otakuden (1783) - Vero Beach, Florida, USA - AUG 6, 2009
3.8 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Japan is known for many things: anime, manga, sushi, sake, samurai, bushido, tamagotchi, onsens, whisky, and yes, beer. Until the last few years though, the Japanese beer scene was as dull, bland, and barren as ours was just a couple decades ago. Archaic laws stunted any desire and ability to craft brew on a small scale similar to here in the states. That is changing, and at a progressively faster pace. Just recently, Japan changed the minimum output a brewery had to produce to be legally recognized as a business. In the wake of and despite of, an outcry for good beer, for craft beer has fueled the growth of many artisanal breweries scattered throughout Japan. As with all things Japanese, imported and native, the rebellious and innovative Japanese craft brewers are drawing their inspiration from Europe and the West, all while retaining a unique Japanese personality when it comes to styles, tastes, and ingredients. This brings me to the Baird Brewery in Shizuoka, Japan and their Shizuoka Natsumikan Ale, aka Baird Summer Ale.
She poured a hazy, almost dirty straw into my glass. Little head or carbonation to speak of at the moment, but a few playful swirls produces an impressive white head. Still no lace though. Her appearance might be off-putting to some who rely too much on visual stimuli to formulate a pre-conclusive decision, but I am not such. At least, I try not to be. Her nose is tossed with mushrooms, oranges, moss, and damp leather while sour zest and lemon drops tease and tingle in the background. Further interesting players of sliced cucumber, mint leaves, buckwheat noodles, and dank, wet wood. Fascinatingly different, my curiosity has been piqued and my interest intrigued. This is a virgin beer voyage on many levels; multiple native Japanese ingredients that are foreign to one such as myself are evident in her nose which I am sure applies to her palate, also. All of my beer geek senses are tingling. My first quaff is clean, light, and mild. Gentle waves of cucumber and mint leaves leave a tinge of dryness on top of my tongue while spruce and herbs continue to flesh out her developing palate. What I had thought was clean is still true, but simple, not hardly. Her palate is a double challenge also in that I am trying to place my finger on as many aromas and tastes as I can, even despite the fact that a good many of them I have never heard of, touched, smelled, or tasted. A subtle undercurrent of sour esters carries her palate past my tastebuds each time, though she doesn’t have a long, lingering presence at all. Besides being clean, her body is soft and earthy, resembling the buckwheat noodles, mushrooms, and oranges I smelled earlier. Wow. I could spend forever trying to break apart this fabulous beer, and never be able to get everything down. This is as foreign as a foreign beer can get. Placing my pen and pad down, I close my eyes to savor the last of my Baird Shizuoka Natsumikan Ale, and as I open them, for just a moment, I am in Japan.
I seriously cannot rave about this beer enough. It may be very hard to approach for a lot of people because it is just so different, but for me, that draws me ever closer. It’s not often I get to enjoy a beer that so expertly represents its people, its culture, and its passion, and yet, at one time, it was as foreign in Japan as sushi and sake were here in America. Truly, we are an international world, and Baird Brewing is pushing the borders with their Shizuoka Natsumikan Ale and others.
jonno (2462) - JAPAN - JUL 26, 2009
3 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 11/20
Pretty boring all round. A decent ale flavoured with orange. Easy to drink, but didn’t want another.
thewombat (112) - Brooklyn, New York, USA - JUL 25, 2009
3.6 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 16/20
Pours a goden light brown with short foamy head. It’s aroma is floral, fruity and acidic. Flavor is sour, white grapefruity and bitter hop flavor at the end. Very dry finish, with nice hint of carbonation. Nicely balanced and light. Easy to drink, but still kind of weird.
thornecb (5449) - Marblehead, Massachusetts, USA - JUL 15, 2009
3.4 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
Pours hazy gold into a tulip. Head quickly recedes to hug rim. Stale wheat, pit fruit and citrus aromas. Herbs and tangy tropical fruit upfront. Dry finish.
hopdog (11274) - Lansdale, Pennsylvania, USA - JUN 19, 2009
3.2 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
Bottle shared courtesy of Josh. Poured a medium and hazy golden color with a small sized off white head. Aromas of herbalness, citrus, and fruity. I wrote down ’different’ by the aromas. Tastes of the same herbalness, oranges/citrus, and some wheatiness.
JohnnyJ (5367) - San Diego, California, USA - JUN 13, 2009
3.4 AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
Hazy orange pour, white head. Citrus, orange juice, sweet malt, bread, light spice, and tropical fruit. Tastes pretty good, the more I drink the more orange I notice.
Trev (2023) - Lakeville, Minnesota, USA - JUN 5, 2009
3.6 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
Pours hazy orange gold with thick white head.
Citrus/apricot fruitiness, light dusty malt.
Flavour is bitter fruits. Dried golden fruit sweetness underneath. Green banana tones, light spice in the maltiness.
gunhaver (1030) - Tampa, Florida, USA - MAY 24, 2009
3.7 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Bottle, courtesy sebletitje. Hazy cloudy yellow copper pour, frothy head, thick lacing. Big spices in the nose, pineapple, tropical citrus, zest and some clove. Spicy flavors, creamy sweet malts, some mango and other soft citrus notes. Full-bodied, soft on the palate, creamy and balanced.
michael-pollack (4959) - King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, USA - MAY 11, 2009
3.3 AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
22oz. Bottle: Aroma of light hops, light grapefruit, light malts, and some citrus. Poured orange/amber in color with a medium-sized white head that diminished but lasted throughout. Cloudy. Lightly sparkling. Full of tiny and small particles throughout. Flavor is lightly sweet and slightly bitter. Tastes of hops, slight grapefruit, slight tangerine, and a hint of pale malts. Medium body. Average texture. Average carbonation. Sweet hops and tangerine finish.
smcolw (617) - Boston, Massachusetts, USA - MAY 8, 2009
4 AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
Gold to amber color, slightly hazy. Impressive and extensive head which fades steadily and leaves some chunky lace
Clean, light malt base with a refreshing hop presence for balance.
Strong hop bitterness with the first sip. Malt takes a back seat, but the spicy hop does not overwhelm. Not sure what Natsumikan fruit is, but I don’t taste any unusual or fruity flavors. There is a slight sweetness which departs from what I’d expect from a pale ale. Overall, this is a very enjoyable beer.