The grocery store beer aisle is the closest thing I have to an escape these days. For years while searching for the latest and most interesting craft offerings, I scoffed at the perma-availability of things like Peroni or Samuel Smith. Now non-local, non-major domestics represent a chance to taste something different, to experience terroir from afar.
So while stouts seemingly and understandably disappear from Texas beer shelves this time of year, there’s often one still hanging around from Japan: Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout. You may have recognized Hitachino Nest from the eye-catching labels. This beer line from the sake brewers at Kiuchi Brewery uses a wide-eyed, pink owl at the center of each one.
When poured, this beer is as black as it gets—even the tiny half inch foam head is a rich brown. And if well-roasted espresso is a scent you dream about, Espresso Stout delivers. Hitachino Nest says this beer is based on a classic Russian imperial stout recipe; the result contains some of the darkest flavors you can find. Dark chocolate and charred wood hit the tongue first, creating a creamy yet bitter combination.
After an almost overwhelming first sip, this beer somehow finishes stronger with a crescendo of savory and smoky notes. It’s as if Hitachino Nest found the darkest espresso beans available and roasted them a bit longer than even devout black coffee drinkers would recommend. It’s quite intense and quite different. Since we’re all stuck in place for awhile, it's an experience worth indulging in.