山のきぶどう酒 - あさ開, 7% ABV, (Iwate, Japan)

50% 果汁 – made with 清酒、山ぶどう (Sake and grape juice)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C
  • Why I don’t love it: plain
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ¥1580 ($21)
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: No

Tasting Notes: cloudy reddish-purple, unfiltered juice-like viscosity, bits of pulp at the bottom of the glass. Grape juice and a bit of floral sake on the nose. Grape sweetness up front, 6/10 tart purple grape finish with 4/10 sourness in the mid, alcohol hits at the end. Very smooth (but low ABV) and drinkable. Nothing special though, just quality grape juice and clean sake. Too thin to use as a mixer.

Apple Cinnamon Ale – Sankt Gallen Brewery (Nagano, Japan)

Apple Cinnamon Ale (Autumn/Winter edition) – Sankt Gallen Brewery, 5% ABV, (Nagano, Japan)

Made with 信州伊那 apples

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C+
  • Why I don’t love it: not enough body
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥500
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: No

Tasting Notes: pours red tea brown, quickly dissipating head, medium CO2 with bits of micro, ringed retention, minimal slippery retention, very few slow-moving CO2 streams. Some woody unfiltered apple juice and honey on the nose. Creamy up front, minor apple juice, traces of cinnamon, apricot, 4/10 sweetness, slight 5/10 semi-sharp bitter finish. Medium complexity, low-medium depth, okay carry, medium length, watery in the middle. Main complain is that neither the apple nor the cinnamon are prominent enough to discern – the bitterness kills all the other flavours. Lackluster compared to their full-bodied stout counterparts.

Sankt Gallen Stouts (Nagano, Japan)

Sankt Gallen Brewery Stouts

1) Imperial Chocolate Stout (2012), 47 IBU, 8.5% ABV, (Kanagawa, Japan)

On the front label:

“高温で丹念に焙煎した「チョコレートモルト」でほろ苦いビターチョコ風味を表現した黒ビールです。チョコレートモルトを含む全ての原料を通常黒ビールの2.5倍以上使用した、超濃厚なフルボディ。”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: A-
  • Why I like it: Rich
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥500
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes: pours almost jet black/brown, small head, small CO2, ringed and thin layered retention, half-runny lacing. Strong roasted coffee and malts on the nose. Buttery mouthfeel, rush of rich 80% cacao / half fresh roast coffee, 3/10 sweetness, very minor sour clean finish, long mellow bitter coating in the rear half of the mouth. High depth, medium complexity, excellent carry, long length, full-bodied. Loads of chocolate & coffee on the exhale. Extremely well executed beer; I’d give it a higher rating if I loved this style more.

2) Sweet Vanilla Stout (St. Valentine’s Day 2012), 28 IBU, 6.5% ABV, (Kanagawa, Japan)

On the front label:

“アロマホップの代わりに、パプアニューギニア産のバニラビーンズで甘く優しい香りを溶け込ませた黒ビールです。後味にはバニラチョコのような風味が残ります。通常より若干濃厚なミディア。”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B+
  • Why I like it: Very drinkable
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥500
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes: pours coffee brown, sticky lacing, small head, thin retention, small and micro CO2. Lots of chocolate on the nose, some roasted coffee. 6/10 sweet aromatic chocolate mixed with roasted coffee and vanilla undertones. Great body up front but ends with a partially watery tingly carbonated finish. Medium-high depth, medium complexity, fair carry, long length. Overall quite polished but the finish is somewhat thin.

3) Orange Chocolate Stout (2012), 24 IBU, 6.5% ABV, (Kanagawa, Japan)

On the front label:

“オレンジの香るビターテイストの黒ビールです。「チョコレートモルト」を使用した芳醇な黒ビールにオレンジの爽やかな香りが華を添える。オレンジは果汁もピール(皮)も丸ごと使用しているため、飲んだ後の余韻にまで爽やかな香りが残ります”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: A-
  • Why I like it: Unique
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥500
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Definitely

Tasting Notes: pours brown with a shade of orange, small head, ringed layered lacing. Chocolate orange on the nose, just like Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Candied orange up front mellowed by rich dark chocolate and bitter coffee malts, orange persists through finish and ends with a bittersweet deep ending. Hints of figs in there as well. Medium-high complexity, medium-high depth, med-long length, good carry. Great balance of chocolate and orange, definitely worth a try.

