It's January in Japan, and the chocolate islands have sprung up at shopping malls, setting off a two-month love roller coaster that begins on Valentine's Day. On February 14th, ladies are supposed to give the guys they have eyes on some chocolate, and in a Japan-created twist, men are to reciprocate a month later on "White Day" (if they feel the love).
Not to be left out of the fun, many brewers large and small come out with chocolate beers around this time of year. Last year, Ise Kadoya released its seasonal Nut's Brown Porter, a sweet but not over-the-top offering meant to be paired with chocolate rather than be a replacement for it.
Well, it's time get get Nut's (sic) again!
First of all, the Nut's Brown Porter is meant to be a special treat, coming in at 1,000 yen instead of the usual 900 yen for Ise Kadoya 500ml bottles. That extra 100 yen, perhaps, goes toward the packaging, which makes the beer a ready-made gift for beer-loving man-friends.
After the unwrapping (tip for guys: re-use the red ribbon on White Day!), the beer pours a deep amber with little to no head. First taste: It's sweet. Probably because I just finished a much more bitter beverage. Deeper into the tasting I started to enjoy it more, remembering what I liked last year. Sure, it's a bit sweet compared to my usual top choices, but it's a pretty decent sweet.
I don't have any chocolate in the house to test out the pairing capabilities, but to be honest, this beer is sweet enough as it is. Give it a try, I advise, at your neighborhood craft bar.
And now on to the bitter beer that made the Nut's Brown seem so darn sweet: Ise Kadoya's American Amber Ale. I believe this to be the first time I've tried this seasonal, which I haven't seen bottled since I've been paying attention. A search online shows a few reviews from a couple years back but nothing recent. Although there's a nice balance, hops dominate, bringing something akin to a darker pale ale back in Oregon. This beer was nice, especially as it warmed up and let out its flavor. I'll definitely aim to try it again. Maybe I can drop some hints to my special person ahead of Valentine's Day: Skip the Nut's Brown Porter, and aim for hops.