New Year In October: Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale 2004

Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale 2004 (Bottle 9% ABV)- Belgian Strong Dark Ale- Kiuchi Brewery, JAP
I’ll be honest I’m a sucker for label art and this bright orange sunburst with a crazed beer and fan wielding Japanese dude jumping at me pretty demanded I buy it. I’ve had a few other Hitachino beers and have never been letdown so how could I say no to their red and white Woodsy Owl-looking minimalist doppelganger. Plus the with the “2004” tag why not try something vintage that I don’t have to age for 4 years myself.
The label says it’s brewed with coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla so right off the bat I know to expect something with a spicy character and the Celebration ’04 has that without being in your face. It pours a rich nut brown with a respectably frothy tan head to start that settles into a nice covering that remains constant. Not much lacing to speak of. I didn’t notice the sediment on the bottom of the bottle and made the mistake of not carefully decanting into the glass so it was looking pretty murky. It smells of autumnal fruit and a sweet breadiness as well as the cinnamon and nutmeg spice. There’s some alcohol in the nose, but it’s well masked by the spice. The taste is of a winter warmer type ale; nutmeg and cinnamon at the fore with malt supporting it. The first few sips are a bit hot with booze which seems to lessen for a while until the last quarter when it has warmed to room temp. There’s a touch of apple-like tartness which combined with the spiciness begins to taste more than a little like a mulled cider. It finishes with some slight bitterness around the edges. The body is good with an added zing from peppy carbonation.
Generally, New Year Celebration Ale 2004 is a tasty brew, but seems to be missing something in the middle that would put it over the top. Maybe when it was fresh the vanilla and orange peel would have popped and filled the gap, but at this point I couldn’t find a hint of them. Generally, winter warmer type ales are not my favorite, but given the balance and softness of the flavors in the Celebration ’04 I really enjoyed it. If you are a fan of less aggressive warmers and can find this it’s certainly worth a try. I’ve got two spare bottles sitting in my cellar, but I’m not sure if putting much more time on this would help or if this vintage is already on the downhill slide. To be honest I enjoyed the first bottle enough they might not last through this winter for me. They’ll be tempting to curl up with during one of the many cold New England winter evenings that lay ahead.
(Purchased 10/29: Federal Wine & Spirits $3.25, 330ml)