Far Yeast Brewing takes inspiration from Shingen Mochi for a unique new craft beer.

Walk into just about any souvenir shop in Yamanashi, and they’ll be selling Shingen Mochi, the prefecture’s favorite sweet. It’s a soft rice cake seasoned with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and kinako (roasted soybean powder), but those traditional flavors don’t mean that Shingen Mochi maker Kikyoya is averse to trying new things, as proven by the Shingen Mochi McDonald’s pies and Shingen Mochi Kit Kats we’ve seen in recent years.

We were still very surprised, though, when we tumbled across the newest Shingen Mochi evolution: Shingen Mochi beer!

Technically, it’s called Kuromitsu Black, but the familiar and flowery Shingen Mochi logo is right there on the label, as is a notice that this beer is produced under Kikoya’s supervision. The actual brewing is handled by another Yamanashi company, respected craft brewery Far Yeast Brewing.

The beer is made using kuromitsu and kinako, and since our Japanese-language reporter Haruka Takagi had never heard of such a brew before, she knew she had to try it for herself, and picked up a bottle for 858 yen (US$6.20)

Taking a look at the ingredients, Haruka learned that along with kuromitsu and kinako, Kuromitsu Black uses both oats and barley. Surprisingly, it’s made without any hops, and it’s classified as happoshu, the term Japan uses for low-malt beers.

Appearance-wise, they’re not kidding about the “Black” part of the name, as Kuromitsu Black is as dark as midnight…or, in keeping with its marque ingredient, as black as kuromitsu syrup.

Equally impressive is the aroma, which is immediately recognizable as kuromitsu. This isn’t a particularly fizzy beer, but even without the popping bubble of extra-intense carbonation, the scent had no trouble reaching Haruka’s nose.

But while the way Kuromitsu Black smells wasn’t a surprise, it’s flavor was.

Haruka had been bracing herself for a dessert-like sweetness, but it turns out the flavor isn’t sugary at all. She guesses that’s because the kuromitsu is added t te beer before fermentation, and the process lessens the intensity of the syrup’s flavor. On the other hand, the kinako is added after fermentation, so she could detect some traces of its sweet cinnamon-like notes.

Overall, though, the flavor was nowhere near the sweetness she’d been expecting from the ingredient list and aroma. Instead, the Kuromitsu Black is…a tasty and refreshing beer with a crisp finish, which is something we really can’t complain about. At just 3.5-percent alcohol, it’s also lighter than its stout-like appearance might have you expecting, but with Japan in the middle of a very hot summer, there’s nothing wrong with a beer you can gulp instead of sip. Just remember to pick up some regular Shingen Mochi, or maybe some of that Yamanashi poop ice cream, if you want a dessert too.

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