Kiuchi Brewery started brewing sake back in the 1820s. In the late 1990s, the company introduced a line of beer called Hitachino Nest. The iconic label image—a quite cute, colorful owl—has become a favorite in the craft beer world. The label boasts a line-up of highly sessionable and tasty beers—the Kiuchi version of Belgian "White Ale" is a witbier that has won numerous awards and ranks highly in the wheat beer category. In the last week, Houston has started to see Hitachino trickle into town at bars and restaurants. It's also available for at-home consumption from Spec's and D&Q Beer Station.
The only time I had the beer before, it was smuggled back from places where Kiuchi was distributed. So it was a treat to sit down on a warm but breezy afternoon at the newly re-opened D&T Drive Inn in the Heights to enjoy my first legally obtained Hitachino Nest beer. The White Ale is a perfect sweltering-Houston-summer beer. Light and refreshing with subtle and balanced notes of orange peel and coriander, it has a dry finish that begs you to take another sip.
You can enjoy White Ale and a few of the other Hitachino Nest offerings at top craft beer spots like Hay Merchant, Mongoose versus Cobra, Nobi Public House down in Clear Lake, and even a few wild-card places like The Provisions, ramen hot-spot Goro & Gun downtown, and their neighbor Batanga. Others include Bad News Bar, Southside Espresso, and of course, D&T Drive Inn.
Expect to see the Hitachino owl pop up in more bars and restaurants around town as the temperatures go up and the word spreads about White Ale's thirst-quenching powers.