Edo-period creator could never have predicted this new development.

Breweries in Japan have been getting crafty with their new beers recently, adding unusual ingredients like drift ice and choc mint to their brews.

Now, Nagano brewery Reijin Shuzo is getting in on the action with their new Shichimi Togarashi Beer. The star ingredient here is shichimi togarashi, “seven-flavour chilli pepper”, which contains Japanese pepper, red chilli pepper, sesame, ginger, perilla, hemp seed and roasted orange peel.

▼ Japan’s most famous brand of shichimi togarashi is made by Nagano’s Yawataya Isogoro Company, whose original founder began selling the blend at Zenkoji temple in 1736.

Both these Nagano-based businesses have now joined forces to create the new beer, and it’s been getting rave reviews online since its summer release. A lot of stores in Nagano, or “Shinshu”, the old name by which the area is still sometimes known, are currently selling the beer as a local souvenir, and that’s where our Japanese-language reporter Haruka Takagi came across it during a recent visit to the region.

▼ This local store was selling the beer for 460 yen (US$4.05) per can.

Haruka purchased a can and packed it in her suitcase to enjoy at home, where she was able to place it side-by-side with her trusty tin of shichimi togarashi — a cupboard staple in many Japanese kitchens.

▼ Design elements from the original spice tin, which has appeared like this since 1924, are beautifully captured in the design on the beer cans.

Looking at the ingredients label on the beer, Haruka was pleased to see it contained only three ingredients: malt, hops, and shichimi pepper! 

This promised to be a spicy beer, but how spicy would it be? The only way to find out would be to taste it, and Haruka was keen to do just that, pouring it into a glass to see if she could see any bits of spice floating on the surface.

▼ Hmmm. No spices to be seen, but maybe it was…slightly more orange than a regular beer?

▼ It didn’t look out of the ordinary, though, and when she took a sniff, it smelled like ordinary beer.

Haruka began to wonder if she’d be able to taste the condiment in the beer at all, given that she couldn’t see nor smell it. So she raised the glass, took a tentative sip, and…it was really delicious!

Truth be told, she had her reservations about how this would taste, but the beer displayed a refreshing scent of hops, with a clear, bright taste that made it light and easy to drink. Haruka figured this drinkability was due to the fact that the beer was made with underground water from Mount Kirigamine and Kamisuwa hot spring water — the same waters that make Reijin Shuzo’s sake so delicious.

As for the shichimi togarashi, it appeared as more of an accentuating flavour, mainly lingering in the aftertaste. Haruka could feel a slight warmth of chilli pepper in the back of the throat, while the scent of roasted orange peel and Japanese pepper was heady on the nose. Haruka loves a bit of heat and spice, but although the spiciness was modest here, the shichimi added a tantalising depth of flavour and complexity to the drink.

Rather than assaulting the taste buds, the Shichimi Togarashi beer provides a gentle heat that entices you to sip again and again. Even those who aren’t big fans of spicy foods will be able to enjoy this unusual tipple, especially when drinking it with a meal that pairs well with the spice mix, like a steaming hot chicken broth. Mmmmmm…

Haruka reckons the subtle, warming heat makes this a great beer for winter, and she’ll be purchasing a few more online to keep her going through the colder months. Because drinking a beer with heat while wearing these hot spring footbath boots is her ultimate plan for a cosy winter.

Related: Reijin Shuzo Online Shop
Photos ©SoraNews24

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