Falling in Love Again: Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale
Starting in 2017, we are running a “Falling in Love Again” series where each month we will feature one beer from our year-round lineup to re-introduce each beer with some new background info that you might not know. Our Taprooms will also feature special promotions connected with the monthly beer.
This month we’re going to take a look at a beer that was inspired by the bountiful natural gifts from the Izu peninsula; Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale.
Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale
It’s safe to say that the pale ale and IPA (India Pale Ale) are the two styles that are most beloved within the craft beer revolution. While these styles both began with English roots, they were both reborn into new forms when the modern craft beer movement started getting fueled by an abundance of ales that pack a punch using liberal hop additions. Our Rising Sun Pale Ale and Suruga Bay Imperial IPA are inspired by this modern American style.
However, with this Wabi-Sabi we wanted to try our hands at something completely new. What would be something that was a mix of these two well-known beer styles (pale ale and IPA), yet have a characteristic that is original and unmistakably Japanese? After some contemplation, we came up with a new term: Japan Pale Ale.
Another driving force came from the inspiration that we wanted to add a year-round beer to our lineup that employed locally sourced ingredients.
The term “wabi-sabi” represents an idea of beauty most often used in tea ceremonies and poetry that represents a charm or elegance found in plain and quiet characteristics. We have a lot of these qualities in Shuzenji, where our brewery is located. To express this idea, we narrowed our focus down to 2 local ingredients that we can obtain year-round. Those are wasabi and green tea. Our wasabi is sourced from Amagi, a nearby mountainous region, and then brought fresh to the brewery where our brewers process it by hand. The green tea is brought in from Numazu, the original site of Baird Beer, and is a variety called Ara-cha from the Ashitaka area. These ingredients both lend a herb-like quality to the beer that, mixed with a select variety of hops, create a balance where it’s hard to tell where the borders between the hops, wasabi, and green tea lie. We believe that this balance is a flavorful representation of the beauty in simplicity that is defined by wabi-sabi.
I think one of the most important things that deserves mentioning is food pairing. With other Baird Beer ales, pairing with sushi or fish would just make the beer taste fishy. Maybe it’s the antibacterial properties of the wasabi and green tea, but for some reason the Wabi-Sabi pairs just fine with raw fish! It eliminates that fishy smell and resets the palate. Next time give it a try alongside your sushi or sashimi.
Wabi-Sabi’s best friend
Lastly, about the label. For this one, we asked designer Eiko to express the a graceful and modest scene of Japanese beauty. You can tell that there is something there, but it’s not initially clear and overt. This is the essence of this label art. It’s an intentionally dark label, but if you focus your eyes you can see what’s there.
Like Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale, every Baird Beer has a back story. Personal tales, historical tales, tales of beer styles, these beers are steeped in stories. We hope that you, those who enjoy these beers, do so in a way that compliments and becomes a part of your lifestyle and experiences.