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Bacon-wrapped mochi paired with Hitachino Nest Dai Dai Ale.

Image: Lauro Rojas

With Oktoberfest celebrations going strong throughout the greater Houston area, you may be looking for more variety than a different spaetzle recipe. How about this marking the centuries-old feast at a Japanese gastropub? Izakaya, named for a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive dishes and snacks are served to accompany alcoholic drinks, is staking its unlikely claim on Oktoberfest at 318 Gray Street in Midtown on Wednesday, October 11.

That night, Izakaya will host its own version of the celebration in Japanese style with Hitachino Nest Beer, one of Japan’s major producers, on hand from 5 to 8 p.m.  They’ll have Hitachino Nest’s Dai Dai, IPA; White Ale, Belgian white; Red Rice, rice beer; Japanese Classic Ale, IPA; Saison Du Japon, saison; and Espresso Stout, coffee stout. "Japanese beer has many expressions – from the super-dry style of Asahi to the slight sweetness of Sapporo," says Izakaya general manager Brett Bryan. "Recently, new craft beer expressions have been flowing out of the Land of the Rising Sun—namely Hitachino Nest. The Hitachino Nest Beer selection is spectacular in their variety and have flavors ranging from a Belgian-style white to a creamy espresso stout.”

It would not be much of a celebration without food involved, and chef Jean-Philippe Gaston will be cooking up dishes that toe the line between Japanese and German like kurobuta sausage (wurst), pork katsu (schnitzel), and takoyaki (no idea, but we're always down for octopus balls). With a menu offering bacon-wrapped grilled, mochi cakes; Korean fried chicken wings; and even a nod to Gaston's Mexican heritage with menudo ramen, there's sure to be a dish to suit each beer.

If you want something a bit more specifically Japanese, bar manager Alex Coon has newly introduced us to Saké in a Cup. It's exactly what it sounds like—chilled sake in a glass, aluminum or plastic container with lids or pull-tabs and is quirky heaven. Saké's brewing process is akin to that of beer but the flavor is closer to wine, though distinctly itself.  The best of the bunch at Izakaya is the Shunnoten Tokubetsu Junmai cup sake. But if you want something with a bit more of a bite, add it to Iwai whiksey for a Classic Izakaya Highball.

The sake cups are available any night. But if you want to party like the two-thirds of the World War II axis powers, October 11 is the time. At $35.00 each participant will receive access to the tasting area, chef Gaston’s food, and three full bottles of Hitachino Nest of their choice.  

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