According to the lunar calendar, 2022 will ring in the year of the tiger. This is the fourth year that Lucky Brews have produced an ale that celebrates the lunar year. Previous Lucky Brews have been Lucky Cat, Dog and Chicken to commemorate the previous lunar years. Each year had a different style of beer with this year’s being Umami Pale Ale. While this style is not a recognized GABF or BJCP style it has appeared in several breweries here in Japan. While the word umami may be new to you as a flavor descriptor the actual taste is probably not. It is most commonly described as the savoriness of seaweed or mushrooms. Kizakura began brewing sake in 1925 and beer in 1995 out of Kyoto, Japan. The company produces two types, one is Kyoto Beer the other is Lucky Brew.
Umami Pale Ale. 50º – 55º F (10º – 13º C)
Piny resin aroma that quickly reminds me of American West Coast IPAs. Hop aroma is definitely dominant over the slight malt sweetness in the back. Deep golden color has very good clarity. Head of off white heavy foam poured very thick eventually the head dissipated to a medium head. Beer lace forms on the side of the glass as the head diminishes. Smooth sweetness on the tip of the tongue gives way to a sharp bitterness on the back of the tongue when swallowed. The aftertaste has a lingering hop aroma. As you speak after the sip the aromas from the hops swirl back through your nose and remind you of the previous taste. A bitter orange or grapefruit flavor that comes through subsequent tastes. The hops dominate over the malt flavors. There are some malty sweetness perceived but they are dominated by the bitterness of the hop. The beer is fully attenuated and gives a light mouthfeel. At five percent and giving a crisp finish with slight lingering hops aroma this would be an enjoyable session beer. This beer is probably better when paired with food rather than enjoyed alone.
Many cultures have special foods that are eaten the first of the year. Growing up in Louisiana I had to eat black eyed peas for good luck every year. Japan is no different. To ensure that I have good luck in the upcoming year of the tiger I paired this beer with Ozouni, one of the good luck foods. Ozouni is a soup that is made with mochi, regional vegetables and chicken/fish/seafood based upon regions. The hoppiness of the beer will pair well with the umami flavors in the soup. While mochi (a rice and sugar dessert) is enjoyed all year long, the making of mochi is tied to the New Year. To end this New Year’s good luck meal I would have mochi as a nice dessert. The intense sweetness of this desert would contrast the bitterness that is persistent in this beer.