I love Japanese craft beers. I first visited Japan in September of 2011 and I immediately fell in love with the country. So much so that as soon as I came back home from that trip I immediately purchased another ticket to go back. The craft beer culture in Japan is amazing, albeit very young, having only been legally allowed since 1994. Before 1994, a brewery in Japan had to produce 17,000 barrels of beer (this was no problem for big brewers like Sapporo and Asahi), but a change in the laws that year reduced that to only 500 barrels. This is when “Ji-Biiru” (地ビール) or “Local Beer” started to appear. The term “Ji-Biiru” was eventually was replaced by “Karafuto Biiru” (クラフト ビール) which directly translates to “Craft Beer”. In the past 21 years the Japanese craft beer has exploded. Nowadays there are small breweries popping up everywhere and new craft beer bars open up almost every week in Tokyo.
Stone Brewing Co. has been brewing since 1996 and now is located in Escondido, CA. They are well known for their hoppy beers which are very popular in Japan. I saw Stone and other various California craft brewers on tap at numerous craft beer bars. Since California is as close to Japan you can get within the continental US, those beers arrive in Japan a bit fresher than anything from the East coast would. I didn’t see any East Coast beers in Japan, besides the occasional Brooklyn Lager. Since green tea and beer are the two most consumed beverages in Japan, it almost makes sense that these two flavor profiles be blended together. It also makes sense that Stone Brewing would team up with one of the most popular Japanese craft brewers, Baird Brewing Company. Owner and Head Brewer Bryan Baird officially opened the brewery in 2001 in the city of Namazu, Japan. Since then they have become one of the most successful Japanese craft beer brands and have opened up several tap rooms across Japan. Ishii Brewing was founded by owner and head brewer Toshiyuki Ishii in 2010 in Tamuning, Guam. Ishii worked for Stone for 4 years before returning to to Japan to work at various breweries. It was Ishii who approached Stone about making this unique beer as a project to benefit the 2011 tsunami relief fund.
I absolutely love this beer. I loved it when I first tried in back in 2011 and I love this version as well. The use of Australian Helga hops masks the 10.1% ABV very well with delicious fruity notes.
Appearance: Golden, but with a lot of sediment. I’m guessing that is from the green tea.
Aroma: Herbal tea smell is at the forefront, but the fruity hops support it nicely.
Taste: This stuff is amazing. The green tea and IPA are perfectly combined. Almost like having green tea ice cream at the end of a Japanese meal. There is definitely a bit of a grassy after taste, but it’s very pleasant.
Mouthfeel: Smooth. Real smooth.
Overall: Dear Stone – please make more of this!
So here’s to hoping that this beer will get a yearly release.