Iwate Kura Weizen is a 5% hefeweizen. Based on a South German recipe, this was the first Japanese craft beer to win a gold medal at the Monde Selection Awards in 1998.
I’ll be honest, these old beers are really hard to write decent articles for. There’s not really much to say about them, they’ve usually won awards decades ago, and the brewers rest on these laurels like an elephant sitting on a hamster. You’d be a bit suspicious if something still boasted about a nineteen-year-old award, because it shows that the older breweries really subscribe to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought. Look at Yo-Ho Brewing’s Yona Yona Ale- that’s just been tweaked after twenty years of the same recipe, and that was only because it was twenty years old.
How much longer can these older places survive, do you think, using these old standards? Craft beer drinkers are far more discerning and demanding than 20 years ago, when this beer was winning awards. It could even be argued that 20 years ago there wasn’t really any such thing as a “craft beer drinker” as we know it today.
Sure, in the UK we had a bunch of dads in shorts taking photos of pub signs under the flag of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), and I’m sure there were equivalent groups here in Japan, but drinking only craft beer would probably mean you wouldn’t drink very much at all back in 1998.
But now in 2017, the market has ballooned, people are more informed (you’re welcome), and when we see a dusty old brewery trot out a 5% weizen, a pale ale, a pilsner and a blonde ale, we yawn theatrically and go back to our barrel-aged triple IPAs and Malteser stouts.
(I just made up “Malteser stout” as an example of a silly millennial beer but it sounds really nice and I might get Rob to make it for me)
Enough flights of fancy! I’ll keep you posted on the status of the Malteser stout, though.
Iwate Kura Weizen Aroma and Taste
Iwate Kura Weizen pours out virtually headless, which was odd for a hefeweizen. It has a cloudy, golden, lemony colour. It smells mainly of banana, with an estery spiciness and some clove backing it up.
Tasting it, it’s pretty light and doesn’t really commit to any particular flavour. It’s lightly carbonated, and has a slightly chewy, bready mouthfeel. The bananas are back but it’s also a little bitter, so it’s like eating a banana with the skin still on. There’s cloves there too, but only slightly.
Iwate Kura Weizen: The Bottom Line
A light beer like this is good for a sweltering summer evening, but this beer’s refusal to commit to a flavour makes it seem a bit half-arsed. It’s like, “banana? hmm… cloves? meeeehh… wheat? uhhhhh… yeast? buuuuhh…” and then whoops, I’ve drunk it all and am dreaming of more chocolate bar/beer combinations. And a DOUGHNUT PORTER.