This Tokyo Swallows Baseball Beer surprised me with its aroma. It reminded me, ever so slightly, of “Duchesse”, that beautiful Belgian ale that is becoming increasingly easy to find in Tokyo.
Poured straight from the bottle into a pint glass, this beer has a hazy straw color to it and a thin head that disappears quickly.
This is a light-bodied beer that has a bit of tanginess as it travels towards the back of your mouth. And the tanginess hangs around for a little bit at the finish. This would definitely be an acceptable brew for a hot summer day. It gives you a lot more to think about on the palate than the typical Japanese light beer while preserving the expected refreshingness and ease of drinking.
Weighing in at a rather modest 4% alcohol, this signature brew was a present from my friend Kyoko, who also entrusted me with this bubbly nihonshu not too long ago (click here for the full article.) According to the label, this beer is contract brewed by monster liquid libations producer, Kizakura, through an arrangement with classy Tokyo sake merchants (and Tokyo Swallows fans), Hasegawa Saketen.
That’s right. The Tokyo Swallows may be terrible at promoting themselves, but they sell nihonshu with the team mascot on it. Although, to be clear, I don’t think that you can get it at or near the stadium–go figure. Big thanks to my friend, Kyoko, who gave me this bottle because she knew that the shock-value would be extreme. My jaw is still bruised from smacking the table in that bar.
This one is a junmai-ginjo with a seimaibuai (milling rate) of 55%. Definitely better quality than one would normally expect given the graphic on the label.
And although it doesn’t say so on the bottle, this is actually a sparkling sake that has a mouthfeel a lot like what you get with champagne. The body, however, is fuller than in a sparkling wine. Much of that is due to the fact that this nihonshu hasn’t been fully filtered. The Japanese word for this cloudier version of nihonshu is nigori, and indeed you can see a bit of leftover rice and sediment from the brewing process if you swirl it around. In the case of the Tokyo Swallows sparkling nihonshu, one could best describe it as being lightly nigori.
A little extra scouring of the label reveals that this is actually a “Toyo Bijin” sake with a bird on the front. Toyo Bijin is a brand brewed in Yamaguchi prefecture, and it is known for being quite dry. At first I disagreed with this, but my second and third sip revealed a sweet splash at the front quickly overtaken by an arid finish. I think maybe all the bubbles distracted me on my first attempt.
Out of fear that my palate is being unduly influenced by this bottle’s stage name, for the record I will say that this is not the best drink I’ve had this week. However, while I’m not normally one for sparkling nihonshu, this stuff is very drinkable. I like the fruit on the nose and palate even if this is the first nihonshu I’ve ever had that is reminiscent of a chu-hi .
I was told that this bottle can be purchased at Tokyo station, but I’m not clear on the exact whereabouts of the shop. If anyone knows, please leave a comment below. Apparently there’s a Tokyo Swallows beer out there as well.
Rather than produce new libations, Hasegawa has repackaged some popular sake, shochu, and umeshu in fancy 2010 World Cup South Africa-themed bottles. While there were 13 different sake, two shochu, an umeshu, and a lemon liqueur thus bottled, we here were able to get our hands on six nice sake selections. Read more
Garrett is the co-founder and editor of Trans-Pacific Radio and Tsubamegun, where he writes on politics, news, and baseball, among other things. His interests include politics, history, literature, baseball, travel, and, of course, food and drink – either in connection with his other interests or on their own. He has lived on the West side of Tokyo for pretty much his entire adult life, where he is a regular at more bars and restaurants than he’d have thought could be regularly visited.
In a former life, Marcus directed theatre in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. After travelling the world in search of obscure avant-garde productions and working in such diverse organizations as The National Trust for Scotland and a London-based stockbrokers, Marcus settled in Tokyo. His interests include photography, videography and Vsevolod Meyerhold.
Christopher Pellegrini is an actor, certified Shochu Sommelier (SSI and FBO), and Vermontonian. Host of Japan Booze Blind and Ishokudougen, he has performed on stage since elementary school with his most recent theater credit coming in the form of Black Stripe Theater’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Since then Christopher has been seen on the small screen as Michael Shorter in TBS’s serial drama, Hanchou, and on the big screen as Jim Brown in the critically-acclaimed Hagetaka and Michael in the award-winning The Tale of Iya. His career in the alcohol industry goes back to when he started home brewing at the age of 16, and later parlayed that experience into an apprenticeship at his local microbrewery, the outstanding Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, Vermont. Since arriving in Tokyo in the fall of 2002, Christopher has dedicated countless hours to the discovery and perusal of Japan’s myriad alcoholic offerings. His home bar currently boasts everything from Amanoto (nihonshu) to Zuisen (awamori), and he counts brewery excursions as one of his favorite pastimes. He is the author of “The Shochu Handbook” (July, 2014), and is the primary editor of shochu.pro.
Longtime Tokyo resident Ken Worsley spends his work time doing web consulting and much of his free time exploring new ideas for recipes and finding new restaurants on the west side of Tokyo. He particularly enjoys Indian, Italian and Japanese cuisine, and is always in search of good Mexican food in Tokyo.