By Jonathan McNamara
"Can I help you find something," said a genuinely enthusiastic grocery store employee as I stood in front of the beer section.
"No thanks," I replied. "I've found what I was after, I'm just trying to decide which one of these to get."
I was referring to Hitachino Nest's Red Rice Ale and Sweet Stout, which upon indicating to the store employee made her nose crinkle in slight disgust.
"Those are a little weird," she said.
That was all she had to say. I bought a bottle of both excited to find out what she meant by "a little weird."
The last time I got my beer-craving lips around a Hitachino Nest product it was their White Ale. Avid Brew Review readers will remember that I claimed that drinking said beer was like consuming magic delicately brewed to taste vaguely of flowers. It was an outstanding experience, but not something I would want to imbibe on a daily basis.
Hitachino Nest's Red Rice Ale struck me as something that might be a bit more akin to a daily beer, so I left the Sweet Stout in my fridge and cracked the other one open (and a million literary professors are surprised to find foreshadowing in a blog-based beer review).
Tastes: a bit salty. I like to smell my beer before taking the first sip to see if the two experiences differ. My nostrils detected a hint of green olives when I inhaled the freshly released essence of the brew. The first sip mellowed the pickled olive smell into a slightly salty taste. Think of this as a Kiltlifter or New Castle Brown without a trace of sweetness but a similar body.
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I had mine: right after work while enjoying a DVD with my roomies; the perfect time to experience that daily, decompression brew. I must say that despite being very drinkable and tasty (if complex) this brew is no more pedestrian than its White Ale brother. Both are beers that are better left to sampling a few times than packing your cooler.
Goes with: sashimi. At the very least, I would try this beer out with Japanese cuisine before trying to pair it with any Western dishes. It's a strong brew, but the lack of sweetness will accentuate salmon or tuna sashimi. With the inherent saltiness this should match the flavor profile of soy sauce as well.
I got mine: at AJ's Find Foods in Central Phoenix. A bottle of Red Rice Ale will run you about $5.
Verdict: Red Rice Ale is an interesting experience that any self-respecting beer drinker should try at least once. I just can't see keeping a few bottles of these around for any occassion. Drink it to try something new and then keep up the search. There are a lot of beers out there. Here's one off the list.