Sunday, January 12, 2014

Craft beer meets craft whisky: ‘Takashi Ichiro (Pete!?)’

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
© Stefan Van Eycken
Whisky and beer. They’re so closely related but, here in Japan, they seem to come from worlds that don’t even share the same atmosphere. The whisky scene is incredibly closed – there’s no collaboration, no stock-swapping, everything happens behind closed doors and everyone stays behind their fence. A completely different ethos runs through the craft beer scene here (as elsewhere in the world), with producers keen to exchange insights and to do collaboration brews. People have often wondered – and asked us – why Japanese whisky makers don’t follow the inspirational example of their craft beer brothers. One reason is that the whisky scene is much smaller in terms of the number of players (three huge companies and three small craft distillers). Another reason is that … well, it’s never been that way and change doesn’t happen overnight – or over a century – here. But two beers that have just hit the shelves – though they may be gone by the time you read this – give hope for the future.

Towards the end of October 2012, the people at Shiga Kogen Brewery – located in Yamanouchi in Nagano prefecture – put their Takashi Imperial Stout in barrels that had previously contained Ichiro’s Malt whisky. In addition to using barrels that had contained non-peated spirit, they used barrels that had held peated spirit. They left their stout to mature for exactly one year and then bottled it. And that’s what’s on the shelves now: ‘Takashi Ichiro’ and ‘Takashi Ichiro Pete!?’ (both 11.5% abv). The response has been phenomenal with liquor shops having to limit purchases to one bottle per customer (we’re talking about 330ml beer bottles, here!). There’s just 600 bottles of each release and – unlike Shiga Kogen’s regular ‘Takashi Imperial Stout’ – there are no kegs in circulation. We’ve managed to get hold of a few bottles and will update this post with some tasting comments as soon as we’ve located a bottle opener. Stay tuned.


Brian L said...

Just wondering, what is this priced at?

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Good to hear from you, Brian. Well, it was priced at a little under 1,000 yen (which is about 10 USD).

Alexander P. said...

Hi Stefan,

And what's the price point for a 0.5l/pint of craft beer in local bars?

Thanks in advance,

Aaron said...

Tried both. Very delicious craft beer. However I didn't notice particular influence from Ichiro's casks. "The Pete?" version has a hint of medicinal aroma which makes it very unique.