A Belgian white ale ... from Japan? Oh yes, and it's really good. Today at lunch at Shaw's Crab House in Chicago (where I had some of the freshest crab cakes, a hearty lobster roll and rich New England clam chowder), I felt myself craving a beer. Looking through the list, nothing really tempted me until I landed on the Hitachino Nest White Ale. What's this? The waitress had never seen it before and quickly left for the bar. Returning with three glasses, she poured a little in each for us all to taste -- including herself. Apparently it's a new beer for the restaurant -- and as far as I know for the U.S. I'm a big fan of Hoegaarden so I wasn't expecting much from this, despite the great label with the little owl. But as soon as the beer hit my lips, I tasted the sweet, orange and lemon flavor typical of a white beer and was immediately pleased. Hitachino is brewed at the Kiuchi Brewery (about 1.5 hours outside of Tokyo via bullet train) and is distributed in the States by B.United International. The brewery has nine other Hitachino Nest beers, including Weizen, Sweet Stout, Pale Ale and Japanese Classic Ale, as well a line of Sake (Kikusakari) and Shouchu (traditional Japanese distilled spirit with high alcohol content). Kiuchi Brewery was founded in 1823, has won numerous international awards and will soon launch a wine segment.
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