Japan’s cherry blossoms are beautiful enough to enjoy without any alcoholic accompaniments, but it’s a fact of life that for many people the drinks are the real draw of a sakura-viewing party. Yet while there’s definitely a certain charm to knocking back a few cold ones in the park with a group of good friends, it does seem like a waste to take the focus off the flowers, since they bloom for such a short time.
That doesn’t mean you need to slow down your drinking to maximize your appreciation of the cherry blossoms, though. It just means you’ll need to pick up a few bottles of this special beer that’s made with sakura petals.
Kanagawa Prefecture-based Sankt Gallen has won dozens of awards for its craft brews at both the national and international levels. But while the company is serious about quality, that doesn’t mean it’s unwilling to get a little playful with its ingredient list. Last year, we tried the brewer’s special Valentine’s Day beer with mint chocolate notes, but what’s got our interest now is their spring brew, Sankt Gallen Sakura.
Each 2,340-liter batch of Sankt Gallen Sakura is made with 60 kilograms of of petals from Nagano Prefecture’s Koen no Sakura variety of cherry blossoms, which grow in Ina City, ranked as one of the top 100 sakura-viewing spots in the nation. Sankt Gallen describes the five-percent-alcohol beer as being inspired by the taste of sakura mochi, a traditional confectionary of sweet red beans wrapped in mochi, which is then wrapped in an edible leaf from a cherry tree. Sure enough, sakura leaves join sakura petals on the beer’s list of ingredients.
Of course, you can’t have beer without hops. Sankt Gallen Sakura uses a mix of American Columbus Tomahawk and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin varieties. The beer is made with a mixture of malt and wheat germ, with the overall effect being less harsh bitterness and more smooth drinkability.
While not as common as macrobrews such as Asahi and Kirin, Sankt Gallen beer can often be found in specialty shops and department stores, particularly in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Sankt Gallen Sakura is also available direct from the brewer here, starting with orders of three 330-mililiter bottles for 2,040 yen, with shipment scheduled for Feb 24.
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