This wheat beer might be pretentious, it might be obscure, but you can’t say it was expensive. It is certainly, however, pointless.
We don’t get much opportunity to pick up exotic bottled beer these days but, at the National Brewery Centre in Burton the other week, we couldn’t resist raiding the ‘bin ends’ in the gift shop, and came away with a 720ml bottle of Japanese brewery Hitachino Nest’s 5.5.% German-style wheat beer, for a mere £2.50.
Just on its ‘best before’ date (we think), it fizzed on pouring, hissing and foaming itself to death, leaving us with glasses of something that looked like cloudy apple juice. Despite the lack of condition, it was a tasty enough beer, falling somewhere between the sticky-toffee-banana character of Schneider and the pineapple-pear drop character of Hopf. As we find is often the case with German-style wheat beers from anywhere other than Germany, there was also a touch of spiciness (from the yeast?) which suggested the coriander of the Belgian style.
So, it was fine, but… why bother? This beer makes sense in Japan, we’re sure, where it is a local version of something from the other side of the world, but what is the point of importing it to the UK? It’s been made with such reverence for the almighty style guidelines that there’s nothing distinctively Japanese or in any way ‘different’ about it; and, though better than Erdinger, isn’t worth buying over, say, Franziskaner.
We think it all comes down their mascot — a beautifully illustrated owl which deserves its own 8-bit computer game — and to the same impulse that leads what seems like 90 per cent of British men under the age of forty to dress head-to-toe in clothes from faux-Japanese brand Super Dry: that is, fashion, and a very understandable fascination with other cultures.