I’ve been visiting family in Kagoshima for the past few days. We went up to Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes one day and saw three kilometer high plumes of erupting ash. There is a Shinto Shrine on the east side which features a torii gate that was once three meters high. That all ended with the eruption of 1914 when the bottom two meters were buried in ash. The same eruption spewed enough lava to connect the then island to the mainland of Kyushu. In this, one can see both the destructive power of a volcano and the creative power. When one looks closer at the agricultural produce around Sakurajima one can see the more subtle creative power of volcanoes in the massive daikon radishes and tiny Mikan oranges grown in abundance. Those oranges are used in one of Shiroyama Breweries signature ales.
Yesterday, I tried the Belgian White with the Sakurajima Mikan oranges, a white IPA, their Brown Sugar Stout, their Lemongrass Ale, and their Loquat Tea Pale Ale. Located in one of Kagoshima’s most posh hotels, Shiroyama Brewery offers elegance in a very relaxed fashion. Their ales are fashioned so the subtle flavors and aromas shine best in concert with food. I had no time to enjoy the brews this way this time so I look forward to it next time.
I tried the Belgian White and the White IPA together. And because of their similar flavor/aroma profiles, sampling them together enhanced the differences. The Belgian White’s mikan is subtle and actually a bit overpowered by the coriander yet very refreshing. The white IPA has the same elusive mikan and coriander hints but the Amarillo hops are quite prominent and contrast with the Belgian White making it refreshing as well but crisper. I would love to have tried these with some different foods. A table of finger foods ranging from yakitori to beef stew would be great complements to just these two beers.
I tried the Brown Sugar Stout next featuring Muscovado brown sugar which imparts a raw molasses flavor and aroma. I would love to try it again in the fall when the cooler temperatures make stouts much easier to drink.
The final two ales I tried were unique to me. They are both variations of an American pale ale with interesting flavorings. The first was a Loquat leaf tea pale ale. The aroma and flavor was, like in the Belgian White, subtle. The final pale ale I had just before catching my bus back down the mountain was a pale ale with lemongrass. The lemongrass was elusive, bordering on imperceptible possibly due to the strong cascade hops. The lemongrass may come out, though, when paired with fish and chicken dishes. I look forward to trying both of these pale ales again in the future back in Kansai.
Craft beer is not very well known in this part of Japan where people prefer sweet potato shochu over other alcoholic beverages but that is changing. Kurakake-San, the brewmaster is helping that change by making a wider variety of ales available to the public than the standard beers offered by the large industrial breweries. With the subtlety and relaxed elegance that is found in their ales, Shiroyama Brewery is creating a name for itself from here in its home of Kagoshima to broader Japan.