柚子と生姜のお酒 (Yuzu and Ginger Liqueur) – Kikkoman, 10% ABV, (Tokyo, Japan)

On the front label:

“「徳島県産柚子」使用、「高知県産生姜」使用 (Made with Tokushima Yuza and Kochi Ginger)”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B+
  • Why I like it: Complex and deep
  • Where I got it: Kichijioji (吉祥寺), Tokyu dept. store, Jan-2012
  • How much: ¥780 ($10.50), 500ml
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Yep
  • Would I recommend this to liqueur afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes (straight, chilled): pours cloudy yellow, medium viscosity, sugary sweet bitter lemon on the nose, hints of bitter seville orange as well. Tastes of bitter lemon+orange, a bit of chamomile, mild ginger burn and fragrant ginger flavour. Excellent balance of fruit-bitter-spicy. Good sweetness and mouthfeel.

とろける黒糖梅酒 (“melting brown sugar plum liqueur”) - チョーヤ, 14% ABV, Japan

On the back label:

“毎晩たのしみたい食後の梅酒。黒糖で育てた、まったりとろける味わいをたのしみください。(rough translation until I improve my Japanese: “The plum wine after the food which every night we would like to enjoy. You raised with the black sugar, with please wait and/or enjoy the [ro] [ke] [ru] tasting.”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B
  • Why I like it: rich flavour and aroma
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, ドン・キホーテ, 池袋
  • How much: <¥500
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Yep
  • Would I recommend this to liqueur afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes (on the rocks): pours dark brown, lighter than syrup viscosity. Tastes of deep half-aromatic brown sugar (demerara), half sweet plum finish with a hint of sourness. Good balance and liking the brown sugar in there.

(straight, chilled): caramel and heavy brown sugar on the nose, thick viscosity. 9/10 sweetness up front, tart plum in the background after the brown sugar rush.

Yebisu Beer – Sapporo Brewery

1) All Malt Beer, 5% ABV

On the front:

“YEBISU BEER is a rich and mellow premium beer brewed from 100% fine malt and select hops with Sapporo’s traditional art.”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C-
  • Why I like it: N/A
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥230
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Nah

Tasting Notes: pours golden yellow, minimal head, small carbonation, ringed retention, minor lacing. Malted barley and bread on the nose. Major malts and barley up front that persist through to the end. 3/10 sweetness, aggressive hoppy 6/10 heavy bitterness, lingers on the center of the tongue, bitter follow-through, long finish. Medium-bodied, low-medium complexity, long-finish, good carry. This is definitely a food-beer; it goes well with tonkatsu, curry rice, sushi, any Japanese food really. But as a session beer, not much in terms of explosive depth or flavour epiphanies. Watery finish.

2) Silk Yebisu (white can) , 5.5% ABV

On the front:

“Brewed with wheat malt, fine barley malt and select hops for an elegant flavor and creamy ‘smooth as silk’ taste.”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C
  • Why I kinda like it: It is silky and easy-to-drink
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥230
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Nada

Tasting Notes: pours golden yellow again, small head, smaller than above CO2, less CO2 streams, ringed retention again, same stickyish lacing. A bit sweeter nose and clean honey. Tastes 6/10 sweet (sweeter than #1), very very mild bitterness, crisp, almost no bitter finish, slight gumminess. Mild hops, hints of bitter lemon peel and aranciata. Low-medium depth, low-medium complexity, medium length, okay carry. A much “cleaner” finish with a creamier backdrop. More enjoyable than the gold can.

3) Yebisu Black (black can) , 5% ABV

On the front:

“The premium black beer is brewed using dark roasted malt and caramel malt in good balance, and fine malt and select hops for a rich aroma and hearty roasted flavor.”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C-
  • Why I don’t like it: conflicting sensations (light vs dark)
  • Where I got it: Tokyo
  • How much: ¥230
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: No

Tasting Notes: pours coffee black, minimal head, ringed retention, micro CO2, CO2 streams mainly around the perimeter. Aluminum and mild dark malts on the nose. Very bubbly aggressive up front, thick rich back of the palate clinging malts in the mid, soft bitter coffee finish. The over-aggressive CO (light beer) start doesn’t transition very well into the heavier roasted malts (dark beer), plus throw in a touch of aluminum flavour and it is slightly off-putting. Low-medium complexity, medium depth, medium length, decent carry. Not terrible by any means, but has a few flaws.

