Interview with Toshiyuki Kiuchi, of Hitachino Nest Beers
By Jim Clarke
so many years as a sake brewery, what made you decide to move
into beer brewing as well?
Kiuchi: Traditionally, sake is brewed in winter – from
October to March. Cold weather is just perfect for the cold fermentation
needed in the sake brewing process. This created the system of
the “toji” who is the brewmaster during the winter
and returns to farm work during the summer. This tradition has
existed in Japanese sake culture for more than 150 years. Our
brewery thought up a new idea – brewing beer instead of
farming during the summer; however, we have been busy for beer
and sake brewing, since we brew beer on a year-round basis.
JC: What are the main differences between beer-brewing
The big difference is in the system of fermentation. With
beer, the first stage in the brewing process is saccharification,
where enzymes change starch to sugar. After this stage, the fermentation
process begins. In the case of sake brewing, the fermentation
process begins simultaneously with the saccharification process
when steamed rice, enzymes, yeast, and water combine together.
This is known as “multiple parallel fermentation.”
Soy sauce and Miso paste are also fermented in this manner.
JC: Your range of beers show a real awareness of several
different brewing traditions – Japanese, German, Belgian,
English…What made you interested in reviving some of the
older styles, like your Red Rice Ale and the Sweet Lacto-Stout?
We tried to find a Japanese favorite flavor of stout. This
is a flavor slightly sweeter and more drinkable than the typical
stout. Sweet Lacto-Stout is the result. Red Rice Ale is a very
unique beer which no one can imitate. We use a sake-brewing technique
for brewing this beer (using sake yeast) .
JC: Do you have a certain palate in mind when you make
your beers – Japanese, American, or otherwise?
I would say it’s an international palate. We aim to make
unique products and flavors which reflect Japanese traditions,
such as our red rice ale, but we also have an appreciation for
the international history of beer. We are always seeking ways
to innovate upon this history.
JC: I understand Kiuchi brewery is also beginning to
take up winemaking. How is that proceeding?
In Japan, there are some interesting fruits for making wines.
We make Yuzu wine. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit which has some
health benefits. This wine goes well with Japanese foods. This
is currently a very successful product in the Japanese market.
Unfortunately, you may have to wait another 30 years before we
have grape wines on the market! Indeed, our wine can not reach
the level of the highest quality Western wines in the near future.
quality beers require excellent technique and water – more
than ingredients. In contrast, good quality wines depend on excellent
grapes. We just planted grapes and it will take many seasons before
they are mature enough to be used for making an outstanding wine.
JC: On your website (http://www.kodawari.cc/engpage/engtop.htm)
you recommend a number of Japanese foods that go well with
your White Ale and Weizen beers. What food do you recommend –
Japanese or otherwise to go with the Red Rice Ale and The Lacto-Stout?
With Sweet Lactose Stout I would recommend a corned beef sandwich,
a bitter chocolate sauce soufflé, or vanilla ice cream!
This is a very good dessert beer. With Red Rice Ale I would recommend
curry rice with peas or a shrimp-based dish.
JC: So if I have a night out and drink too many Nest
beers, what’s the Japanese answer to cure my hangover?
Drink Japanese green tea with Umeboshi - a pickled plum –
very sour and salty. Or Drink more Nest beers the next day as