20 June 2008

What's That Beer? - Rogue's Japanese Offerings

About couple of months back, Gina and I stopped in at Kahn's Fine Wine and Liquors to get my first look at their expansive beer selection. While browsing the coolers I came across three Rogue beers with Japanese labels.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I bought them blindly. Who knew what I was in for? Could it be something with the smooth polar bear in a pink speedo flavors of Hoppy?

Perhaps something like Namashibori, but without the lingering dog aftertaste?

Or maybe, just maybe, I was in for a taste equal to that of Japan's finest: Donkey! Bier.

I am not seen in this picture because I was taking a Japanese salaryman-like nap on the sidewalk outside the bar.

Truth be told, Japan is developing a craft beer culture. Surely not to be missed is the Great Japan Beer Festival, featuring more than 120 microbrews, and a policy of "All who say 'I love beer' may to join!".

I'm poking fun. But as someone who's visited Japan twice, I've often found it rewarding to pick up random and/or confusing Japanese foodstuffs - you just don't get that level of mystery and surprise in trying new products at a regular supermarket. So I was quite excited by these Rogue offerings.

Look! They've got noodles and a map and everything!

But if you come across these beers, don't buy them for the beer inside. Or I should say, don't buy them specifically for the beer inside. Because these beers aren't anything different than the Rogue styles you can find here in Indiana.

Red Fox Ale
= Rogue American Ale

White Crane Ale = Rogue Oregon Golden Ale

Buckwheat Ale = ?

Rogue does offer two Buckwheat beers - the Morimoto Soba Ale and Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale (I prefer the Black Obi). As to which variety - if either - is in the Japanese labeled bottle, NO ONE CAN BE SURE. It's a Japanese legend.

That's not exactly true. But my limited internet research isn't turning up much.

* * * * *

More on Japanese craft beer at Beerscribe.com


  1. We've had these exact 3 beers sitting in the fridge for quite some time. They were also purchased for the mystery of Japan + Rogue. As you may know from our shelf of painted beer bottles, we are Rogue fans, so these were right up our alley. I honestly wasn't expecting much but oh well.

    Now Hitachino Nest, that's a good Japanese brewery.

  2. I haven't seen it around in Indy, but I got to try the Hitachino Nest ginger beer a couple years back in Chicago and was thoroughly entranced by it. Really unique flavor and very enjoyable.

  3. The donkey beer is the craft brew for a chain Hambagu (different than hamburger, which has buns) restaurant called, remarkably, Bikkuri Donkey.

    Bikkuri means "surprised". And I think the most surprising thing about Bikkuri Donkey is that fact that it sells a house beer. It has three varieties if I remember correctly... It is still a rare thing to go dining in Japan and have more options that Asahi, Kirin, Suntory Malts, Ebisu, etc.

    By the way, I am the toothy man in the Donkey beer picture.

  4. polar bear in a pink speed = unsurpassed drinkablity and smoothness.

    Perhaps more companies should start putting more animals in playful speedo themes. I think it could really help move some product.

  5. And about Hoppy...

    it is not a beer at all! It does have alcohol, about .08%, but it isn't drank alone.

    Hoppy is an exclusively Kanto (Kanto is the area around Tokyo/Yokohama) hop beverage that was developed after the WWII for the blue collared types. See, beer was expensive in those days, but local firewaters were abound. So Hoppy was introduced as a beer substitute-just add your firewater and VIOLA! you be gots beer-like drink.

    But nowadays, Hoppy is not only considered a blue collared type mixer, but it also highly regarded by youngsters and frequent nightcrawlers in Tokyo. Thus the pink advertising on the van... The hoppy execs are trying to push it on the Hello Kitty types too I 'pose.

    So from its humble beginnings as a beer substitute, Hoppy has sprouted new wings and commercial viability.
    But, as far as can tell, in the Kanto region only...

  6. Speak of the devil....I just had my first Hitachino Nest, their Espresso Stout, on Tuesday. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much, but holy crap that's a good coffee stout! I think I was getting a simultaneous caffeine and alcohol buzz.

    On Wednesday, I noticed the Goose had a couple of theirs by the stairs. Alas, no Espresso Stout. I'll have to try those others at some point.

  7. We would always see tons of Hitachino Nest beers at the Parti Pak but never picked any up. I think Jess had the White Ale somewhere but I don't remember where. My first sampling of their beers that I remember was when a friend tried the Ginger Beer in Chicago and I was really shocked that it was a Japanese beer that wasn't pilsner-esque.

    Since then I've also tried the Espresso Stout at H20 Sushi and it was surprisingly delicious to say the least. It left me wanting to try more of their beers.

    I also noticed them at the Goose, but the Hebrew Rejewvenator was too tempting. I'm eager to see what Dubbel + Doppelbock + Figs tastes like!

  8. Whoa man I want some Hoppy!