As most of the northern hemisphere is still in the grips of winter, here in Okinawa spring has sprung. This past week my family and I traveled to the northern end of the island to see the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms, also called sakura, are the flowers of any number of species of Prunus trees that bloom before growing leafs in spring. When most Americans think of the Cherry Blossoms they imagine the trees that line the tidal basin in Washington, DC. Those trees are decedents of the 3,020 cherry blossom trees that were donated to the United States by Japan in 1912. This gift has become a feature of spring in the capitol with an annual Cherry Blossom Festival being held during the peak bloom season.
Because of Okinawa’s our low latitude (26º N), the cherry blossom seasons occurs here in February. In the coming months cherry blossoms will continue to bloom across Japan as the spring season rises up the island of Japan. Hokkaido, the northern prefecture, should see their cherry blossoms in mid May.
In this season it is popular to market everything with sakura. There are chips, candy, and even drinks that are sakura flavored. Most of the times this means an artificial cherry or strawberry flavor. The sakura marketing has been extended to beer by the Okinawa based brewery Orion. Their beer does not have an artificial fruit flavor. Orion brewed their original lager recipe, but added dried sakura petals from Okinawa to the brew. This changes the look and flavor of the finished beer.
The aroma was sweet malt and lightly floral. A light bread scent came through as the glass sat a while. The beer poured with a big white head that persisted a good while. Unlike the normal Japanese Rice lager that is pale yellow this beer was a light red color. The beer was crystal clear so that you could read the beer menu through the glass. Looking at the glass you can see slow rising carbonation bubbles. The flavor has the distinct Orion beer taste of lager beer with a bit of rice crispness. This beer has more of a floral note to the taste as well. The beer has a very crisp finish with no lingering sweetness or flavors. This beer cleanses the palate much like a normal Orion Draft beer would.
I paired the sakura lager with beer peanuts from Orion Brewery. These nuts were flavored with soy sauce, cheese, chili, turmeric, garlic, and pepper powders. Even though there are a lot of seasoning listed the peanuts were only lightly seasoned. It was a nice light snack that the beer was able to clear out the peanut and seasoning flavor after each sip of beer.
Style: Japanese Rice Lager
Packaging: Can, Canning Date (2022/09), Expiration Date (2023/09)
Ingredients: Made from Malt (overseas), hops, barley, and dried cherry blossoms from Okinawa Prefecture
Stats: ABV 5%, SRM (none listed but would judge about an 9-10 SRM)
Leave a Reply