms-Small_300

The taste is bitter for a pilsner, with notes of butter and…god damnit, more tomatoes. This is the first time I’ve encountered that flavour in a beer, and hopefully the last. 1/5

Food pairing: olives in dashi broth. The meaty olives and rich, fishy broth make a great snack, but don’t pair especially well with the beer. Maybe I should bring them some Tangy Toms next time I visit.

Afterdark 6.5%

Looking at this beer, I’m not entirely sure of the style. It’s very dark ruby or garnet in colour, and clear when held to the light. Cacao nibs hit very clearly on the nose, followed by more chocolate on the palate. Despite those flavours, it’s a light, dry beer, with a long, blueberry and chocolate finish. A decent dark lager, 3/5

Food pairing: white chocolate coated pecans. I’m dubious about this one at first, suspecting the brewers have taken the lazy route of “chocolate pairs with chocolate”. But then I go back to the beer having eaten a couple of nuts: it’s a little smokier now, more savoury in comparison. Umami, even. The sweet chocolate/savoury beer combination is a good one.

On the Cloud 5.5%

Surprisingly clear for a wheat beer, On the Cloud is pale gold with only the barest hint of translucency.

Wheat is highly prominent on the nose, with lemon zest and a touch of grass backing it up. The mouthfeel is dominated by the bubbles, the gas of which I suppose is meant to represent the cloud we’re on. But beyond the fizz and an undertone of wheat sweetness, there’s no real flavour to this beer. A little more lemon sourness on the finish, very faintly, and that’s it.

I wonder if positioning this on the tasting list directly after a dark lager was the best move. 1/5

Food pairing: caprese salad (but no mozzarella and the basil is in mochi form). Yuck.

Daydream 5.0%

This yuzu-infused beer is cloudy and pale yellow. We’ve seen previously how yuzu can give beer a delightful, citrus flavour and aroma. On this occasion, it makes the beer smell like disinfectant.

On tasting, I start to believe this is yuzu juice with a little beer in it, rather than the other way round. Some other flavours arrive slowly: pineapple, peach, a slightly numbing, peppery aftertaste. But the yuzu stands strong through the whole ordeal. Not one I’d order again. 1/5

Food pairing: bamboo shoots in sancho pepper marinade. These are a fucking revelation. Screw the beer, I want to order a whole plate of this.

Jazzberry 5.0%

Raspberry beer brewed using wine yeast: I’ll admit, my expectations for this beer were not that high. Pinky orange and ever so slightly cloudy, this beer smells (unsurprisingly) of raspberry. A touch of earthiness is the first clue there’s wine yeast involved. There’s no earthiness on the palate, however: raspberry hits hard and fast up front, with mellower grape flavours following close behind.

Despite those low initial expectations, I don’t hate it. Jazzberry is doing what it set out to do: it brings the refreshing, fruity flavours you’re looking for after an evening guzzling grilled barbecue meat at an izakaya. 2/5

Food pairing: sake-marinated pickles and brie. The pickles are inspired. An obvious pairing, perhaps, but one I’m very much enjoying. The brie, not so much.

 

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