For the most part, when you read about something in Japan you end up shaking your head in disbelief. This usually happens when you’re surfing the great interwebs and come across something like this: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/blogs/the-backpacker/is-this-the-craziest-place-on-earth-20120731-23bwr.html
Or you chance upon a clip on YouTube that looks like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzC4hFK5P3g&feature=fvwrel
Assuming I haven’t sent you completely over the edge with that, let’s continue. I’m not a big fan of stereotyping people, but let’s be honest, on the evidence presented I think it’s fairly safe to say that the Japanese are capable of producing some quite bizarre stuff. After all, this blog has previously featured a Red Rice Ale from Hitachino.
So when I came across the Coedo Beniaka, I was surprised, yet completely nonplussed at the same time. The bottle seems innocent enough, with it’s proclamation that it’s a “premium lager”.
Slightly closer inspection of the label reveals this concoction’s secrets however. The brew is made with roasted sweet potato. Specifically, Kintoki sweet potatoes from the Bushu area of Japan. Now let’s be honest, if anyone was going to make a sweet potato lager it was going to be the Japanese. And if anyone was going to make a sweet potato lager that tastes absolutely nothing like a ‘normal’ lager, it was going to be the Japanese.
On a side note, what was the deal with the dude in the pink grandma-fat-suit in that clip? I mean, how much acid was dropped in making that?!
Back to the beer though. Coedo Brewery have only operated since 1996, so they lack the ‘old-world brewing’ history of many beer-makers out there. However, these guys are legitimately serious about their beer. Not only is their motto “Beer Beautiful”, but their crest consists of stylised hop flowers. Best of all, they have an awesomely slick website.
The use of sweet potato in the beer contributes to its clear amber-red colour (as well it should, seeing as Beniaka means ‘crimson red’ in Japanese) and there’s a brief, excitable period where a thin head forms, before quickly subsiding.
On the nose there’s some caramel sweetness stemming from the sweet potato, as well as some earthy aromas. Taste-wise there’s a good hit of sweet potato which brings about a pleasant sweetness, some malty, spicy characters, and an intriguing dry finish. There’s a fair whack of alcohol that comes through (which is fair enough considering this particular brew weighs in at 7%), but the overall impression is mixed.
It’s certainly unique in its style – after all, I can’t say I know any other sweet potato beers. It is however, enjoyable. I can’t say it’s one you would drink a six-pack of though.
All in all, there’s something – to me – delightfully Japanese about the beer. It’s not quite what you expect, and deep-down it’s quite simple. But within that simplicity there’s enough to keep you interested and satisfied.
And of course, like any good Japanese experience, it leaves you just a tad perplexed.