Beer reviewsFood & DrinkJapan
Hitachino Nest Beers: Japan’s finest craft ales rated & ranked
All 12 available Hitachino Nest Beers reviewed, rated and ranked by the ever watchful (and slightly tipsy) owls at Methods Unsound.
All 12 available Hitachino Nest beers reviewed, rated and ranked by the watchful (and slightly tipsy) owls at Methods Unsound.
I’m not going to lie, I bought my first Hitachino Nest Beer purely because of the owl guy. He’s a terribly cute, rotund, big-eyed fella, and I am a sucker for exactly this type of cutesy corporate logo that only Japanese companies can get away with.
Luckily this was one of those rare occasions where my shallowness (similar to that of an 8 year-old girl) paid off, because those first Nest Beers were glorious. So rich, so complex, so joyful, these were some of the best craft beers I’ve ever had and my fridge has been constantly stocked with a handful ever since.
Hitachino Nest Beers are a product of the Kiuchi Brewey, based in the Japanese village of of Kounosu, the translation of which means ‘nest’. Kiuchi was established in 1823, so there’s more than 190 years of sake and shochu brewing experience going into every bottle of Nest Beer, which first travelled from Japan to Western shores in 2000.
As there are so many delicious brews available, and because they’re not particularly cheap, I made it my mission to try each and every one, in order to the rank them and recommend the very best.
Obviously these are my own personal preferences, and you will likely have a very different taste in beers from me, so take the following as my own subjective opinion, but hopefully you’ll find one of these to your liking…
12) Espresso Stout (7%)
Brewed using well-roasted espresso beans, it’s as black as Guinness and a strong 7% ABV this is surprisingly bland. There’s an initial wash of sour coffee that’s been sat in the pot too long, but it soon dissipates to nothing, probably mercifully. Not much to recommend here I’m afraid. 4/10
11) NEST BEER PALE ALE (5.5%)
Pours a warm dark orange. Fizzier and sprightlier than a standard pale ale. It has a thick, caramel sweetness. Although apparently made with “lots of malts and hops” from England, it’s tastes bizarrely hop-free, although it does have an almost floral, soapy after taste which I’m not a great fan of. Pretty gassy too. 6/10
10) Saison du Japon (5%)
It’s a funny one, it’s not really to my taste, as I don’t particularly enjoy the fruitier wit-style beers but it is light, refreshing and surprisingly drinkable. There’s a bitter effervescence that lingers, but overall it’s the subtle lemon flavour that your dominates your tastebuds. Definitely not sure about the pukey-green label. 6/10
9) Real Ginger Ale (8%)
The cheery creature on the bottle is a little grotesque and somewhat off-putting. Am I drinking a glass of his own squeezed out head-juice? Sick. This is like no other ginger ale I’ve tasted. It has the same caramel richness of the nest beers, and the ginger is ever so subtle. Not too sweet or fiery, just a soft almost appley bite that underlies the maltiness. It’s an interesting ale, although watch out as the 8% strength comes as a bit of a shocker if you’re not paying attention. 7/10
8) RED RICE ALE (7%)
Brewed using red rice. Red rice is genuinely a thing by the way. It’s nutty in flavour and has a high nutritional value. As for what kind of beer it makes, well it’s an interesting brew. Not like anything I’ve had before. Slightly fruity but with a wholesome, earthy finish. There’s a hint of sake in their too. Overall a complex, yet refreshing winner. Although my mouth’s tingling now, so I think I might be vaguely allergic to it. 7/10
7) Nest Beer Weizen (5.5%)
Pours a cloudy yellow, but a little lighter in tone than most wheat beers. It’s lovely, light fragrant taste. Easy on the palette, and very drinkable. Has a nice bitter tang on the aftertaste which contrasts with the initial sweetness. It’s very satisfying. 8/10
6) DAI DAI ALE (6.2%)
Very aromatic, with hints of sweet, natural fruitiness, particularly orange peel, which I am told is from the very rare type of orange called Fukure Mikan (Fuku is a ‘symbol of happiness’ and Kure means ‘coming’). There’s a lingering bitterness following the sweetness, perhaps leading you to believe it’s going to be richer than it really is, almost like a lager. But it is a refreshing, lovely drink that brightens your day. 8/10
5) Nest Beer XH Extra High (8%)
I’m not entirely sure what makes this ‘extra high’ – the giant XH logo on the black label looks terrifying – however I can happily reveal that it’s not filled with tarry blackness as you might assume, more a thick, sickly sweet number loaded with extra malt and hops to make a very decadent beer indeed. Like a liquidised form of dates and figs. This isn’t for large consumption, and perhaps may not pair well with many foods, but it’s a rich, naughty pleasure. 8/10
4) White Ale (5.5%)
A cloudy yellow beer. It’s the jewel of Hitachino’s crown and the one you’ll come across most frequently in the UK. It’s a delicate taste, the coriander and orange peel are much softer than you would expect. It’s a very easy drink, as it’s not as rich and complex as the others in the range. Sweet, crisp and refreshing. 8/10
3) Japanese Classic Ale (7%)
A recreation of the first Japanese beer made in the Edo period. It has a muddy orange colour, is lightly sparkling, but has a slightly bitter flavour. It’s an interesting taste, complex like most of the Hitachino range, despite it harking back to an ancient recipe. Thick, rich, subtlely sweet and eminently drinkable. Possibly the easiest drinker so far and the most similar to a traditional IPA. 8/10
2) Celebration Ale (9%)
Roast me like a suckling pig and stuff an orange in my mouth, I am in heaven. This may be too sweet for some, but for me this is gorgeous. Rich like treacle, with the orange and coriander offsetting it wonderfully, making for a… well not exactly light, but certainly refreshing brew and a pleasure to savour. 9/10
1) Nest Beer Amber Ale (6%)
Pours a medium brown, that you can’t see through. Really thick, almost chocolaty. Rich, full, slighty fruity, with the taste of figs and raisins. It’s a sumptuous drink, gorgeous and complex in texture. Tastes way stronger than its percentage suggests. It’s what got me hooked on Hitachino in the first place and frankly it’s a masterpiece. 9/10
For more of the latest and tastiest brews, check out our new craft beer reviews section including Pressure Drop’s mighty IIPA Bosko Absoluto.