Japan Eats

What we’re drinking: Tokyo Swallows Baseball Beer

Beer endorsed by a bird with a bat.

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.

Recipe: Ichigo-shu (strawberry wine)

Stemming from my days as an apprentice brewer at Otter Creek Brewing, and even before that when I was homebrewing, I have a longheld fascination with making tasty beverages.

I’d therefore like to share with you a recipe for making ichigo-shu which can be loosely translated as ‘strawberry wine’.

This liquid treat takes only a couple of weeks to become drinkable, and it if you make a batch today it should be ready to drink by the end of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season here in Tokyo.

Here’s how it works:

You’ll need a glass jar. My local Seiyu supermarket sells 22cm jars that are adequate for one batch of ichigo-shu (pronounced /ee-chee-go shoe/) .  A 22cm jar holds about 1,500 ml (48 oz.) of liquid.

You’ll also need 300 g of strawberries, one whole lemon, 50 g of rock sugar, and 600 ml of 35% alcohol white liquor.

1. Wash and then halve the strawberries. Remove the stems.

2. Peel and then thinly slice the lemon.

3. Put the halved strawberries, lemon slices, and rock sugar in the jar.

4. Pour the white liquor over the top.

5. Wait two weeks (the jar should be kept in a cool, dark place).

6. Strain the liquid into a bottle (a clean, empty wine/shochu/nihonshu bottle works just fine).

* Don’t eat too much of the leftover fruit at once. Think jello shots only slightly healthier. You will lose this battle.

7. Sip and enjoy! This delicious drink can be enjoyed ‘neat’, on the rocks, with a bit of water, or splashed over ice cream or yogurt. Store the bottle in a sun-free area. No need to refrigerate it as ichigo-shu is a distilled beverage.

A quick word to the wise: don’t underestimate the power of this cute little drink. Keep in mind that you dumped more than half of a liter of 35% alcohol in there. Even though it’s very sweet when watered down a little bit, it will go to your head in a real hurry.

Also, make sure to write down what you did and when. That way you’ll be able to adjust things slightly to your liking over a series of batches. For example, you may want to add a little bit of red wine at the beginning of the process to see how that affects the resulting flavor. Just how much you add and when is crucial for recreating that magical batch that you made last time.


What We’re Drinking: Takachiyo honjouzou nihonshu (sake)

I’ve recently been spending tons of time learning everything I can about shochu. If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably already familiar with my ramblings on the subject.

Anyway, it came as a bit of a surprise when I noticed that I have yet to review a bottle of nihonshu.

TakachiyoSo I busted out a bottle of Takachiyo and gave it a whirl.

After letting the temperature on this one rise a little (I purposefully keep my fridge cold enough to kill the taste on most Japanese macrobrews) it hit the tip of my tongue with a bunch of bready sweetness that gave way to a rather round body.

The closer this sake got to room temperature, the more I liked it. It developed more of a spine as sour notes began to creep in from the sides. I started to get a slight amount of fruitiness as it warmed as well. This made perfect sense since I was revealing a fruitier bouquet on the nose with each refill.

Although I didn’t have enough left to try it myself, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it might be amenable to warming. This nihonshu really made me want to eat some fish. It would go well with saba (mackerel).

The seimaibuai (milling rate) on this one is 63%, and the label on the bottle states that it is a honjouzou which indicates that a small amount of distilled alcohol was added during the brewing process to (most likely) level the flavor out a bit.

So while it wasn’t ginjo, it was definitely smooth and balanced enough to be worth another try. If anyone else has tried this, I would love to read your tasting notes. Just post them in the comments.

For those who can read Japanese, here is the Takachiyo website. You won’t find the bottle pictured above on that website. As you may already know, labels and bottle colors can change drastically in the nihonshu world from year to year.

Special Event: Japan Booze Blind LIVE

It’s almost hanami season!

Every year, Japanese throw outdoor parties beneath the sakura (cherry blossoms). Known as hanami, these flower-viewing parties are really just an excuse for families, co-workers or groups of friends to meet and drink together.

To celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan Eats is hosting an exclusive LIVE event. Hosted by Christopher Pellegrini, Japan Booze Blind will go out live Sunday, March 28th at 3 p.m. (Tokyo time) on Livestream. We know you’ll have questions about hanami season – what it is, and how best to celebrate it. We invite you to submit them via email (pellegrini@japaneats.tv) or in the chatroom during the show.

This is your chance to get involved. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

What We’re Drinking: Sapporo x Royce Chocolat Brewery

Oh my, they certainly weren’t kidding when they named this one.

Normally in such a collaboration, the secondary or nominal ingredient is there for branding more than anything else and is sometimes barely even noticeable. Not so, in this case. While the beer, of course, contains no finished Royce product, it most certainly contains chocolate. I popped open the can, poured it into a frosty pilsner glass, started to raise it towards my face and WHAM! Read more

What we’re drinking: Delirium Christmas

Delirium Christmas

Oh look, the pink elephant is ice skating. Deja vu.

Drank this beauty this past weekend at my local haunt, Duke. Delirium Christmas, also commonly labeled as Delirium Noël, comes with a few different versions of the pink elephant on the front.

Truth be told, I ended up drinking this Belgian strong dark ale two nights in a row. I got the pink elephant on a sled the second time around. I was informed that there is also a version of the label that has a bunch of elephants pulling a sleigh.

I know it tastes exactly the same, but I will not rest until I try that one as well. You have my word on that.

Oh, and as a little quiz, how many elephants are there on a typical Delirium serving glass?

Anyway, this beer was just as irresistible as I had anticipated. I’m a huge fan of Delirium Tremens (who isn’t?), and this seasonal ale did not disappoint.

The nose on this beer was lovely–a blend of fruity esters and a faint spiciness to bring everything together. The spice lingers and makes the phenolic aspects of this brew pleasant and generally not distracting. The dry finish is a nice relief and rounds out the experience almost perfectly.

This is another must-try from the Delirium lineup in my opinion although you may have to wait several more months to find it again.

In the meantime, just keep yourself busy with another wintery delight, atsukan.

Boozehound: Keel (Shibuya)

It’s Men-Only (except on Sundays), we’ll put that up front.

Keel is a nice combination of local and stylish. The owner hangs around dispensing wisdom and recommendations on shochu, which is what this bar is all about. (Umeshu – including a lovely yuzu-infused delight – and beer are the other options. The only other options.) Read more

Japan Booze Blind: Umeshu

Guests Simon Pengilly and James Steele join host Christopher Pellegrini in testing three types of umeshu.

Japan Booze Blind: Umeshu from Japan Eats on Vimeo.

Boozehound: Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome

I may be stealing Marcus Lovitt’s thunder by reviewing this little gem, which he recommended to me, but he’s busy with Japan Booze, Blind and all that food porn, so I got dibs on the aptly and simply-named Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome. Read more

Japan Booze Blind: White Ale

Guests Garrett DeOrio and James Steele join host Christopher Pellegrini in testing three types of white ale.