Beers of Japan – part 8, Nara

A long time ago, before Tokyo or even Kyoto were Japan’s capital, the ancient city of Nara was the seat of government. These days, it’s a relatively small city, mostly famous for its enormous Buddha statue and deer who’ve learned to bow in exchange for food.

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Unless you drop your crackers on the ground, in which case all manners go out the window

Fortunately for me, there’s more to it than just that: the area also offers a number of bars selling local craft beer.

Nara Brewing Co, Monolith 5.8%

Monolith is a SMaSH (single malt, single hop for those allergic to jargon) American IPA. It uses German two-row malt and Mosaic hops. Already I’m expecting this to taste of spring.

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Each beer comes served on a card with the corresponding tap number

Monolith is hazy, sunshine gold with a thick, fluffy head. The aroma is mild, with characteristic Mosaic notes of tropical fruits, mango and grapefruit, followed up with a herbaceous, grassy twist. The palate gets a shock of bubbles first, but then those tropical fruit notes follow through. It’s dry, which keeps it from feeling overindulgent, and leaves a lingering, tangy orange finish.

Maybe I was just thirsty, but I really enjoyed this beer. 4/5

Okuyamato Beer, Herbal Ale 5.0%

Brewed with locally grown rice and using orange peel, coriander, lemongrass, rosehip, and nutmeg additions, this herbal ale already sounds less like a beer and more like a curry.

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Eagle-eyed readers will spot I forgot to move the other beers out of shot

The Herbal is the colour of marmalade and very cloudy. The aroma is mostly nutmeg with a hint of coriander: unsurprising given the additions.

Then it hits the tongue. Holy shit, there is a lot going on here.

Lemon leads, rounding off to lemongrass. It goes from refreshing and citrussy to surgical disinfectant and strangely numbing over the course of a few seconds. The nutmeg finish is just plain odd.

This beer tastes like an experiment, and I’m afraid I disagree with the hypothesis. 1/5

Nara Brewing Co, Woody Poco 4.3%

An old English ale aged with roasted oak chips? I’m listening.

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Walnut in colour and completely clear, Woody Poco has a very faint plummy malt sweetness on the nose. The flavour is where things start to get interesting: plum, then mild oak smoke, maturing into fruity red wine. The ale rounds off into a sweet, slightly spicy finish.

It’s not blowing anyone’s socks off, but this is a decent beer – more suited for the winter months. 3/5

Nara Brewing Co, K-Tripel 9.5%

This Belgian-style Tripel has been aged for months with lightly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans. I’m expecting something interesting here.

K-Tripel colour adjusted
Again, if all the beers are the same price, I’m honour-bound to order the strongest one

K-Tripel is pale amber and slightly translucent, sporting a thick, white head. The coffee beans appear first in the aroma: they’re light and fruity, with notes of raspberry. It’s the same story on the palate. It’s weird to be getting so many coffee flavours from a beer this light, but the effect is startlingly good. An edge of alcoholic warmth reminds you this is a tripel. Then a hint of smokiness on the finish, kept fresh by the fruity sweetness.

This is amazing. I want three more. 5/5

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