From Japan to New Ulm

by Chevy Impola

I’ve always been a fan of Japanese beer, but they do some strange things. Dry beer? What does that mean? Marketing gimmick, I’ve always assumed.

When I saw Kirin Ichiban advertising “First Press Beer, 100% Malt” I got sucked in.   
“Kirin Ichiban uses only the most flavorful portions of the finest ingredients.”

Hmm. What does that mean, and how do they do that?

I’m puzzled enough to purchase a six-pack.  

It’s a perfectly good lager. But what does all this “first press” stuff mean?

I know what it means for olive oil, but for beer it’s meaningless. But it sucked me in.
So I went to the Kirin USA website, where they say: “1990 saw the launch of Kirin Ichiban Shibori, a unique brew made exclusively from the first press of the wort.

Today, Kirin Ichiban is brewed by partners all over the world. As the world’s only first press beer, Kirin Ichiban is the true embodiment of beer at its purest.”

The company compares the process of extracting “only the purest, most flavorful portion” of the mash to using a French press for coffee. The resulting lager “is a distinctively crisp, smooth and full-bodied flavor from start to finish.”

Well, I can’t argue with that. If I’m reading the information correctly, Kirin Ichiban is contract brewed by other breweries. The website USA website mentions Anheuser-Busch, so that must be Kirin’s American brewing partner.

I still don’t quite get the concept of “first press” beer, but forgetting that for a moment, this is a fine lager in the Japanese style, which is often the German style.

Let’s move on  to something more easily understood, a big oily 10.1 percent imperial oatmeal stout called Magic Formula for Peace, a collaboration between Mikerphone Brewing, Modist Brewing and Surly Brewing.

What a treat this impressively big, bold stout is. It’s brewed with espresso, oat milk and “sweet orange peel.” The espresso, sure, that’s evident in the taste, but the “sweet orange peel” and oat milk is submerged in the mix. But I didn’t miss them.

This big bruiser is completely satisfying, tasting like the darkest night of the year.

I forgot I had a can of it in my backpack to give to a friend. When I reached into said backpack for a soda while driving, I grabbed a can of this beer instead, and without looking opened it, brought it to my mouth and them smelled its intoxicating aroma. I tried to prop up the opened car on the car floor, but it tipped and soaked the carpet. What a maroon!  

And, finally, on a sunny but chilly day I felt the siren call of hefe weizen. First I picked up a four-pack  from a famous old Munich brewery and immediately looked forward to cracking open a deiicious hefe weizen from this venerable brewery.  

And then I saw a sixer from another venerable brewery, but a closer one – Schell’s of New Ulm, Minn. Good choice!

Schell’s Hefe Weizen is a delicious Bavarian-style wheat beer that pushes all the right flavor buttons – tasty, tangy, banana-y and spicy with a clove-like flavor.   

The Schell’s website says they first introduced hefe weizen in 1984, making it the first beer of that style released in this country since before Prohibition. That’s impressive.
More importantly, this beer is absolutely delicious and, if you are a fan of hefe weizen (I know not everyone is), this is highly recommended.