America’s Original Pumpkin Ale – Buffalo Bill’s Brewery (USA)

America’s Original Pumpkin Ale – Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, 5.2% ABV, (Seattle/Portland/Berkeley, USA)

On the label;

“Ale brewed with real pumpkin and natural spice flavor”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C+
  • Why I like it: spices in beer, my fav
  • Where I got it: Legacy Liquor Store
  • How much: $17 (after 10%)  for 6pack, Oct 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Yes

Tasting notes: Pours cloudy malted orange with small head, small floating retention, torrents of fast-moving CO2 streams, glass-clinging/sliding lacing, micro CO2. Pumpkin and cinnamon/nutmeg + malt on the nose. Burst of nutmeg/cinnamon up front, sharp and heavily carbonated, light-medium mouthfeel, some malts and pumpkin, carbonated finish. Not quite balanced – overly carbonated, good flavour, but not much carry in the watery finish. Medium complexity, medium depth, short-medium length, not-good-enough carry, medium-bodied. Spices and flavour are good, but burpy carbonation and watery finish no good.

Brother David’s double abbey style ale – Anderson Valley Brewing (Boonville, CA, USA)

Brother David’s double abbey style ale – Anderson Valley Brewing, 9% ABV, (Boonville, California)

On the label:

“Brewed in a cloistered nook of remote Anderson Valley, this handcrafted Belgian-style strong ale may be the closest you’ll ever get to heaven on earth. Made in very limited quantity, it is malty, tangy and a little wild, it is sure to raise your spirits. We suffered to brew this enormously complex beer so that you can enjoy it completely guilt free. Never heat pasteurized nor sterile filtered. For maximum flavour, enjoy at between 48F and 55F. Brewed from malted barley, hops, water, demerara sugar and special trappist yeast.”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B-
  • Why I like it: smooth malty potent
  • Where I got it: St. Johns Liquor Store (Port Moody)
  • How much: $11 for 1pt.6floz. (750ml), Oct 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Yes

Tasting notes: pours hazelnut brown with minimal head, ringed retention, show moving lacing, super micro CO2, scattered slow moving CO2 streams. Dark malty nose with a bit of scotch. Strong brown sugar up front, 7/10 sweetness, mixed with deep malts, slight caramel and very apparent ethyl alcohol backdrop. Slightly dark fruity. Silky carbonation and buttery mouthfeel. Low-medium complexity, med-high depth, excellent carry, medium-long length, decent carry. Potent high ABV beer, but not complex enough for me to try again.

Coney Island Albino Python – Shmaltz Brewing Co. (NY, USA)

Coney Island Albino Python – Shmaltz Brewing Co., (Clifton Park, NY, USA)

On the bottle:

“Shmaltz brewing company reveals a most charming, attraction: the sensual dance of provocative hops & spices entwined with a sumptuous & elegant malt body. Taste the rapture. Surrender to temptation. Seduce and be seduced. This white lager is pasteurized but may have a dusting of yeast. Agitate gently before serving. Indulge your inner beer freak!”

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B+
  • Why I like it: very balanced – [malt-hops-bitter-flavours-spices]
  • Where I got it: Brewery Creek
  • How much: <$8 for 1pt.6floz. (750ml), 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Nope
  • Would I recommend this to beer afficianados: Yes

Tasting notes: pours slightly hazy grapefruit peel pink/orange, almost zero head, minimal ringed retention, ultra micro CO2, slow-moving bubbles. Very muted nose of nothing when chilled, at around 17C there are lots of malts. Predominantly the hop+breadiness+honeyed malts of a lager up front, intertwined with traces of cinnamon-ginger-cloves, cane sugar 3/10 sweetness in the mids. Finishes with a very soft slightly dry bitterness+aniseed. Medium high complexity, low-medium depth, medium length, medium-high carry. This beer has superb balance and transitions.

Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattan

Ingredients:

  • 2.5oz Bourbon or Rye (I used Rye)
  • 0.5oz Sweet Vermouth (Red, I used Rosso)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 Maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions: Shake, double-strain and garnish

Rating: D (below average strong alcoholic classic cocktail, causes a gag reflex 1/4 through) (above recipe is NOT good, need at least 25% vermouth, see below)

What is happening to the ingredients: The spiciness, tip of tongue tingle, and warming effect of the rye is negated by the sweetness of the sweet vermouth, creating a more smoother drinking experience. The Angostura bitters adds a bitter finish to round out the drink. Can’t say I like this drink. I like the characteristics of the rye and the bitters by themselves. Individually tasting the sweet vermouth I can say that it is the culprit that is ruining the drink. Must retry with a different and NEWLY OPENED bottle of vermouth.

Re-tasted 7/14/2015 with IBA Official Recipe

  • 5cl rye whiskey
  • 2cl sweet vermouth
  • dash of angostura bitters
  • cherry garnish

Notes: This time I muddled 6 fresh Ranier cherries, shake & strain, garnish. Very smooth now with almost 50% vermouth; more spice, bitterness, and the alcohol comes last. Rating upgraded to C+. Here’s a fantastic article on how to make a good Manhattan.