Crisp twilight air, leaves turning in polychromatic splendor, longer evenings to spend with friends and family. Autumn is the best time to lose yourself in the hoppy, balanced bitterness of Japanese India pale. Japanese IPA populated Japan’s ji-biru landscape organically. Thus, you get the deep, rich complex flavors and aromas that come from the intense hop and malt action interpreted in the aesthetical ideals of miyabi (elegant), shibui (subtle), iki (original). The first information to look for when buying Japanese IPAs are style, ABV and international bitterness units, or IBU.
Style, ABV and IBU
Japanese IPAs typically push high ABVs in the seven- to nine-percent range. IBU values, which typically hover between 75 to 90 (out of 100) in Japanese IPAs, indicate not only bitterness but balance between hops and malt; it’s not uncommon to have a complex, richly bitter IPA with 50 IBU and a lighter tasting IBU with 75 IBU. In short, the high ABV and IBU generally makes for a slower drinking beer – all the better for filling out those lengthening fall evenings.
In addition, style gives you an idea of an IPA’s flavor profile. English-style Japanese IPAs have relatively subdued tastes of hops and malt and make an excellent “gateway IPA” for neophytes or IPA old-timers who enjoy lighter flavors. On the other hand, double or imperial IPAs have twice the hops for an in-your-face type of IPA perfect for “hopheads,” or drinkers who love hops. Read more about IPA styles here.
1. Hitachino Nest JCA (Japanese Classic Ale)
Style: English IPA
Buy: Umami Mart, Total Wine (pickup only)
You can sum up Hitachino Nest JCA‘s popularity in one word: drinkability. The spice, apple, cedar and woody hops in JCA’s flavor profile fill the nose and tickle the palate, while notes of smoking wood and apple cider populate the middle. JCA has a dense one-finger head. As well as a light, golden body that finishes strong with a solid bite and lingering hops.
2. Suruga Bay Imperial
Style: Double IPA
A hophead favorite. Suruga Bay’s Imperial undergoes dry hopping twice with multiple hop varieties for a deep, rich character. Then, a secondary fermentation that conditions and “tightens up” the overall taste and aroma.
A bursting flavor profile teeming with oranges, citrus zest, woody hops, orange pekoe tea and a touch of mintiness await you. A thin, milky head and a hazy orange-gold body fills the glass like effervescent amber.