Name: Ninja (#327)
Brewer: Uchu Brewing うちゅうブルーイング (Japan)
Style: Specialty IPA: Black IPA
Review Year: 2021
Ninja is the first “Imperial Black IPA” brewed by Uchu Brewing from Hokuto City, Japan. Batch 327 features the hop varieties Simcoe and Mosaic.
Uchu Brewing is a space-themed craft brewery in Hokuto City, Yamanashi, and was founded by Masahiro Kusunose and Rumiko Suzuki in 2018. Head brewer Kasunose skipped high school to become a bassist in a hardcore punk band and, has, interestingly, only started drinking craft beer in 2016. Before brewing on his own, Kasunose spent two months in 2017 at Outsider Brewing in Kofu mentored by Satoshi Niwa. The other half of Uchu is Suzuki who traded in her Osaka city life for the quiet farm life in Kochi after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. She is currently in charge of the brewery’s marketing, creative direction, and events. The two crossed paths as Kasunose and Suzuki became involved in environmental activism in which they practice strongly with their brewery.
This beer is being evaluated as a Specialty IPA: Black IPA(21B) in the context of the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The most current version of the guidelines can be found on the BJCP website.
Ruby brown with slight haziness; medium brown head with poor retention. The aroma evoked moderately high peach, orange, mango, and herbs. Molasses and chocolate undertones surfaced subtly. Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation with very low astringency. Pine and orange zest were the most dominant of flavors, while chocolate and coffee were both noted at low levels. The balance favored the bitterness at a moderate level relative to the low residual sweetness. The bitterness lingered into the aftertaste melding with pine, cacao with subtle earthiness, and peppery heat.
Ninja is all about bringing together aromas and flavors associated with a classic American IPA with subtle accents of molasses, coffee, and chocolate. It is one of those beers when tasted blind, would still taste like an IPA and not like other dark beers such as the American Porter (20A) and American Stout (20B). A Black IPA is still an IPA after all.
The color is spot-on, but better head retention could enhance the presentation further. Likewise, aroma and flavor are to style, with the balance appropriately favoring the hops relative to the malts. However, we think more bitterness and less of the subtle astringency and peppery heat could still elevate Ninja. Very good.
Uchu brewing by Brian Kowalczyk (Japan Beer Times Issue No. 39, 2019)
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