In my mission to learn more about Japan, I’ve taken to trying different kind of Japanese alcohol. Whether it’s a nutty tasting nihonshu or smoky shochu, nothing is off limits. On the Japanese beer front, I’ve never really known anything beyond a bottle of universally accepted Kirin or Asahi. So, stepping outside of my comfort zone with a bottle of Abashiri Kangoku no Kuro (Prison Stout) was a delight.
This particular kind of craft beer is made by the Abashiri brewery in the town of the same name. Founded in 1998, Abashiri specialise in low-malt beers, also known as the happoshu grade. This means the beers contain something between 67% to 88% malt during brewing. The rest of the ingredients differ between scallops, corn and other unique fare.
When doing some research on the beer itself, I found out a few interesting points. The name is inspired by the real Abashiri prison that was used during the Meji period to house political prisoners. With a deep black colour, it’s definitely grim looking enough to look like something you’d drink in jail.
When poured into a glass, the Abashiri prison stout has a decent head on it. A smoky, coffee smell comes through on the nose. Hints of coffee continue to persist on the tongue. But soon they are joined by notes of chocolate and toffee. There’s even a slight undercurrent of pepper that sneaks it at the very end of the sip.
In other words, the beer was richer than I thought it would be. It’s definitely the kind of drink that you’d want to savour in front of an open fire, rather than downing it on a night out with your mates. Would I order myself another? Absolutely.