Not only is Hitachino’s new SF location the first in the US, it’s their first taproom outside of Japan. Even within its own country, there aren’t a lot of options— the Hitachino Brewing Lab Tokyo Station which opened in late 2015, is Hitachino’s first Japanese location outside of their Nukada Brewery. Point being, San Franciscans should be feeling pretty special to have received Hitachino Wagyu & Beer.
Japanese culture is known for careful attention to detail in just about every facet of what they do and Hitachino Nest beer is no different. While we recently broke down the menu — including Wagyu pairings and bar snacks served in sake cups — along with how to get a reservation, there’s more to know about the beer being poured here. The bar is pouring six Hitachino beers, plus three seasonally-rotated “special releases,” which are only found in the San Francisco location. Here’s a deep dive into the beers that are currently being poured in the “softly” opened space.
Hitachino Nest White Ale
Hitachino’s flagship beer is a most delicate endeavor. There’s a rare balance in their use of coriander, which many brewers often lose a grip on. Hold your glass up by the window and the sun pierces through the light color of the brew. This aptly award-winning beer has subtle orange peel and nutmeg notes and it’s a beautiful product. Understanding the precision of Hitachino Nest White Ale opens up the palette to Hitachino’s full library of beers.
Saison du Japon
There are saisons and then there is this, a very Japanese saison. Saison du Japon uses malted koji rice, which is commonly used for sake, giving that bold sake-like finish to it. The use of Yuzu gives this beer an interesting tartness and it’s utterly drinkable at just five percent ABV.
3 Days (Special Release)
There’s an incredible story behind how this Ale was actually created by accident. In March of 2011, the deadly Tōhoku earthquake swept through Japan and took out the electricity in Hitachino’s Kiuchi brewery. The fermentation had already begun in the mash tanks and they had no choice but to let it keep fermenting until the power eventually came back in three days.
While the initial batch was limited to 8,000 bottles, 3 Days Beer was so well-received that now it’s an occasional staple. The lengthy fermentation process yields a nine percent ABV, that’s tart with a syrupy malt profile, distinct sour funkiness and prominent alcohol on the nose.
Amber Ale (Special Release)
This is what Amber Ales used to taste like. With the proliferation of IPA’s, quality American Amber Ales seem to have become an afterthought, but this is a worthy throwback. What Hitachino Amber gives away in sessionability, it makes up for in flavor. It’s sweet and true to form with distinct Japanese high-kilned malt aroma and finish, plus Chinook, Simcoe, and Cascade hops for bittering.
This is a very clean-drinking German style weizen (wheat beer). The banana tones are reminiscent of the classic Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and once the Hitachino Weizen warms up, you can pick up clove aroma and a vanilla finish.
Real Ginger Brew
Brewed with fresh raw ginger, this spiced ale smells like holiday gingersnaps. It’s strong at eight percent and is a fine use of ginger. Let’s face it, does anyone know ginger like Japan?
Japanese Classic Ale
Japanese Classic Ale seeks to re-create the first Japanese Ale made in the Edo period. Made with Chinook, Perle, and Kent Golding British hops, it brings to mind the clean ale that Japanese businessmen drink after work in large quantities, except aged in cedar barrels. Don’t be alarmed, the cedar comes through masterfully — like some utopian Japanese-style IPA. This might be the coolest, most unusual beer of the bunch.
Nipponia (Special Release)
Nipponia is made with 100 percent Japanese ingredients, including ancient Japanese Kaneko Golden barley and Sorachi Ace hops. Sorachi Ace hops were developed for Sapporo in the mid-80’s and have since been notably used by Brooklyn Brewery for their popular Sorachi Ace Saison. Nipponia is a wonderful Belgian Golden Ale reminiscent of the notable “Mischief” Golden Ale by Placentia’s The Bruery. There’s also a red wine barrel-aged version of Nipponia, but it’s only available in Japan (for now).
Red Rice Ale
Outside of the White Ale, this might be the most easily drinkable Hitachino beer. It uses red Kodaimai rice (which is a lot of fun to say: koh-dye-ee-mai), and sake yeast. The ruby red colored beer even has hints of strawberry aroma and it checks in at a firm seven percent ABV.
The bar at Hitachino Beer & Wagyu is now open at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; bar snacks are served starting at 6 p.m. Stay tuned for more info when the wagyu tasting menu is officially available for reservations; it’s currently in soft opening mode.