By now, you’ve probably seen the clip of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Asahi Super Dry commercial. Y’know, the one where he chug-a-lugs a big ol’ mug of refreshing golden-yellow lager? That’s just the kind of pitcher I want on my team.
But while Dice-K might enjoy quaffing a fine light beer like Asahi or Sapporo after a 12-strikeout complete game, he should also be aware that the art of craft-brewed ales is alive and well in his home country. The Kiuchi Brewery, in Kounsosu, Naka-shi, Ibaraki — try saying that five times buzzed — has been brewing sake since 1823, but has been making beer for only the past decade. While embracing the classic European styles, the brewery adds an unmistakable Eastern accent to its creations.
Take the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, which, in addition to Hallertauer hops and Flaked Barley malt, achieves its complex palate — strawberry-sweet, a bite of bitterness — with sake grains. It’s spicy. It’s ricey. It’s utterly unique.
The Japanese Classic Ale is, at base, an English-style IPA. But it’s cedar-aged and bottle-conditioned, resulting in an ineffably woody, peppery, piquant character to complement the astringent citric tang of its Kent Goldings and Challenger hops.
The witbier is an excellent Belgian style, perfect for the warmer weather, and Hitachino’s White Ale is an exemplary representative: creamy in consistency and lightly hopped, its flavor is deepened with additions of coriander, orange peel, and nutmeg.
Finally, the jet-black Sweet Stout, Hitachino’s version of the milk stout, counterbalances the pleasing bitterness of the coffee, chocolate, and roasted notes with the addition of lactose sugar.
So next time Matsuzaka-san is protecting a five-run lead in the seventh, crack open one of these before he hands the ball to the bullpen. Beer is universal.
Available for $4.25–$5 for a 12-ounce bottle at Downtown Wine & Spirits, 225 Elm Street, in Somerville. Call 617.625.7777.