Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Hitachino Nest Extra High (XH). This is the only beer that I have seen where the brewmaster has matured an ale in distilled sake barrels. Instantly, my mind began thinking about the taste possibilities; I needed to try this beer.
This beer pours a beautiful, dark shade of burgundy that produced a one-finger head. I expected ample head retention for this Belgian ale, but the head subsided much quicker than I would had anticipated. Within the body of the beer, many tiny particulates (yeast) were moving with the flow of the beer. These particulates created a less than desirable clarity for the style.
During my first sniffs, the aroma was very one-dimensional: malt sweetness. Due to the one dimensionality, I was a little perplexed because I was expecting floral notes from the sake and oak and vanilla from the barrel. I decided to let the beer for 10-12 minutes allowing it to warm, hopefully opening new aromatics. As anticipated, I opened a pandora's beer. The traditional smells of the Dark Belgian Ale, dark fruits: raisins and prunes, came to the forefront. Nestled within these fragrances, English hops presented themselves adding a pleasant, dry bitterness to balance the sweetness. Finally, the oak and vanilla were present, but still not at the level I anticipated.
This Nest Beer, a medium-bodied ale with a slight chewiness, contained a moderate level of carbonation which I believe create the initial burst of flavor within the taste. At the lower end of the alcohol level spectrum for Belgian Dark Strong Ales, Kiuchi Brewery has created a "session" ale within this style category. This beer is full of subtle complexity, but I was hoping for the sake component to play a more prominent role because I don't think I will see an aged product akin to the XH ale in the very near future.