Friday, March 4, 2011

Yona Yona Ale

Yona Yona Ale (5.5%), an American style pale ale and the flagship beer of Yo-Ho Brewing, is probably the most widely available craft beer in Japan. It is also one of the least expensive, generally costing around ¥270~290 per can (approx. US$3.25~3.50), or just a few coins more than the bland mass-market Japanese lagers. It can be found in many of the nation’s convenience stores, even outside the main cities. Thus, for a craft brew, it is a “regular” beer – and it has long been a staple among beer fans in Japan.

It pours out a deep orange-amber, certainly much darker than a typical pale ale. It gives off a strong citrusy aroma with mild apricot and pine notes. The initial hop flavors are quickly balanced by a sweet satisfying maltiness. Brewed with UK malt and hopped with Perle and Cascade, it blends the UK and US west coast IPA styles well, bitterer than the former and sweeter than the latter. On, it has earned a respectable 87 by style and 85 overall, with a weighted average of 3.34 out of 5.

Yona Yona, which means “every night” in Japanese, was developed by Toshiyuki Ishii, who studied and worked at Stone Brewing from 1998-2001. When he returned to Japan, he began making beer for Yo-Ho in the summer resort area of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture. He had planned to brew a beer similar to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale but ended up with something quite distinct.

Ishii introduced real ale to Japan in 2002 with a cask version of Yona Yona Ale, and he helped launch the annual Real Ale Festival in Tokyo and Osaka. He also created several other beers for Yo-Ho, including Tokyo Black Porter, Aooni India Pale Ale, National Trust Porter, Wild Forest Blonde Ale, and Yo-Ho Barleywine. The last-mentioned became a featured brew in Michael Jackson's Rare Beer Club.

Ishii is no longer with Yo-Ho, but the quality of Yona Yona Ale has not suffered. It is one of my “every night” go-to beers, and it can be appreciated by both beer novices and hard-core hop heads. Although perhaps not the most exciting or original of Japanese craft brews, it is however one of the most dependable and satisfying.

Note: This post was written as part of The Session #49 (regular beer) on Appellation Beer: Beer From a Good Home

Please have a look at the roundup of blog posts on this theme HERE.

*Update, October 2014: Yona Yona is no longer the beer it once was. Many people have commented/complained that the rich flavors and superb hopping are not as clearly present these days. The brewery has been expanding and perhaps quality control is not as good as it used to be.

1 comment:

  1. Having this in Karuizawa in summer couldn't be better!