Tasting through the wealth of Japanese imports, we were drawn to those that had a distinct sense of place. After all, if we’re going to seek out a beer from thousands of miles away, it shouldn’t taste like a beer we could get at our favorite brewpub around the block. While Japanese beer hasn’t always embraced seasonality, this bottle of Iwate Kura Japanese Ale Sansho does, begging for a place in your spring rotation.
Consider this: Germany has its bocks, Belgium its saisons. So shouldn’t the recent resurgence of Japanese craft beer make a case for thinking of spring seasonals even more globally? One of the best out there is Iwate Kura’s herb/spice ale: With its nose of sage, papaya and pine forest, it smells as fresh as spring rain even after its nearly 9,000-mile journey. The addition of sansho peppercorns, the berries of a spiny Asian shrub, lends floral and berry sweetness rather than heat or spice. It’s no surprise that Iwate Kura parent company Sekinoichi Shuzo also produces sake; candied grapes and tropical fruit notes evoke that Japanese rice wine.
Like sake, too, this soft spring seasonal changes over time in the glass—a nearly room-temperature sip proves how well prickly sansho dovetails with Saaz hops.