An early Christmas gift from Japan

Well friends, the holiday season is officially upon us. Let the month-long bacchanal of friends, fellowship, food and drink commence!

If the holidays tend to be time of traditional and cherished dishes, beer ought to be your passport to more novel flavours.

For adventurous drinkers who want more than seasonal spices and yet more dry-hopping, Christmas has come early now that the exquisite beers of Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery are finally available here in the UK. A family business based two hours from Tokyo, Kiuchi has traded since the 18th century and is more celebrated domestically for their sake and Umeshu – a liquor made with fermented fruit – both pleasing winter warmers in their own right.

But it’s the current generation of Kiuchis – Youichi and Toshiyuki - who have taken the novel step of branching out into small batch beer production in recent years. Suffice it to say the results are stellar and happily for us, well-suited to cold grey days and long nights by the fire.

Hitachino Nest Amber Ale – 6.0% ABV

Pouring a rich chestnut hue, the Amber Ale is ncomplex and spicy Brown Ale with a long bitter linger. The beer has a yeast cloud and is well carbonated from bottle conditioning. The aroma is of spicy and orangey dry hop notes reminiscent of Styrian Goldings with a rich toasted malt character. It’s quite dry on the palate with enough sweetness from the high ABV to carry a pretty hefty bitterness. Perfect served straight from the garage or windowsill at this time of year, or leave out of the fridge about an hour before enjoying. You want this beer about 10 – 14 C to sip beside the fireside.

Hitachino Nest – Japanese Classic Ale – 7.0% ABV

Pouring a deep orange, marmalade colour, the label boasts of maturing in cedar casks. There is a definite woody nose. Pencil shavings and a mineral character jostle with esters produced by their top fermenting yeast with a cheeky candy hit of Spangles - perfect for a season when the air is so thick with nostalgia and childhood memories.

The aroma develops into a complex green, light blackcurrant, and spicy woody character, rather like walking into a Sauna after a bracing jaunt through a snowy Scandinavian landscape. There is pleasant bitterness with dry malts, full-flavoured but never cloying despite its strength. Hugely evocative of long winter walks and sleighbell soundtracks.

You can find both these gorgeous Hitachino Nest beers online at Tesco and Beerhawk - a perfect gift for beerlover in your life (or indeed for yourself).

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