Japan Eats

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.

What we’re drinking: Nanbu Bijin

After a long day on the set of Japan Booze, Blind or Tokyo Bites, when meeting to write or plan the next step for Japan Eats, amid the vicissitudes of fortune, there is one constant; one thing in which Marcus, Christopher, and I can always find comfort, solace, and enjoyment: The Beautiful Southern Lady. Read more

What we’re drinking: Zamani Shochu

A treasure from Sukumo City!

A treasure from Sukumo City!

Last night I wrote about a cheap, plastic jar-encased shochu that didn’t have a whole lot of character other than the label promising that the contents might be a ‘treasure’.

Right now I’m sipping something a little bit more involved. I have a beautiful blue bottle of Zamani shochu from Kochi prefecture, and this is a drink where the taste matches the nose.

And I mean that in a good way. The nose has a sweet potato buzz in it and it has a nice shochu bite going down the hatch!

“Zamani”, a product of the city of Sukumo, means ‘very’ or ‘really’ in the local dialect, so I think that it’s only right to say that this shochu is zamani gorgeous!

I’m a big fan of how clean the mouthfeel and finish on this shochu are. The sweetness balances the alcohol nicely, and it is proving to be a very drinkable bottle right now.

As usual, I’m drinking my shochu neat, but don’t be afraid to throw it on some rocks or water it down a little bit. I would urge you, however, to give Zamani a shot straight up before mixing anything else in with it.

What we’re drinking: Takara Cup Shochu

Takara Cup Shochu (20 percent)I was a little bored, so I thought I’d give this little plastic cup a shot. It’s pretty easy to find in supermarkets anyway, so 200-some-odd yen and 30 minutes of my time didn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice for a drink whose name means ‘treasure cup’.

The smell when I unwrapped the plastic and unscrewed the blow lid let me know that I was indeed in for a bit of an adventure with some shochu. Not quite as sharp as Korea’s favorite drink, soju, this one wafted a slightly tamer and rounder version of that familiar “huh, this reminds me of the stuff I use to scrub the bathtub” smell.

But the bite was smoother than expected. It was surprisingly easy to drink, and there was very little of the expected burn going down.

The 20 on the lower right hand side of the plastic cup (jar?) indicates the alcohol by volume, and I believe that this little blue-topped number (it’s a business-card-and-a-half tall) has a redheaded cousin that clocks in at 25 percent. I may have to give that one a try just to see how it compares.

What we’re drinking: Yamazaki 12y.o.

At around 3700 yen a bottle, Suntory is proud of their flagship single malt, as they should be.  If Kaku-bin is the whisky that made the Yamazaki distillery famous, Yamazaki 12 year old is the tipple that made Japan’s oldest whisky distillery its most prestigious. Read more

What we’re drinking: Suntory “Kaku-bin”

Whisk(e)y fans sometimes talk about the three main types of the king of tipples: Scotch, Bourbon, and Irish.

Now Christopher will surely be asking, “What about my Canadian Club? My Crown Royal? My Seagram’s Royal-freaking-Reserve?! Where is Canada on the list?”  But anything best served drowned in cola is best not served.

Fans of Japan’s ever-improving product, Scotch-like as it may be, may be in a better position to ask when their country will get its due. Read more

What we’re drinking: Asahi Super Dry

It's dry, but I don't know if it's 'super' dry...

It's dry, but I don't know if it's 'super' dry...

Now here’s an example of a beer that can be found everywhere in Tokyo. It’s in every alcohol-selling convenience store, supermarket, and mom-and-pop liquor shop. The only places you can’t find it is at hyper-discounted grocers such as “Lawson 100” where’s it’s just a bit too expensive to fit into that price range. Otherwise, rest assured–you’ll find it.

Which is, of course, a reasonable indication of what you’re in for. Easy-drinking and crisp it is. Complex and worth writing home about it is not. This is a session beer, a BBQ-lover’s beer, a vending machine beer.

And to make sure that I don’t get too negative here, I’d like to reiterate that it’s easy to drink. The carbonation and dry finish are refreshing and (obviously) bring people back for more.

We’re definitely going to have to do a few Japanese rice lagers on an upcoming JBB show though. They are just as similar to each other as the light beers in North America can often be. I’d be very surprised if I could identify one out of three correctly in a blind taste testing.

That said, I’m a huge fan of the Kirin Beer facilities near Namamugi station down towards Yokohama. I’ve been on that brewery tour no less than three times. Several good brews can be had both in the tasting room and in the small-scale brewpubs located on the vast premises.

What we’re drinking: Delerium Nocturnum at “Frigo” in Shinjuku

Ooooh, Chrissy like!

Ooooh, Chrissy like!

I’m a big fan of Delirium Tremens, so I thought I’d give this one a shot.

This bottle, the last one in stock, was perched happily in one of Frigo’s beer friges when I snatched it and subsequently put it over my knee.

I’m a big fan of Delirium Tremens, and this beer lived up to my expectations in every way, shape, and form.

Nocturnum isn’t as sweet as Tremens, and I noticed some very pleasant sour notes on the sides of my mouth as I was drinking it. The beer became considerably more enjoyable as it warmed a little, and all of it’s bold flavors began to mingle on the back of my tongue. I would love to have this Belgian Strong Dark Ale with dinner, perhaps alongside a nice, fat steak. As one might expect, this beer checks in at 8.5% on the “where am I, and how did I get here?” scale.

Shinjuku is definitely not the easiest part of town to find anything other than the usual suspects as far as beer goes, so many thanks to Frigo for bringing some nice Belgian and German beers to a wider audience!

What we’re drinking: Coedo Ruri

Coedo Ruri

Coedo Ruri is also Garrett's pen name.

This beer is a lot of fun. Coedo’s line of very enjoyable brews is not always easy to locate in Tokyo (even though they are based in neighboring Saitama prefecture), but you should definitely give this beer a try if you ever run into it.

This beer was molded in the spirit of the Bohemian Pilsener–the beer that originated in what is now the Czech Republic. Crystal clear pour with a nice crisp presentation that is backed up with a very pleasant spicy bitterness.

And it’s hard to believe that this beer hasn’t found a wider audience in Tokyo yet. Lager? Check. Under 300 yen at the register? Check (well, at Seiyu at least). Pretty blue can? Awww-yeah.

I really like this brew because it has four times as much character as it’s slightly cheaper, and mass-produced, lager friends from the big five breweries.

I would love to try this one on tap, so please leave a trail if you have such information.

What we’re drinking: The Premium Malt’s (Suntory)

The gold can excites me.

The gold can excites me.

Why does it have a possessive apostrophe in the name of the beer? What is it possessing exactly? Me? Well, maybe.

This is definitely one of my favorite Japanese lagers, of the German Pilsener persuasion to be exact, and I drink more than my fair share of it each week. It also accompanies me on any occasion where BYOB is in order: picnics, ball games, work, etc.

From front to back, this beer doesn’t disappoint. It sports a good balance of hops, malt, and carbonated burn, and it doesn’t get too nasty if it warms while drinking pensively. This beer, to my knowledge, can’t be purchased in Japan for less than 200 yen, and the best price in my neck of the woods at the moment is 218 yen at the Seiyu on the corner.

And it can be found everywhere. It’s a staple in restaurants where it can frequently be had in draft version, and nearly every convenience store in the Tokyo metropolitan area carries it. It’s my recommended choice of brew if you’re going to a friend’s house for a party and you want to look like you care.