Brooklyn Sorachi Ace was one of my favourite beers last year. It was light and fresh and complex and ever so long. And I had one glass of it at a beer dinner then never saw it again.
Sorachi Ace is a Japanese hop that is grown in fairly small quantities, so beers using it don’t come around too often. It characteristically tastes of lemon cream and can either be elegant and interesting or remind you a little too much of curry. The Brooklyn version was the only one I had ever tried so when these little beauties came into the shop I had to bring them home with me. I mean, just look at them. That cute little owl is just begging someone to take him home and play scrabble with him.
Hitochino Nest Nipponia, on the left, is as Japanese-y a beer as you could ask for. Described as an ‘ancient’ beer, it uses a type of barley that was created in Japan about 180 years ago but abandoned in favour of crops with higher yields. Kiuchi Brewery revived it, then made this pale ale using Sorachi Ace. It pours a very bright gold with a light head, and has a characteristic nose of lemongrass and candied citrus. There’s also a bit of peppery, sulphury, raw broccoli in there, and an eggy vanilla note that made me think of clafoutis made with physalis fruit. All of this follows through when you taste it, as well as some hefty bitterness, and the rich, slightly thick mouthfeel brings out the buttery nature of the hops. There’s also something rather musty about this beer, and a strong herbaceous woody flavour too. Reading that back it sounds like a big bag of what-the-fuck, but I promise you I really liked this!
Mr Cute thought it was perfect for exploring a virtual radioactive wasteland from his armchair. My only real problem with this beer is that as it warms up the diacetyl, which is the chemical that causes that buttery taste, becomes a little overbearing. Too much and it can start to taste a little rancid, and no-one wants rancid beer.
To stay vaguely on theme I made a kind of laksa for dinner. Anyone from Malaysia would probably be disgusted by this, but it only took ten minutes and all the ingredients were in my corner shop so its perfect for supper after work. The soup itself is just Thai green curry paste, coconut cream and stock, with fish sauce and fresh ginger to taste. Add a few cooked prawns and courgette and heat through, then ladle over cooked noodles. Top with coriander and a squeeze of lime, and Robert might well be your mother’s brother. It’s very good for colds, which is perfect as my nose has been taken over by a hagfish of late.
The second (and last, each of these babies cost me nearly £12) beer of the night was the Hitachino Nest White Ale. This is a Belgian style wheat beer brewed with coriander, orange peel and nutmeg. Like the Nipponia it’s a gorgeous colour, a pale creamy gold this time, with very little head. On the nose it’s predominantly the orange peel that comes through. There’s a little nutmeg spice and a little candied sugar too, a lot like pear drops. Unfortunately this combines to make a nose that is disconcertingly like Fanta. This is one of the most comfortable tasting beers I’ve ever had, thanks to the nutmeg which always reminds me of rice pudding and white sauce. There’s a little orange pith in there too, but I’m not sure if I can taste the coriander. My palate is not at full capacity at the moment (did you see the hagfish yet?) so that might be my failing. It’s an incredibly soft beer, with almost no bitterness at all. It’s a lovely witbier, and a great match for my spicy soup, but I wouldn’t pay £12 for it again.
And in case you were wondering, the White Ale also went brilliantly with the Cadburys Mini Egg ‘dessert pot’ I had for pudding.