Walk into any souvenir shop in Yamanashi and they’ll sell Shingen Mochi, the prefecture’s favorite candy. It is a fluffy rice cake seasoned with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and kinako (roasted soybean powder), but those traditional flavors don’t mean the maker of Shingen Mochi Kikyoya is averse to trying new things, as evidenced by the Shingen Mochi McDonald’s pies and Shingen Mochi Kit Kats we’ve seen in recent years. .
We were still very surprised when we came across the latest evolution of Shingen Mochi: Shingen Mochi beer.
Technically it’s called Kuromitsu Black, but the familiar, ornate Shingen Mochi logo is right there on the label, as is a notice that this beer is produced under Kikoya’s supervision. The actual brewing is handled by another Yamanashi company, respected craft brewery Far Yeast Brewing.
The beer is made from kuromitsu and kinako, and since our Japanese reporter Haruka Takagi had never heard of such a brew before, she knew she had to try it for herself and bought a bottle for 858 yen.
Looking at the ingredients, Haruka learned that along with kuromitsu and kinako, Kuromitsu Black uses both oats and barley. Amazingly, it’s made without hops and classified as happoshu, Japan’s term for low-malt beers.
In terms of looks, they don’t mess with the “black” part of the name, because Kuromitsu Black is as dark as midnight…or, in keeping with its trademark ingredient, as black as kuromitsu syrup.
Equally impressive is the aroma, which is instantly recognizable as kuromitsu. It’s not a particularly bubbly beer, but even without the bursting bubble of extra-intense carbonation, the flavor had no trouble reaching Haruka’s nose.
Haruka had prepared for a dessert-like sweetness, but it turns out the flavor isn’t sweet at all. She guesses it’s because the kuromitsu is added to the beer before fermentation, and the process lessens the flavor intensity of the syrup. On the other hand, the kinako is added after the fermentation, so that it can detect some traces of its sweet cinnamon notes.
Overall, however, the flavor was far from the sweetness it expected from the ingredient list and aroma. Instead, the Kuromitsu Black is… a tasty, refreshing beer with a clean finish, which we really can’t complain about. At just 3.5% alcohol, it’s also lighter than its stout appearance might lead you to expect, but with Japan in the midst of a very hot summer, there’s nothing wrong with a beer than you can swallow instead of sip.
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